Apartment living nightmare?

Apartment living nightmare?


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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In recent times, developers have been building a large number of apartment complexes. We commend the brilliance of these developers who see the need for housing solutions—especially for people living in corporate areas.

We must admit though that as Jamaicans are not used to living in shared spaces. We are used to having our own single-family homes, where we cut our yards when we wish and carry out repairs when we can afford to. Many of us are used to deciding what happens in our own yards and only make decisions with family members.

But now, developers are buying single-family homes and converting them into multi-family homes. Jamaicans love the look and feel of these new properties, but find it a challenge to adjust to the required rules and lifestyle.

Research has shown that 85 per cent of stratas in Jamaica are unsuccessful in getting owners to pay and comply with strata by-laws. The dilapidated apartments and lack of maintenance of shared amenities and grounds can be seen all around Kingston and St Andrew. More conversations with prospective buyers are necessary to outline what is required of them when they decide to invest.

Living in a communal environment requires people to have only one thing in common: the desire to protect their investment by cooperating. Cooperating in a strata setting means paying maintenance each month, quarter or year, as per your agreement.

Owners of strata lots often say, 'Why must I pay so much for maintenance? I do not see what my money is being spent on.'

The following examples are just some of the uses for this money:

1. Employing a professional grounds person to take care of gardening (such as to plant and prune gardens, sweep the complex, sanitise the garbage skip and clean stairwells)

2. Providing common areas with utilities (electricity and water)

3. Employing security guards or electronic security features (such as private guard, King Alarm or Hawkeye) to protect the complex

4. Including amenities in the complex (such as a gym, jogging trail, tennis court or swimming pool)

5. Hiring contractors to carry out other maintenance or improvement jobs, such as painting.

Buyers must be aware that in a communal living space, the obligation never ends ou will pay maintenance for as long as you own the property. There yare no exemptions from paying maintenance.

Strata living arrangements also have many rules known as by-laws. If you are not buying from the developer, ask the seller or the strata office for a copy. This will help you understand the expectations on you, as an owner and resident.

The following are common rules that are often complained about in a communal living space:

1. 'No pets'

Some apartments do not allow any pets at all, while others allow certain animals. Owners may argue over what constitutes an apartment-appropriate pet, with opinions ranging from a Shih Tzu to a Rottweiler. Inconsiderate owners with unsuitable pets may subject their neighbours to unbearable noises and smells. Additionally, they may fail to clean up common areas after walking their pets.

2. 'No soliciting'

Some owners use their units as stores, or to show items they have for sale. This disturbs neighbours and raises safety concerns.

3. 'No Airbnb'

Many homeowners are reluctant to rent out their properties formally. This can be because of previous issues with tenants, or the lack of protection for landlords under the Rent Restriction Act. However, the rules of the strata still apply. Airbnb accommodations primarily attracts tourist which means increased noise levels at various hours and strangers swimming in the shared pool. Further, many homeowners in communal living worry about their security and do not want strangers to have access to security codes.

4. 'Visitor parking'

Guests should park in the visitor parking spaces provided. Guests sometimes occupy another homeowner's parking spot, resulting in disagreements. Avoid this by asking your guests to park in the designated visitor parking area. If visitor parking is not available, advise them to park outside—not in another owner's spot.

5. 'Provide notice of events'

Let your neighbours know when you are hosting an event. Some homeowners feel it is unnecessary to disclose what they plan to do in their own home; however, it is a good practice to send a courtesy email to your neighbours. Include the start time and approximate end time of your event. In close living, noise disburses easily; providing notice gives other owners a chance to prepare.


If, as a strata lot owner, you fail to pay maintenance, you will be in breach of your mortgage. Breach will occur even if your mortgage is up to date. In the mortgage deed (signed during your purchase), the bank reserves the right to sell your property under the power of sale. This can occur if the strata corporation reports you to the bank for failing to settle your maintenance debt.

The Registration of Strata Titles Act provides guidelines to:

1. Establish the Commission of Strata Corporations to monitor, regulate and supervise the operations of strata corporations and to specify the duties and powers of the commission.

2. Provide for payment of and application of fees collected by the commission to help to offset its administrative expenses

3. Provide for the mandatory registration of each strata corporation with the commission and the submission of annual financial statements and reports by each strata corporation

4. Make additional provisions to assist in the passing of unanimous resolutions

5. Make unpaid contributions a charge on each strata lot, which will run with the lot and rank in priority to existing mortgages or charges

6. Provide for the procedure to be followed where a proprietor fails, neglects or refuses to pay contributions to the corporation

7. Give the strata corporation a power of sale in respect of a strata lot where a proprietor defaults in the payment of contributions to the corporation; provide for the procedure to be followed in the exercise of the power of sale and the application of the proceeds of such sales

8. Enable the commission to take action as an administrator of a strata corporation where the strata corporation is not functioning

9. Establish a strata appeals tribunal to hear appeals and adjudicate on matters affecting the administration and management of strata properties

10. Widen the regulatory powers of the minister to prescribe the matters that are to be communicated by developers of strata properties to prospective purchasers.


Living in a strata setting requires you to be your brother's keeper. You must look out for each other, as the actions of one person can affect the entire strata. Each owner should take the position that any negative action, such as not following the by-laws, not paying maintenance or simply not caring for your neighbour can severely affect your investment.

Failure to pay maintenance will result in a poorly run strata corporation, which will lead to the grounds and buildings falling into disrepair. Therefore, if you cannot live with people outside of your own family, or you have a problem with the strata executive committee making decisions about your investment, you should reconsider purchasing in a strata group—it might not be the right investment for you.

Venice Williams-Gordon is an attorney-at-law and partner at Lewis, Smith, Williams & Company

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