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Attorney Advice on Strata Properties in the Cayman Islands
With the reopening of the real estate and construction sectors of Cayman’s economy, potential customers are most likely purchasing within a strata community. HSM Property Attorney Oscar DaCosta equips buyers with everything they need to know when it comes to strata properties in the Cayman Islands.
A Strata Title is a form of ownership of multilevel apartment buildings, condominiums or horizontal buildings, townhomes with shared areas or common grounds. The “strata” being the strata lot which is your apartment, condo or townhome in the community is governed by the strict rules and regulations found in the Strata Bye-Laws. These bye-laws are either by statute or most commonly found with condominium or townhome developments, drafted to include specific requirements that are unique to the development in which you may wish to purchase.
The strata usually covers the general maintenance of the grounds and exterior buildings, common areas as well as any amenities within the community (pools, gyms, tennis courts). Insurance is also included and some strata’s may include a basic cable package as well. These costs are covered by the owners who pay a regular sum to the strata either monthly or quarterly in advance.
The bye-laws are registered as “the Proprietors Strata Plan No. X”. The bye-laws always state that an executive committee is to be formed and an Annual General meeting held each year with the owners (Proprietors) of the Strata Lot. The Executive can also call meetings in addition to the Annual General meeting known as an Extra Ordinary General meeting if they see fit. A quorum must be met in order to hold these meetings and to vote on any proposed amendments to be made in regard to the strata and bye-laws. However, this is probably the only thing that all strata’s have in common.
Strata bye-laws state the obligations of the Proprietor and of the Strata Corporation (Executive Committee). Some strata bye-laws have obligations on the Proprietor in regards to conducting business from their strata lot (unit) regarding working from home. Thus if you propose to conduct business from your strata unit, permission would have to be sought from the Executive Committee in order to do so. With working from home being the new normal because of the current shelter in place regulations, and some persons wishing to continue to do so even after their offices have reopened, they may need to seek clarification from their strata as to not be in contravention of the strata.
Potential buyers may also be looking to purchase in developments for investment property. Some strata’s include in their bye-laws, the minimum length of term one can lease their strata lot (unit) to a tenant. Most do not allow for leasing the unit for less than 31 days and others require a minimum lease of 6 months. So, if a purchaser is thinking of investing in a property with an eye to list their property on short stay vacations sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and the like, they should definitely review the strata bye-laws of their favoured development to ensure they can do so.
Many are pet lovers as well. So, when looking at potential property in a strata community, the bye-laws would speak to this. Some strata’s do not allow pets at all, others may limit the number of pets, as well as limiting the pet to a specific size and weight. Some strata’s also state that the pet may only be a cat or a dog, therefore if you wanted to own a bird or other type of animal they may not be allowed and special approval would need to be sought from the Strata Committee. Funnily enough, in my research for this article there was no mention of fish as pets in any of the bye-laws researched.
The bye-laws also hold all the restrictions within the community and rules from parking spots, washing of motor vehicles and the parking of boats if not in a waterfront community. Also stating what type of window dressings may be used and colour of same. What can be placed on porches or balconies and what cannot.
Stating the above, my research also found that some strata communities will seek to interview a potential owner of a property in order to authorize the purchase of a unit in that particular strata, including reference letters addressed to the strata.
In summation, a strata is usually well maintained and equipped, rather easy to live in (as all the usual maintenance of the grounds and common areas and exterior repair of buildings is included) within the confines of the bye-laws. However, you should always read the bye-laws before making the decision to purchase as the rules vary between the developments, and some of the restrictions might not suit your lifestyle.
HSM’s team of property attorneys are well-versed in these types of contracts and can assist buyers as well as developers with drafting and understanding strata bye-laws. This article provides a general overview and we encourage you to reach out to an attorney for appropriate legal advice that is unique to your circumstances.