Condo Smarts: Stratas and smart meters

Dear Tony: As a strata manager, I am faced with many requests by service providers to obtain access to a strata corporation to either service a building or conduct maintenance or modifications to a building.

Several of my company’s clients have recently received letters from B.C. Hydro about the installation of range extenders to enable smart meters to communicate with their system. This is because, in many apartment buildings, electric meters are located in underground or blocked areas of the buildings.

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The proposed alterations, however, are more significant than we were first led to understand. In some cases, it will require drilling through concrete structures and surface-mounting of components on the building exterior.

If you could provide the public with some guidelines on the installation I know our clients would greatly appreciate the assistance.

In one particular case, we are encouraging the council to seek legal advice because the building in question is still under warranty and the alterations could affect the conditions of the warranty.

Jason Kurtz

Strata West Management

 

Dear Jason: A strata corporation should view any request by a utility for an alteration under the same conditions they would approach an alteration to common property or a common asset.

There are a number of easements for existing utility services that are filed on most properties and buildings in the province which allow the utility providers to gain access to and maintain the equipment that brings water, gas, electricity, cable and telephone services to the building. The conditions of the easements have limitations, so any changes must be approved by the owners of the property, i.e. the strata corporation.

As technologies change, building owners are experiencing a growing number of requests for modifications of service equipment, design and use.

Strata owners are also frequently asked to consider the installation of communications systems and towers on their building roofs, if the elevation and location are beneficial to communications providers.

Strata corporations requiring an alteration to accommodate smart meters should have received a letter from B.C. Hydro that indicates the need for the installation of a range extender, and the proposed changes that would accommodate the installation.

These changes may require access to a variety of secure locations in the building, alterations to the common property and possibly coring for the provision of extra service lines.

This may also require scanning of concrete structures to ensure safe coring without damage to the existing building.

Surface mounting of cables and lines may be visible through utility areas, such as stairwells, and there might also be a requirement to mount the cables and the range extender on the outside of the building.

If the alteration affects the building envelope or conditions of an existing warranty, the proposed construction should also be reviewed by the affected parties.

Before a strata corporation grants permission for the alteration, they need to review their bylaws and determine whether there are specific conditions related to the alteration of the common property.

Because the decision to agree to the alterations to the common property is generally a bylaw matter, the strata council will be required to review and vote on the proposed amendments. If the changes are significant in any way that could alter the use or appearance of common property or a common asset, it may require a special general meeting of the owners. There may also be a requirement for a written agreement for the alteration, including the need for independent engineering services and legal review of the terms and conditions of the contract.

B.C. Hydro has a helpful process that requires the approval of the strata corporation, prior to the alterations. A site contractor is designated for the installation and is required to review the installation process and any proposed changes. To ensure the project is successful, confirm every detail in writing prior to construction. If your strata corporation has any questions regarding the changes please contact B.C. Hydro’s Smart Metering Program at 1-800-409-8199 or email smartmeters@bchydro.com.

 

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association. Send questions to him by email: tony@choa.bc.ca. The association’s website is www.choa.bc.ca.

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