Editorial: Strata getting serious
Recent reform of Jamaica's strata laws is finally bearing fruit, as evidenced by reports of the impending forced sale of units in a Negril complex to recover maintenance arrears.
Strata schemes have become very popular in Jamaica, particularly in resort and urban areas. These schemes, which represent billions of dollars' worth of investment, hark to a new type of lifestyle where community cohesion is key. The reality is that strata living also comes with a raft of responsibilities and obligations.
People who buy into these schemes need to understand that a strata complex is a community requiring that owners adhere to certain rules (by-laws) and regulations, because the actions and activities of a resident can have a significant impact on the safety, satisfaction and ultimate enjoyment of others.
Unlike a free-standing home, strata-titled property owners have an obligation to contribute to the maintenance of what are called common areas, through specified fees. It is an obligation that ensures that the property is well kept and that necessary repairs and upgrades can be undertaken with the full contribution of all the owners.
Consider costs carefully
So while strata living may have a certain allure, potential home buyers should think carefully about the costs associated with such an investment.
There used to be a time when Jamaica was regarded as a law-abiding society. Now, sadly, the whole tenor of society has changed and Jamaica is more often described as a law-breaking society. People litter the streets and dump garbage indiscriminately and without consequence, break traffic rules, rack up tickets and ignore them, light fires. Worse, people murder, rob and rape. We ask the question: Why are so many Jamaicans comfortable with breaking the law and providing justification for their illegal actions?
And so it is, several owners in strata complexes have elected to ignore maintenance payments, some amassing tens of thousands of dollars in arrears running over many years. Those who pay their fees as they become due will eventually be made to suffer discomfort and perhaps see the value of their properties decline, because necessary maintenance cannot be undertaken, owing to non-compliance by other owners.
This negligence on the part of owners has resulted in more and more applications for forced sales reaching the Real Estate Board and Strata Commission.
The recent welcome reform of the strata law has made it easier for strata managers to secure power of sale to recover outstanding maintenance fees by disposing of these properties. We see it as a good response to a situation that has been allowed to fester for way too long.
Forcibly selling one's property to recover costs may seem tough, but how else will strata complexes be able to afford necessary repairs, provide security, and do the various domestic fixes to ensure that residents have a good quality of life?
This toughness we heartily applaud, and feel it must be applied with the hope that such actions will pay rich dividends in the form of compliance and a better life for all involved.