All strata corporations have bylaws to deal with the management, maintenance and use of strata lots and common property. The new Strata Property Act, which came into force on July 1, 2000, contains a set of Standard Bylaws that apply to all new strata corporations.

The Standard Bylaws are the “starting” bylaws for all new strata corporations formed after July 1, except to the extent that different bylaws are filed by the developer at the land title office. Strata corporations formed under the old Condominium Act (pre-existing strata corporations) are not yet affected by the new Standard Bylaws. However, on January 1, 2002, the new Standard Bylaws will become the “default” bylaws for all strata corporations, except to the extent that a strata corporation has filed different bylaws at the land title office.

Currently the “default” bylaws for pre-existing strata corporations are those contained in Part 5 of the Condominium Act. These bylaws can be changed or added to by filing a bylaw amendment at the land title office. Many strata corporations have filed bylaw amendments at the land title office to provide for rental restrictions and other matters. However, to the extent that, on January 1, 2002, a pre-existing strata corporation is relying on some or all of the Part 5 bylaws (as opposed to bylaws filed at the land title office), the new Standard Bylaws will be substituted for those Part 5 bylaws.

As a result, all pre-existing strata corporations should carefully review the new Standard Bylaws. If there is a Standard Bylaw that a strata corporation does not wish to adopt, the strata corporation should replace, amend or disapply this bylaw by passing and filing at the land title office a new “substitute” bylaw before January 1, 2002.

The most controversial bylaws are usually those that deal with rental restrictions, pets and age restrictions. Some questions about how the new Strata Property Act deals with these types of bylaws are answered below.

Can a strata corporation prohibit rentals?
Under the former Condominium Act, a strata corporation could pass a bylaw to “limit” the number of strata lots that may be rented. Various court decisions held that this did not permit a strata corporation to “prohibit” rentals – in other words, the bylaws had to permit at least one rental. Under the new Strata Property Act, a strata corporation may prohibit the rental of strata lots. However, any restriction will not apply to family members (the owner’s spouse, or a parent or child of the owner or of the owner’s spouse).

May a strata corporation screen tenants?
Under the new Act, a strata corporation may control the conduct, but not the choice, of tenants. Strata corporations may no longer screen tenants, establish screening criteria, require the approval of tenants or require terms to be inserted in tenancy agreements.

Can an owner apply for an exemption from a rental restriction bylaw?
Yes, on the grounds that it causes hardship to the owner. The strata corporation cannot unreasonably refuse to grant an exemption. In a recent case, the court stated that economic hardship, combined with a “leaky condo” problem, might be sufficient grounds for an exemption.

What about existing rentals?
If a tenant occupies a strata lot when a rental restriction bylaw is passed, the bylaw will not apply to the strata lot until one year after that tenant moves out. If the strata lot is not rented when the bylaw is passed, the bylaw applies one year after it is passed. If a developer reserved the right to rent a strata lot for a period of time, the rental restriction does not apply until the earlier of the sale of the strata lot by the first purchaser or the expiry of the developer’s rental reservation period.

Are there any new requirements for landlords?
Yes, a landlord must give the tenant a “Notice of Tenant’s Responsibilities” and a copy of the bylaws and rules of the strata corporation. If the landlord does not comply with this requirement, the tenant must still comply with the bylaws and rules, but may terminate the tenancy and have the landlord pay the moving expenses.

Can a strata corporation prohibit pets?
Yes, but the bylaw will not apply to a pet living with an owner or tenant when the bylaw is passed.

Do the Standard Bylaws allow pets?
Yes, the Standard Bylaws permit 1 dog or 1 cat, 2 caged birds, a reasonable number of fish and a reasonable number of small caged mammals.

Can bylaws restrict the age of strata lot owners? 
No, but the bylaws may restrict the age of occupants of strata lots. An age restriction bylaw will not apply to persons occupying a strata lot when the bylaw is passed.

If you have any questions about the Strata Property Act or the Standard Bylaws, please call us.