Living in a condominium is very different from owning a single-family home, living in a housing co-op, or renting a home. While it's a fantastic form of home ownership that works for many people, it's not for everyone.
By and large, condominiums work very well, as attested to by their ongoing popularity. When problems do arise, they are often a result of owners or residents having misconceptions about condominium living. Here are some common misconceptions:
"since it's my home, I can do what I want in/with it"
It's important to remember that in a Condominium, you are living in close proximity to your neighbors. Various rules and laws exist to ensure we don't have a free-for-all as a result. It's important for everyone to be familiar with these. The key rules governing our condominium are described in this handbook, based on the following documents that you should familiarize yourself with before purchasing or moving into any Ontario Condominium:
Condominium Act - Governs how all Ontario Condominiums operate.
Declaration - Ground rules originally established when the units were first sold. All owners should receive a copy of this at the time of their purchase. In most cases, the Declaration can only be changed if 90% of unit owners vote in favour of the change.
By-laws - These are enacted by vote by unit owners, and require that 50% of unit owners vote in favour of the bylaw.
Rules & Regulations - These may be updated from time to time by the Boards of Directors, upon 30-days’ notice to all unit owners.
"I own everything past my entry door, but common areas are not my problem"
Condominium ownership is divided into two pieces:
Your Unit - Your Unit consists of the space enclosed by the boundary walls, floor and ceiling. It includes all interior partition walls, finishes, appliances, and most plumbing, electrical and mechanical equipment that provides service to your unit alone. However, it excludes things such as building structural elements, windows, balconies, and unit entry doors. You are responsible for the maintenance and repair of anything defined as part of your Unit. There are some exceptions, such as: while the balcony is the common element, the furnace closet located off it and the equipment inside serving your unit only are party of your unit.
Common Elements - Along with all other owners, you also own an interest in the Common Elements, which includes the building envelope, mechanical systems, hallways, elevators, lobby and amenity spaces. The Condominium Corporation's responsibility is to maintain these Common Elements, and individual owners are prohibited from making alterations to the Common Elements. However, you should care for the Common Elements as if you own them - because you do. For example, while the front door lock to your unit serves your unit, it is considered a common element. You are prohibited from changing the lock to your unit without prior written authorization.
"I should get a say in any decisions"
Condominiums are not run as co-operatives where everyone has a say in all decisions, but as democracies, where most decisions are made by a Board of Directors who are elected by owners. In a community the size of ours, there will always be differences of opinion. Part of the reason condos are so successful, as opposed to grinding to a halt, is that Boards are charged with decision making responsibility. For this reason, it's important for owners to step forward when there is an election for an open position on the Board of Directors. This happens at each year's Annual General Meeting of Owners. The Annual General Meeting also provides a key opportunity to become aware of and involved in issues affecting all unit owners, so it's very important to attend this meeting.
While the volunteer Board of Directors is focused on long-term improvements, and overseeing the operation of the Condominium Corporation, day-to-day management is handled by a paid Property Manager. Inquiries you have should be directed to the Property Manager. In most cases, the Property Manager will be the only one who is in a position to assist with your inquiry. When the Board needs to be involved, the Property Manager will in turn seek the Board's direction.
"my condo fees should stay the same or be lowered"
As a general rule of thumb, you should expect your condo fees to increase by at least the rate of inflation each year. While we would all like to have lower (or ideally no) fees, the reality is that it costs money to properly run and maintain any condominium. As with most things, these costs increase with inflation. The Board and Property Manager work hard to establish an Annual Budget and ensure that costs are kept to a minimum, while still maintaining the standards of our Condominium.