Strata Stuff: How one lawyer built a strata law database in a weekend

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For most of us, last week’s burst of sunshine meant rounds of drinks from Friday to Sunday. For lawyer, Neil Mangan, who spent a majority of his childhood taking apart his mother’s computer, a more technological endeavour pursued his fancy. “A lot of my friends are starting to buy properties and I started getting these questions on strata laws – from them, and friends of friends and family members,” Mangan listed off. “None of these questions were complex. What I realized was it was just that no one knew how it worked.”

Strata bylaws are the rules and regulations that both the owner and occupier abide by to maintain order in the lot owned. With over 30,000 strata corporations in B.C., 50 per cent of properties considered strata and almost a million strata laws in the province – it’s confusing a lot of Vancouverites. “People have this concept that if you buy your own place you can do what you want and then they find out they have to pay fees, submit plans and ask permission,” Mangan revealed. “I decided that, instead of creating a blog post, I wanted to create a platform of short answers they could look up.”

Mangan went on to create a simply designed, user-friendly database of questions and answers that curious new home-owners could access, finding quite quickly that the process was very governmental. “What’s actually kind of funny is that in the way legislation works, every building is their own miniature government. Your strata council is like your ministers. The MPs have a budget each year but they have a vote if you need to change something,” Mangan explained. “When you’re buying a little strata you are joining a country. You’re having to participate in this if you want to have any say.”

StrataLaw.ca has a search bar that allows you to access frequently asked questions and submit your own, connecting many new Vancouverites into well informed lot owners. “My plan is to continue to add and continue to answer questions,” Mangan emphasized. “My hope is that as it grows, it can create a bit of community. Eventually people can comment on the post and comment on the answers.”

Having formatted and programmed his childhood computers into destruction, Mangan’s self taught explorations of programming was a hobby that fuelled that right brain itch. “I know for myself, creating new websites or new resources and new applications is creativity,” Mangan laughed. “I have a family with a strong connection to the arts and it took me a while to realize that creating websites and resources for people was my own way to be creative – the passion is.”

The hours that went into StrataLaw.ca, having filed through lists of questions from friends and family and ensuring information is easy to digest, is something Mangan was more than happy to dedicate his weekend to. “If you really want to be of service and be successful then you have to find a way to touch and help as many people as you can. This website is just a resource that people can like and it’s a sense of pride you find when other people enjoy.”

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Romila Barryman is a mad-scientist of sorts. She experiments with words, concocts diabolical phrases and explores tech like it is territory to be conquered. Her current lab experiments can be seen as founder of the Tech section for VancityBuzz, Lighthouse Labs Alumni and Full Stack Developer.
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