Homebuyers often come in two extreme categories:
- I would NEVER buy a condo
- Condo living is the best!
Of course, there are also others who see a condo as a stepping stone to bigger things or a convenient way to downsize from a large family home. If you’ve given even a passing thought to condo living, it’s important to understand the function and the power of the condo board.
What is a condominium?
Here’s the boring technical stuff:
Despite the way we use the word “condo” to refer to a building or a unit within a building, the term condominium strictly refers to a “system of ownership and administration of property.”
An Ontario Court of Appeal judge said this in 2012:
“People join condominium corporations voluntarily on the basis that they agree to share certain collective property and to abide by a set of rules and obligations that protect the collectivity.”
There is a broad provincial law in Ontario, the Condominium Act 1998, that governs condo formation, the process of buying a condo, day-to-day living in, and governance of condos in this province.
In simple terms, condo owners buy into a little mini democratic society. They enjoy ownership of a portion of the real estate, and they share the use of common elements with other owners who agree to be bound by the same rules.
Those rules will be different for each condo, and you do well to research the “culture” of any building or condo development you consider, to make sure it’s a good match for you.
Where does the Condo Board fit in?
The Board of Directors at a condo represents the owners. This elected group makes all major decisions about the building(s). They handle the finances, uphold the Condo Act, decide on maintenance and upkeep of grounds and common areas, and enforce the rules of the place.
As you can imagine, a good Board of Directors manages money well and keeps the condo well-maintained. A bad Board…well, can cause some grief to unit owners. They have a heavy responsibility.
So what does it all mean for you, as an owner?
Examples of Things Your Condo Board Can Do
On a day-to-day basis, if things are going well, you probably won’t think much of the Board of Directors. If someone doesn’t understand the rules of condo living before choosing this lifestyle, though, some of the enforcement powers might feel suffocating!
Here are some things that condo boards can do:
You might already know that landlords in Ontario cannot legally forbid tenants to have pets. “No-pets” clauses in leases are totally illegal and unenforceable. Condos, though, CAN and DO make rules banning pets.
Some condos allow pets only up to a certain size. And even the most pet-friendly condo building will not tolerate a nuisance animal that threatens residents or interferes with their peaceful enjoyment of the place.
Your pet can be removed if it is found to be in contravention of the Condo Declaration and its by-laws!
PROHIBIT AIR BnB
In Ontario, no condo can prevent you from renting your unit to a tenant. What they can do is set a minimum rental period to discourage short-term rentals.
Newer condos are building in rules against short-term rentals to protect residents from the noise and nuisance these are known to bring. Older buildings that were built before Air BnB became “a thing” sometimes still allow it, but renters are subject to all the same rules as everyone else.
EVICT YOUR TENANT
A tenant can be evicted by the condo board if they don’t live by the rules of the condo. In fact, the condo corporation can even apply to the courts to evict an owner who is unruly and disruptive to other residents of the condo!
You might be surprised to find out that you are only allowed to install shades of white or beige window treatments. The logic behind this is that it enhances the exterior appearance of the building to have a somewhat uniform colour scheme visible from the outside. This, in theory, increases the value of the units.
The condo board can also tell you what colour to paint your front door, and may even have a say in whether you do certain renovations to the inside of your unit. To be safe, always talk to someone at the management office before doing any work on your condo.
RAISE CONDO FEES
Obviously, the condo board has a measure of financial discretion. They are responsible for spending money from the reserve fund on maintenance and capital improvements.
They also have the ability to raise your condo fees at any time they feel it necessary. If the reserve fund is on the low side and there is a large repair coming up, you can be sure they will raise your fees to cover the expense.
In the case of an immediate large repair, or after a reserve fund study shows a shortfall, the Board can decide to charge a special assessment. This is a one-time charge that each unit owner must pay toward their share of an expense. These can be modest amounts, or can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
PUT A LIEN ON YOUR UNIT
Paying condo fees is not optional. And withholding payment of either condo fees or special assessment charges is never a good idea.
If a condo unit owner falls into arrears, the condo corporation can place a lien on the unit. If the lien is not discharged, they can even apply to the courts for permission to sell the unit!
So what’s your opinion? Would having a condo board with all its rules cramp your style? Or would it feel more like having a staff at your disposal to do all the things you’d rather not worry about? Condo living is not for everyone – but maybe it’s right for you!
With all that’s involved and what condo boards are able to enforce, it’s more important than ever to do your research. Let us know if you’d like more info on Hamilton/Burlington condo options.
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