With the rise of condominium ownership in Ontario, many owners seek ways to maximize the income earning potential of their units by renting them out. Many have taken liberty in the nomenclature of the Corporation’s Declaration, to include rentals to students.
The declaration sets out how the condominium corporation is owned. The document:
- defines the units
- defines the common elements
- shows the percentage of ownership each unit has in the common elements
- shows how much each owner must pay in condo fees (owners of a 3-bedroom condo may pay a higher monthly condo fee than owners of a 2-bedroom condo)
Different condo corporations define ownership in different ways. In some condominiums, the outside wall is defined as part of the individual units. In others, the outside wall is part of the common elements. These distinctions are important. They may determine if you will need to pay for window-washing services or repairs to the front porch of your townhouse.
The declaration can be changed, but this happens rarely. Changing the basis of a unit’s contributions to condo fees would require the support of 90% of the owners. Even changing a non-financial matter in the declaration, like pet restrictions, would require 80% agreement.
If you’re buying a unit in a newly-built condo, the proposed or existing declaration is included with the disclosure statement. If you’re buying a resale condo, it’s included with the status certificate.
The by-laws set out how the corporation will be run. They deal with the responsibilities and powers of the board of directors, how meetings will be run and the collection of condo fees. The by-laws must be approved by a majority of the owners.
The board of directors may also make rules to govern day-to-day living. Rules help promote the safety, security and welfare of the owners. These may include how the freight elevator can be used or if owners can have pets.
The declaration, by-laws and rules will set out any restrictions on how you can use your unit or the common elements. If you’re new to condo living, you might find some of these surprising. For example, they may:
- restrict the size or number of pets
- specify the colour of your shades or blinds
- require you to file certain documents with the condo corporation if you want to rent your unit
- restrict certain renovations in your unit
You should review your condominium’s declaration, by-laws and rules to learn about any restrictions and to make sure that the way you want to use your condo is allowed.
From time to time, sharing common elements and following community rules can lead to disagreements. However, there are ways to resolve disputes.
If you disagree with a policy taken by your condominium board, or feel the condo corporation is not being properly managed in some way, you have a number of options.
The Court of Appeal released another condominium case this month: Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 1908 v. Stefco Plumbing & Mechanical Contracting Inc. As a refresher, this is the case where the declarant refused to release control of the condominium to the owners. The owners called the turn-over meeting and elected a new board. The declarant refused to acknowledge them. An application was brought to validate the meeting; the owners were successful.