What is a Strata?
Under the Registration (Strata Titles) Act, registered land may be subdivided into strata lots in accordance with a strata plan registered with the Registrar of Titles. The Act essentially provides for buildings consisting of more than one storey to be horizontally and vertically subdivided into strata lots, with each lot having a separate and distinct Certificate of Title.
Under the Act a registered proprietor or owner of a strata lot will not only have an interest in their particular unit, but also an undivided share and interest in the common property of the strata. The common property of a strata is all the property forming a part of the strata which does not fall within a strata lot.
So your assigned parking space, or that area where you have your welcome mat outside your door, may most likely be common property (and so technically not yours alone)! Common property is owned collectively by all the proprietors or owners of the strata! Other common areas typically include green spaces, pools, roof tops, elevators, laundry areas and guard houses. Before buying into a strata, you should always review the strata plan to see what forms the common area and what the unit entitlement (your undivided interest and share in the common area) for your strata lot would be.
Did you know that if you buy into a Strata development you will become part of a corporation with all of the other owners?
Upon the registration of the strata plan, the proprietors of all the strata lots will become a body corporate named “The Proprietors, Strata Plan No. *insert Strata Plan No. here*”. The corporation is capable of suing and being sued and essentially will carry on forever unless… (more on this in Strata Series, Part 2).
Maintaining the common property- the duty of all owners through the corporation
The corporation has a number of powers and duties some of which include budgeting for the strata’s expenses to determine what the maintenance payment per unit entitlement should be, collecting maintenance fees and keeping accounts thereof, and effecting insurance cover for the strata, but the duty of focus in this article will be the duty “to keep in a state of good and serviceable repair and properly maintain the common property”.
This means that the decaying car that has been parked for 10 years in the visitor’s parking area, that has now become an obstruction, should be removed in the maintenance of the common area. This means that the green spaces should be appropriately mowed and trimmed. This means that the broken elevator should be fixed. This means that the pipes should not be leaking, and the list goes on. But who pays for all these things? You, as a proprietor of the strata and a member of the strata corporation through the payment of your maintenance fees!
So what happens when the corporation is not able to collect sufficient maintenance fees to maintain the strata? What happens when the paint is peeling off the external walls, the roof is threatening to fly away with the next hurricane, the driveways are practically impassable due to pot-holes and the green spaces are growing out of control? What happens when the corporation has no money upfront to exercise their power of sale over the units of the proprietors who have not paid their maintenance to recover the monies owed to it? Stay tuned for one possible solution to be discussed in Strata Series, Part 2!
In closing Part 1 of the Series, it is important to note that the Registration (Strata Titles) Act is a very technical piece of legislation. It is always advisable to seek the advice of an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area when dealing with any strata matters, whether it be buying and selling strata lots or registering the strata plan for your development.
Published in The Jamaica Observer, April 4, 2018
Gabrielle Grant is an Associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon and is a member of the firm’s Property Department. Gabrielle may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myersfletcher.com. This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.