With the municipal election fast approaching, Dr. Bryan Sweet implores fellow Courtenay strata unit owners to demand direct billing of municipal services to individual homes.
Unlike other municipalities such as Comox, Sweet says Courtenay submits billing for essential services directly to strata corporations rather than individual owners. Bills are calculated on the number of homes in a strata development, and invoiced as a lump sum.
Sweet says the practice is unfair when the Entitlement Formula (EF) – the basis on which common costs are shared – is applied to the total and divided among homeowners.
The current practice leaves some paying more than double to flush their toilet, take a shower or have the garbage picked up.
“I’m subsidizing my neighbour,” said Sweet, noting a clash between municipal and provincial legislation. “All we want is an administrative change. The City of Courtenay will not lose any money, and it provides no hardship for anybody.
“It costs us a lot of money over the course of the year,” he added. “It causes division within the units. This is not the way to live.”
It would take a council resolution to change the issue, which Mayor Larry Jangula has referred to staff.
“It’s not something that can be done immediately,” Jangula said. “I’ve asked staff to get back to him (Sweet) and to us.”
He notes there is just one remaining council meeting before the Nov. 15 election.
“So it doesn’t leave us a lot of time to change anything.”
The City has historically charged all utilities directly to a strata in order to streamline the billing process and remain consistent between stratas with varying situations.
Most strata properties in Courtenay are supplied with metered water. The strata is then charged based on consumption for the entire property, including irrigation, on a quarterly basis.
Garbage and sewer user fees are charged to the strata on an annual flat utility bill. For garbage, many multi-family stratas have large mixed garbage and cardboard bins that vary in pickup frequency.
Billing separately from the tax notice allows city staff to adjust for usage and to recover service costs. Stratas that use individual cans instead of bins are charged the residential multi-family rate per unit.
The city says it is up to the strata corporation to determine how common costs will be allocated to members.
A water rate modelling exercise using 2011 and 2012 data resulted in council approving a shift in rates. The results benefitted stratas, both metered and non-metered, reducing their base block and meter rates, the city said.
For more information about a Fairness for Stratas campaign, visit bit.ly/1rHSGn7