Types and Forms of Property Ownership
There are 4 main types of property ownership in British Columbia:
Freehold — Strata — Co-Operative — Leasehold.
When most people think of home ownership, freehold is traditionally what comes to mind; it’s the most common type of property ownership in Canada. This specific type of ownership grants an owner with the ability and freedom to design, renovate, maintain, and landscape the land as they see fit. The freedom they have is, of course, subject to any bylaws or restrictions established by the local municipality. Owning the building and the land it sits upon is generally the most sought after form of ownership but for many this means a lot of responsibility. Although you have freedom to do as you please, you are solely responsible for maintaining, repairs, and any costly and unexpected situations that arise.
As the saying goes, “A strata is a strata is a strata.” Many people think strata ownership is limited to condominiums and townhouses, but strata ownership includes duplexes, fractional-ownership, and even single-family detached homes on bare-land strata lots, also known as “strata-subdivisions.” This type of ownership has become increasingly popular and many consider downsizing to be a term synonymous with strata ownership. With Strata ownership you are purchasing a fee-simple (freehold) interest of specific lot or unit in a building or development. You pay monthly fees for common (area) expenses such as roof repairs, maintenance, management, but you are responsible for your particular unit in general. The beauty of living in a strata means that these tasks are taken care of by designated personnel. No more trips on the ladder to remove those pesky leaves. Due to the bylaws and rules set in place by the Strata you may be unable to rent, have pets, or perform tasks in your backyard or driveway, such as repairing vehicles. Keep this in mind when looking at a property governed by a strata as the bylaws will affect even single family detached houses.
A co-operative ownership is one of the oldest forms of property ownership. This enables many people to participate in ownership of a complex or development as shareholders. Instead of owning a particular home each owner holds a share in the entire building or development. The Co-Op board owns the land and holds title for the building(s) itself. Just like a strata, the owners pay monthly for their share of common expenses such as repairs, maintenance, amenities and so forth. However, a benefit of co-op ownership is that the monthly fees also contribute to paying the annual property taxes so that’s one less expense you’ll have to worry about. However, unlike a strata the co-op board can restrict who purchases or sells their share. As long as they are not discriminating or infringing on basic human rights, a co-op board can govern and control as they see fit, for the better of the co-op.
Leasehold ownership is exactly as it sounds — you are purchasing a particular timeframe, not the land itself. Although you may be purchasing a single family home, this home is usually affixed to the land in a way that simply moving the home after your lease expires is almost always impossible. Generally speaking, a buyer will purchase a leasehold ownership for particular unit, (condo, single family home, etc.) from a developer who has established a ground lease from a particular person or entity. You’ll see this most commonly on First Nation’s Land.