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Fight over nine-inch railings nails strata owners with big bill

Prolonged dispute starting with $30,000 in renos ballooned into $200,000 in costs

Ian Mulgrew
The Vancouver Sun

A strata dispute over about $30,000 in rooftop renovations has dragged through the courts and morphed into a bitter debate over $200,000 in legal and other costs.

The neighbour-versus-neighbour battle exemplifies why such squabbles were moved out of the courts last year and into the Civil Resolution Tribunal, which provides a ruling for about $250 in fees.

The owners of a Homer Street strata building lost at trial, lost in the court of appeal and now say they have been staggered by a demand for special costs.

Ken Waters, president of the 58-unit building, remains apoplectic about the drawn-out disagreement — he can’t believe the judgments and he’s incredulous at the claim.

He explained the strata has so far paid $23,600 with $8,800 pending for the roof renovations — about a $540 for each unit in the building — but that would jump to $3,333 a unit if another $196,000 for legal and other costs is incurred.

“He’s paying himself $110,000 — obviously, we were shocked by this,” Waters said brandishing the bill from the unit owner who took the strata council to court, Jack Frank, a lawyer.

“He states we acted reprehensibly. Basically, he’s bilking us for an unreal amount of money.”

The 2016 court decision said when Frank bought his unit in the 800 block of Homer it included an area designated as limited common property intended for air conditioning equipment but treated as a “roof deck.”

But Frank learned the parapets were 9.5 inches lower than required by the building code and, in 2005 or 2006, he asked to install railings to make up the difference.

The judgment says the strata initially told Frank OK, subject to city approval.

But planning progressed glacially and in Dec. 2012, when he finally asked for written consent, the strata refused.

“If you’ve seen the video, you can see why we believe it was self-evident that it was a service space for air conditioning,” Waters said.

In June 2013, Frank requested a city building inspection with a view to obtaining an order requiring the strata to upgrade the roof.

Instead, the city told Frank and the strata to stop using the roof except for equipment and maintenance.

In Feb. 2015, Frank suggested new plans to make the roof usable, insisting the strata was responsible for the cost under its “obligation to provide and maintain safe and secure common property.”

When the strata ignored him, Frank filed a petition seeking an order compelling it to pay for the design and installation of the safety guards.

Justice Barbara Fisher agreed with him.

“Since 2004, Mr. Frank used his roof deck for recreational purposes, as did the other top floor owners,” she wrote. “With the knowledge and consent of the strata corporation, he installed cement pavers and patio furniture. This area was important to him, as his suite has no other exterior balconies.”

Her decision was endorsed by the court of appeal.

Frank agreed the case was an example of what was wrong with the legislation that forced strata owners to litigate in Supreme Court — an exorbitant, inaccessible forum for most non-represented litigants.

But he said he could not comment further because of proceedings in the offing.

“There is something called special costs and this is where the conduct of the parties is reviewed to determine whether or not the conduct has been reprehensible and deserving of rebuke, which is the legal phrase that sits in behind special costs,” he explained.

“I am bringing an application essentially seeking a determination on that issue and I’m looking for full indemnification of my legal fees.”

His bill sent to the strata included a fee of $113,120 for 323.2 hours work and roughly $43,000 in disbursements — technical reports, drawings, photocopying, expert opinions. Taxes would add another about $17,000.

In an accompanying letter, Frank wrote: “This account does not include anything for damages arising from the loss of use. … Since I was unable to use the roof deck for a period of four years, damages are an additional $24,000.”

This case is an outlier in the sense that the average condo dispute in Supreme Court costs between $20,000 and $25,000 to resolve.

Still, such an exorbitant process discouraged many from pursuing a complaint and prodded the former Liberal government into creating the tribunal to provide cheaper justice.

Serious issues such as those involving underlying ownership still go to court, but strata-owners can now take their complaints about parking, pools, pets and noisy neighbours to a computer, tablet or cellphone.

“Oh, my goodness, wow!” said Shannon Salter, chair of the tribunal, when she heard about the costs in this case.

About 600 strata disputes have been filed with the tribunal over the last year, she said.

Most were resolved through the tribunal’s facilitation process, with only 56 so far requiring a tribunal decision.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Stratas tax exempt when not generating profits

Exterior revenue sources may be taxable

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Do strata corporations pay income tax?

Our strata negotiated an agreement with a communications provider to lease our rooftop for $50,000 a year, plus 25 per cent of any sublease agreements it negotiates. We are in year three of a 10-year agreement, and just received a notice of assessment from CRA.

Our strata corporation also has a public parking area that is rented out to the public daily, weekly and monthly.

We were under the impression that we were tax exempt as a non-profit association and could not be taxed. If that is correct, how could we be taxed for this revenue? Has this ever occurred to other strata corporations? 

Sebastian R., strata council president  


Sebastian and council members:  

Strata corporations qualify as tax-exempt non-profit organizations, provided they are not generating revenues for profit.

The portion of a strata corporation revenues that are deemed to be non-taxable are strata fees, special levies, fines and penalties, and interest that may be earned on investments of contingency or special levy funds that are permitted by the act.

Since a residential condominium corporation is organized as a requirement of the Strata Property Act, and is normally not operated as a business, it will usually be considered to be nonprofit and operated for other than commercial or financial reasons.

All those conditions may change when a strata corporation chooses to create profit from exterior sources that are not exempt. Public signage revenues, public parking fees, marinas, golf courses and leases such as communications services may all be considered revenue and taxable. Yes, you may be required to pay tax on your revenues.   

Every condo/strata association in Canada is required to file an annual tax return and a director’s information form. For strata corporations that generate revenue other than the considered exemptions, CHOA always recommends the strata corporation have their tax prepared by a qualified, certified accountant who has experience with the classification and status of strata corporations.

If you do not owe taxes and have never filed a return, it is never too late. There have been no penalties imposed for strata corporations in B.C. that have voluntarily started filing and have no outstanding taxable income.

An excellent source of information is the CRA guide specifically for condo corporations in Canada. Go to https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency.html and search Income Tax Guide to the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) Information Return. Strata corporations generally file a T-2 short return and complete a 1044 form included with the guide. One thing you can be sure of, if CRA requires more information, it will be in touch! 

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Etoile 5345 Goring Street Burnaby 398 homes in two towers with 4 units per floor by Millennium Development Group

Etoile to shine on Burnaby?s skyline

Mary Frances Hill
The Province

It’s no wonder residential corner units are so coveted among homebuyers, considering all their possibilities. When only one wall is shared with a neighbour, two walls carry the potential for large windows, more natural light and great views.

An entire building of corner units sounds ideal — and that ideal becomes real at Etoile, Millennium Development Group’s highrise project in Burnaby’s Brentwood neighbourhood.

Adele Rankin offers some decor advice to those who purchase at Etoile: sit back in a low-profile chair and embrace the view in your corner unit.

“Ensure you keep your furniture low profiled and simple. Keeping the backs of chairs and sofas on the more modern and lower height, or scale, ensures that the first thing you are drawn to is the outside,” says Rankin, a principal of CHIL Design, who worked with Millennium on the project’s interiors.

“The furniture should really complement this scenario, not fight it, so keeping lines clean, embellishments minimal and [using] a more neutral palette allows the large corner patios to be the star.”
With Whole Foods on one side of Lougheed and a spacious shopping mall in the works on the Brentwood Town Centre site, the community is transforming into a transportation and shopping destination — a magnet for those who like urban conveniences nearby. With all their consumer and transit needs fully met, homeowners can look to their interiors for details and finishes that entice them to stay in and relax, away from the bustle.

CHIL Design used clean, sophisticated finishes to draw the eye to the bold, striated marble look in a bathroom’s shower area, and to the horizontal patterns of the grey backsplash in the kitchens. “In residential designs of this magnitude, you always look for where you can make the biggest impact and how that can be a fresh yet timeless look,” Rankin says.

“For us, the obvious choices are the kitchens and bathrooms, where you can provide a unique look through the largest surfaces, which tend to be the walls.”

CHIL’s award-winning design portfolio includes projects in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, to hotel brands such as Shangri-La, Hilton, Fairmont, Marriott, and Four Seasons. That exposure to the tastes and lifestyles in such diverse populations informs CHIL Design’s insights in every project, including Etoile, Rankin says.

“We have been very fortunate that our work and design has allowed us to travel and experience other countries and cultures. We absorb these influences, take the time to learn what is important to each region in which we work. We are able to understand different demographics quickly and what may be more important to some areas and not so much to others.”

Project: Etoile

Where: 5345 Goring St, Burnaby

What:  398 homes in a tower with four homes per floor; all corner units in a distinct clover-shaped construction

Residence sizes: Between one and three bedrooms, from 569 to 1,818 square feet; prices available on request

Developer and builder: Millennium Development Group

Sales centre: Unit B, 4247 Lougheed Highway, Burnaby

Hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs


Website: http://etoileliving.com/

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Vancouver Rents Soar in a Single Year, Topping Nation

Joannah Connolly

If ever there was a good reason to try to get into home ownership, the latest rental price data from PadMapper is surely it.

Vancouver’s rents have soared in the past year, from high to astronomical, with one-bedroom units now going for an average rent of $1,990, according to the rental website’s monthly price survey for August.

That’s 13.7% higher than one year ago, and the highest in the nation – see PadMapper’s chart below.

However, Vancouver’s current average one-bedroom rent is not as high as it was in July, dropping from $2,090 to $1,990, reports the rental website.

Average rent for two-bedroom units in Vancouver, which were already extremely expensive due to their scarcity, rose 3.2% year over year to $3,200 a month, a 0.9% decline from July.

As PadMapper’s price data is based on current rental listings on its website, monthly declines in advertised rates could be due to changes in seasonal demand, rather than necessarily a downward trend.

Rents Across Canada

Toronto was the next most expensive city for renting in Canada, with one-bedroom rents rising 8.8% in the past year, now averaging $1,850. Two-bedroom units average $2,450, up 14% year over year.

For the first time, PadMapper’s monthly survey of rental rates found that the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Canada’s 10 most expensive cities exceeded $1,000 a month.

The only cities in the top 10 priciest chart to see rents fall year-over-year were Calgary and Oshawa.

Check out the full national list below, and read PadMapper’s August survey report.

© 2017 REW.ca

Amount of Vancouver office space expected to become dire

Office space demand in city may become dire

Sam Cooper
The Province

Unprecedented demand for office space in Vancouver is expected to drive commercial real estate vacancies to the lowest rates ever, a new report says.

The report from professional services firm JLL says a tight Vancouver commercial real estate market will be driven by new demand from technology companies. Vacancy rates could dive from about seven per cent currently to three per cent in 2019, the JLL report says, which would be “the lowest vacancy rate on record.”

The report says that the second quarter of 2017 saw Vancouver’s downtown office-space vacancy rate drop to 6.8 per cent, down from 8.3 per cent in late 2016.

In an interview Monday, JLL vice-president Mark Chambers said that in 25 years of watching Vancouver’s office market he has never seen greater demand from companies to gobble up office space.

“A lot of the companies are from the U.S.,” Chambers said. “The low Canadian dollar is attractive, and also we are a market where it is easier to bring in (high-technology) workers from overseas.”

While this sounds like a positive economic forecast for Vancouver — a city increasingly banking on drawing high-tech companies — current demand could overwhelm the supply of offices built in downtown Vancouver since 2015, Chambers said. If that’s the case, surrounding suburbs with higher vacancy rates and lower rents could benefit.

“A vacancy rate of three per cent would have a profound impact on Vancouver’s desire to build itself as a tech hub and financial centre,” the JLL report says. “Companies will find it increasingly difficult to expand in a market with little supply, in addition to increased rental rates, as competition increases for quality space. This will likely cause … a flight to the suburban markets.”

In a statement, Kent Munro, Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, said the JLL report apparently focuses mostly on demand for premier downtown office space, but Vancouver has been rezoning in other locations to provide commercial space that is attractive to innovation-economy companies.

“The City of Vancouver has been addressing this need from multiple perspectives beyond just facilitating new office development in the downtown,” Munro said in a statement. “For example, recent changes in Railtown, the False Creek Flats and in Mount Pleasant have all created expanded opportunities for new employment space.”

JLL’s report follows a recent report by Cushman and Wakefield, which said by 2019 Vancouver is predicted to have the second-lowest office-vacancy rate in the Western hemisphere. Cushman and Wakefield’s prediction for a Vancouver office-vacancy rate of 6.3 per cent in two years, would put the city behind only Toronto, at 3.9 per cent, their report said.

In Vancouver, developers built about 2.3 million square feet of new office space in the downtown market between 2015 and 2017, according to Stuart Barron, the firm’s national director of research.

In a previous story, Barron told Postmedia News that for Vancouver “the strength in the technology sector has been so strong that demand in (some types of) buildings has been more-or-less explosive.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

The Yates on Yates 848 Yates Street Victoria 20-storey tower 116 homes and ground floor retail by Chard Development

The Yates on Yates by Chard Development will feature 116 units of varying sizes

Kathleen Freimond
The Vancouver Sun

Project: The Yates on Yates

Project address: 848 Yates Street

Project City: Victoria

Developer: Chard Development

Architect: Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership

Interior designer: Proscenium Architecture + Interiors Inc.

Project size: 20 storeys; 116 residential suites and ground floor retail

Bedrooms: Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom

Unit size: 342 to 1,761 square feet

Price: Two-bedrooms start from $645,900

Sales centre: 102 — 608 Broughton Street, Victoria

Sales centre hours: noon to 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

Phone: 250-590-9940

Construction: early 2018.

Website: http://www.yatesonyates.com

As part of its ongoing commitment to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Victoria, Chard Development is adding its ninth residential mixed-use project to the capital city with The Yates on Yates, a 20-storey tower.

“We have been very strong on [supporting] a more vibrant downtown Victoria. Residents in Chard developments have helped keep restaurants, shops and services more vital,” says the developer’s president and CEO, David Chard. “By bringing in these new residents, it’s really helped to make a more vibrant and sustainable city.”

The Yates, like many of Chard’s other developments in Victoria, will be built on the site of a parking lot. Chard says about 15 years ago he understood the City of Victoria wanted to see fewer surface parking lots and more residents living in the downtown. “That’s what we’ve done, purchased parking lots and developed a multitude of mid-rise, mixed-use projects,” he says.

The Yates has 116 residential units, including studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom options and street-level spaces for shops and services.

The building will include three levels of parking below grade, including 65 spaces for commercial parking.

“One of the things we’ve seen as we’ve developed on these parking lots is the need for additional commercial parking to keep the retailers and restaurants vital,” Chard says.

While there will be views from the upper floors, he notes the major benefit of the location is the proximity to downtown Victoria.

“Downtown Victoria is quite compact. If you work downtown, you’re going to walk to work whether you’re in the high-tech sector, service industry or working for the government,” he says.

The location also makes sense for people choosing to live an urban lifestyle.

“We hear from people who have bought in other buildings we’ve developed in the downtown that people love being able to go out for dinner without having to worry about driving,” Chard says.

The Yates is attractive to downsizers and young professionals, says Sandi Chih of Proscenium Architecture and Interiors, and the design appeals to both these groups.

 “It’s important for us that we’re actually designing to meet the needs [of potential buyers] and what the area is calling for. We find the buyers in the neighbourhood are very trendy and design-aware,” she says.

The result is a West Coast contemporary design with a Scandinavian influence, explains Chih.

“We went for a very clean and minimal design palette and brought in the complexity through the use of textures and subtle design details like the really nice edge on the countertops that elevates the kitchen that little bit further,” she says.

Buyers have the choice of two palettes, simply named Light and Dark. The Light scheme includes white oak high-performance laminate floors, light Caesarstone countertop with matching one-piece backsplash and flat-panel cabinetry with a modern horizontal wood grain with a matte finish.

The Dark option includes a grey teak laminate floor with charcoal grey wood-grain cabinetry and marble-inspired Caesarstone countertop and backsplash.

The integrated Fisher & Paykel refrigerator/freezer and pantry cupboard frame the kitchen in the sales centre at 102 — 608 Broughton Street in Victoria. The electric induction cooktop, built-in wall oven and the dishwasher, located in the eight-foot six-inch by three-foot three-inch island, are also by Fisher & Paykel. The island also accommodates the stainless steel sink and a Grohe faucet with pull-out sprayer and an under-counter wine cooler.

The bathrooms feature the same cabinetry as the kitchen and the vanity has a recessed kick to give it the appearance of floating, enhancing the clean look of the overall design. The bathroom also has a feature wall of large-format 24 by 24-inch marble-look tiles. Frameless glass swing shower doors have polished chrome hinges to match the Grohe bathroom faucets and rain shower heads. In cooler weather, buyers will appreciate the underfloor heating in the main baths or ensuites.

Chih says to support the modern esthetic, she avoided surface-mounted sconces in the bathroom and selected recessed Piccolo lights above the vanity.

There are also recessed pot lights in the kitchens and in the bedrooms and dining rooms in-ceiling electrical boxes will be ready to accept light fixtures.

Chih says one of the standout features of the units at The Yates are the laundry closets. One-bedroom units have a stacked washer and dryer and millwork, including adjustable shelves, that enable the space to also be used as the entry closet, while the two-bedroom/two-bathroom units have a side-by-side washer and dryer. Millwork in these laundry closets contributes to overall storage space in the unit, Chih says.

Chard notes that like the other buildings the company has developed, The Yates will also feature rooftop patios and terraces.

“The rooftop terrace will have barbecues, a sitting area, washroom and garden plots. That’s proven to be a signature for us and has been very popular,” he says. “Whenever I take people through our completed buildings, that seems to be what really captures everyone.”

Other amenities include a dog-wash station with hot and cold water, and an easily accessible bike storage and maintenance bench.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.