Living in a condominium is different from owning a single-family home, living in a housing co-op, or renting a home.
While it is a fantastic form of home ownership that works for many people, it is 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:
Misconception 1: Since it is my home, I can do what I want in/with it
It is important to remember that in a Condominium, you are living in close proximity to your neighbours. Various rules and laws exist to ensure we do not have a free-for-all as a result. It is 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:
Misconception 2: 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.
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.
Misconception 3: 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 most decisions.
For this reason, it is important for owners to step forward when there is an election for an open position on the Board of Directors. This happens at the Annual General Meeting of Owners which takes place each year. The Annual General Meeting also provides a key opportunity to become aware of and involved in issues affecting all unit owners, so it is very important to attend this meeting.
While the volunteer Board of Directors is focussed 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 direction from the Board.
Misconception 4: 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 Boards 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.