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Navigating Winter: A Strata’s Guide to Snow Removal

October 26, 2023
Navigating Winter: A Strata’s Guide to Snow Removal

Snow may not feel as synonymous with Vancouver as rain is, but planning for snow removal is still key to smoothly and safely running a strata corporation.

Compared to the rest of Canada, British Columbia, Metro Vancouver had the smallest municipal budget for snow removal in 2022 (approximately $10 million compared to Montreal, with the highest budget of $187 million). While local governments have a major responsibility in providing snow removal services, they are not responsible for all outdoor spaces. Individuals, including strata corporations, can plan and be proactive ahead to ensure a safe winter season.

With almost 40 years of experience in providing strata services, we’ve seen all the seasons at The Wynford Group. Here are our tips on how best to plan for strata snow removal:

Understand the importance of snow removal

With the limited resources available from municipal governments, their scope is limited to priority spaces such as major roads, bus routes and bridges. This leaves a huge gap that private properties, including strata corporations are responsible for, including: residential side streets, most sidewalks , and laneways.

Strata corporations should be aware of the gaps in snow removal services in their respective municipalities so that they can plan for their own unique needs accordingly.

Prepare your budget

Snow removal costs can be difficult to accurately allocate in a strata’s annual operating budget, as winter in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley can widely vary in snowfall from year to year. In 2022, Vancouver recorded 73 cm of snowfall, but in 2021 recorded significantly less snowfall at 48 cm.

If a strata corporation wishes to avoid a deficit at the end of their fiscal year, it may be wise to budget on the high side, or to take a three year average. If funds are left over at the end of the fiscal year, the strata can simply retain the remaining amount as a surplus.

Some vendors are now offering both “pay as you go” and fixed monthly contract pricing. Depending on the strata corporation's risk tolerance, fixed pricing may be a good option to consider.

Work with qualified and insured contractors

It is strongly recommended that strata corporations retain the services of a third-party contractor when planning for snow removal. There are several advantages to hiring a contractor, including but not limited to: access to specialized commercial-grade snow removal equipment, ease of service, and reduced liability. As with all vendor relationships, the strata corporation should execute a full and detailed contract with their snow removal contractor well before the first snowfall hits the ground.

Keep a record or log

If a strata corporation elects to do snow removal in-house, there are steps that should be taken to help reduce liability. Keeping a detailed and comprehensive log of all snowfall events, including items such as dates, weather conditions, removal activity (snow, de-ice, salt) and persons involved in each snow removal activity will help not only with reducing liability, but will also help keep the strata corporation accountable to the Owners.

Having these detailed records will also be beneficial to have on-hand in the event of an accident such as a slip or fall.

Only time will tell what’s ahead for the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley this winter. But if a strata corporation is well prepared with a snow removal plan, there will be less time for stress and more time to enjoy some favourite winter activities.

If your strata corporation is planning to do its own snow removal, we recommend keeping a log similar to this: snow removal log template.

Please note that this is a sample template provided as a reference point only. It is strongly recommended to check with your Strata Manager and Insurance Provider to ensure that the documentation and reporting is sufficient prior to use.