Sorry, that’s not allowed
Whether you are new to condominium living, or have been a long term resident in a townhouse or high rise, you will have likely heard these four dreaded words from your condominium property manager: “Sorry, that’s not allowed.”
All condo owners get a lot of papers and documents during the purchasing process, and among the most important they receive are the Declarations, By-laws and Rules spelling out the guidelines and regulations for life in their new home.
Understanding all of those pages can be daunting, and quite frankly, most owners just don’t have the time to read through every line.
The governance of a condominium corporation is controlled by an elected board of directors. This self-government has its appeal, as it allows owners to have a say in how their community is managed, determining when to take certain action which is consistent with the Condominium Act, and other governing legislation.
On the other hand, the enforcement of rules can occasionally come into conflict with individual homeowners, when there is a sense that there is too much governance and control.
The Declarations, By-laws and Rules of the Condominium Corporation are the most important documents governing condominium owners, and generally speaking, the main reason for conflict amongst owners. Despite their importance they often go unread.
These documents are basically a blueprint for how a condominium is established, organized and run. Surprisingly, it is not the Declaration or even the By-law’s that have the most direct impact on the day-to-day lives of owners and residents. The Declarations and Bylaws are the governance of the corporation: voting rights, obligations, how expenses are determined. The rules and regulations are the governing documents detailing what the corporation directly controls. That control can include a wide variety of property and personal conduct—including things such as pets, outdoor furniture and parking spaces.
Every set of governing documents has covenants and restrictions in it. There may be restrictions against pets or against altering your unit without getting approval from the board, because one homeowner's structural changes may affect others.
Most condominium boards have restrictions against owners doing anything to the exterior of their unit that's going to contravene approved policies. That's one example of rights owners give up to the condominium corporation. Owners have to comply with the rules and regulations.
That doesn't mean that the board doesn't have to answer for its actions. They are responsible for the operation, management and administration of the association. They are subject to verification of any unique or extraordinary expenses. Boards are responsible for the maintenance, management and insurance on the common elements. They're also responsible for the employment and the management contracts. A board's responsibilities also depend on the definition of the common elements in the By-Laws and the layout of the community.
People mistakenly believe the concept that owners are liable for basically everything within their four walls, plus anything that serves their unit exclusively including a patio or a balcony. This is simply not the case. It is not that simple.
Individual owners have to place their own wishes behind those of the common good of the community. Owners of a single-family home have the freedom to do whatever they want with their property whenever they want. In a condo, they don't have that freedom because the board is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the property—and they are the ones that make those decisions.
Life in a condo differs greatly from life in a single-family home. There are benefits to be had, but there are also compromises to be made. In order to make sure a given community is a good fit, and to be an active, informed participant, board members, property managers and owners must be aware of each other’s' rights and responsibilities. In order for this to occur they must hold each other to the rules and regulations that allow for a smooth, equitable operation.