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Coronavirus: B.C. condo owner feels ripped off by strata fees while amenities stay shut

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A Vancouver condo owner says he feels like he’s being ripped off on monthly strata fees he’s paying for services that can’t be accessed during COVID-19.

Ron Bascom has lived at Shangri-La since November 2008.

For the privilege of living in B.C.’s tallest building, he’s also paying some of the province’s steepest strata fees: $1,734 per month.

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The lion’s share of those fees goes to building maintenance and insurance premiums, which he says have tripled this year.

But they also cover access to amenities shared with a hotel in the building: a gym, library, valet, yoga studio and pool. When the hotel shut down in March, those facilities were also locked off.

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“I pay for a gym that I can’t use,” said Bascom. “I had to join the YMCA because they’re open.”

Shangri-La has a tony reputation, but Bascom said not everyone in the building is wealthy.

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“Certainly there is a proportion of the owners … who might have more means to weather this storm,” he said.

“But there’s a large percentage, I know a fair amount of owners, that go to work, they’re earning an average salary, there’s a large number of renters in the building.”

Bascom said the fees are locked-in in a contract with the hotel, but wants to see some of that money returned.

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Global News contacted the hotel, which referred questions to the property development company, which referred questions to the building managers.

Building managers did not respond to a request for comment.

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Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association, said how much latitude Bascom and his neighbours have in dealing with the hotel depends on the language in their contract.

But he said the strata council should be talking to a lawyer to see if there is any wiggle room.

“I think some basic contract principles are you get what you pay for, and in turn, if you don’t get the services provided, there is going to be some negotiation or compensation coming back,” he said.

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Gioventu noted that Bascom’s situation is far from unique in the province, with many condo buildings shutting down shared amenities.

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He suggested that in such cases the parties work together to negotiate a solution that could help owners at least offset some of the many other rising costs of condo ownership.

“Those amenity charges, if they’re not being used either by the hotel or by the community association, they could be deferred until the following year and it could be used to reduce pressure on strata budgets themselves,” he said.

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