A Student's Guide to Condo Living
The article below from the Canadian Condominium Institute outlines the general rules that apply to condominiums in Toronto. Please become familiar with them; they will help you decide if condo living is for you.
What is a Condominium?
A condominium corporation is a method of property ownership. A residential condominium can be a high-rise building, a group of townhouses, single family homes, semi-detached homes or a combination of the above. Each unit owner becomes a member of the condominium corporation when they purchase a unit.
How do I know if the home I will be living in is a Condo Corporation?
Ask the landlord you are renting from whether the property is in a condominium. If the unit you are renting is in a condominium, you must deal directly with the owner of that unit only.
Rules and Bylaws
The Condominium Corporation holds an Annual General Meeting attended by the owners, at which time a Board of Directors is elected. The Board of Directors is usually made up of individual unit owners. It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to manage, control and administer the common elements and any assets of the corporation. In the majority of cases, the Board of Directors contracts the services of a Property Management company to manage the day to day affairs of the corporation. The Property Management company ensures that all the residents (owners and tenants) comply with the rules and bylaws of the Condominium Corporation.
Condominium corporations may choose to hire a professional property management company to administer and manage the day to day affairs of the corporation. However, neither the condominium nor the Property Manager is the landlord, so any problems with the unit must be resolved with the landlord. While the Property Manager does not make decisions or dictate outcomes regarding your property, they are a valuable resource for information which may not have been provided to you by the landlord. Do not hesitate to call your Property Manager if you have any questions. Your Property Manager will be able to provide you with answers and information or direct you to the appropriate person with which to deal with.
What are the landlord's obligations when he/she rents a condo unit?
In order to ensure that you are aware of what you can and cannot do both inside and outside your unit, the landlord is obligated to provide you with a copy of the rules of the condominium, which includes how to deal with issues relating to parking, pets, garbage collection, use of recreation facilities, and who to call in case of an emergency. If you are not provided with this important information, call your landlord and request it; he/she is responsible for providing you with that information.
The landlord is required to provide the condominium corporation with tenant information (Form 5). This form is kept by the Management Company and is used solely for the purpose of maintaining accurate and up to date Corporation records. You may also be asked to provide other information such as “Emergency Contact Information” and “Vehicle Registration Information”. Privacy legislation effective January 1, 2004 ensures that neither the condominium corporation nor the Management Company uses this information for other than Condominium related business.
Usually, repairs and maintenance inside a condominium townhouse or apartment are the responsibility of the landlord, not the Condominium Corporation. Examples of typical ensuite repairs are: leaky taps, plugged toilets, defective appliances, problems with the furnace or air conditioning, door locks, window screens and garage door openers. Call your landlord if you experience these types of problems. It is possible the condominium is responsible for some repair or maintenance in a condominium unit but this is not the norm.
Typically, all repairs on the outside of a condominium townhouse or apartment are the responsibility of the Condominium. However, some condominium units include some outside areas. This is dependent on the condominium documents. All areas that are not defined in the specific condominium documents as units are called “common elements”. Examples of common elements are: roofs, windows, doors, foundations, balconies, decks, and porches. However, it is possible some or all of these types of components are part of the units if so defined in the condominium documents. In any event if there is a problem, contact the landlord who will in turn contact the Property Manager if the problem relates to something that is the responsibility of the condominium.
Most condominiums have an area on the outside of a unit which is used exclusively by the occupants of that unit, for example, a balcony in an apartment building or a front and backyard and a porch or deck in a townhouse. These areas are usually called “exclusive use common elements” although in some cases they can be part of the condominium units depending on the condominium documents.
The owner of the unit to which these are appurtenant is usually responsible to keep these areas clean and tidy at all times. In such case this responsibility would pass to the tenant of the unit. If these areas are not adequately maintained, the Condominium Corporation can clean up the area and invoice the landlord. The landlord will then likely seek to be reimbursed by the tenant.
In the unlikely event that an emergency situation occurs in your unit, you should ensure that you have been told what to do and who to contact.
Life Safety Building Code Requirements
You should make sure that the owner adheres to City bylaws before permitting a bedroom or kitchen in a basement. This is to ensure that you are able to escape in the event of a fire and meet appropriate building codes. If in doubt contact the City Building or zoning department.
Some condominiums will provide tenants with a “Welcome Package” or “Tenant Information Book” which outlines the numbers to call in the event of an emergency. Professional management companies have an emergency number which owners/tenants can call in the event of a common element emergency.
FLOOD: Caused by an overflowing toilet, leaking hot water tank, defective washing machine / dishwasher / water softener
- Know where the shut off valves are to turn off these appliances and water to the home.
- Have landlord check that they function properly so that they work if needed.
FIRE: Accidental grease or electrical
- Ensure the smoke detectors, heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning.
- Ensure all occupants know the fire escape plan
GAS: Smell of gas odors, gas furnace not working
- Call Emergency Gas # if you smell gas.
- Call landlord for furnace repairs. Immediately vacate the unit and contact the property manager.
HYDRO: No power to home or part of home
- Be familiar with the breaker panel/fuse box
Be familiar with the local numbers to call FIRE, POLICE, AMBULANCE, GAS, HYDRO.
Know your complete address and the closest street intersection; it will assist the emergency crew in finding you.
The condominium is responsible to insure the common elements and the standard unit portion of the units. It is up to each condominium to define what is included in its standard unit. The definitions are not uniform.
The owner of the unit is responsible to insure all components of the unit over and above the defined standard unit.
The tenant is responsible for insuring all of the tenant's personal belongings and contents. It is strongly recommended that a tenant insurance policy is purchased which will not only cover the personal contents but also liability insurance. A tenant may be held responsible for damage caused to the home and other homes in the condominium so it is crucial to have sufficient public liability insurance. Parents can usually add their son/daughter's residence as an “additional property location” to their own home policy at a very reasonable cost.
Most condominiums restrict the use of flags and other interior window treatments such as newspapers, or foil paper as window coverings. Check the rules.
Before you sign the lease, confirm the number of parking spaces available for your use with the landlord and the property manager. Most condominiums do not have extra parking. Some condominiums may have extra parking but a monthly fee is charged. Condominiums do enforce their parking rules. Some condominiums have a contract with the municipality; Enforcement Officers regularly patrol the properties and ticket illegally parked vehicles.
Check the condominium declaration and rules on whether you can keep a pet. Some Condominiums have provisions in their documents that restrict the type, number, size of pet(s) permitted or even prohibit pets altogether. These provisions are enforceable and not affected by or subject to the Tenant Protection Act in a condominium. There are usually restrictions against allowing pets to be left unleashed and unsupervised anywhere on the property. Stooping and scooping is expected. Noisy dogs left to bark either inside or outside are not condoned. Also note that many condominiums have the legal right to deem pets a nuisance and have them ordered removed from the property, should problems arise. You should either read the condominium documents or contact the property manager to find out what if any pets are permitted before you move in.
Common Expense Default
The owner is obligated to pay a monthly common element assessment (condominium) fee every month to the condominium corporation. This fee pays for the overall upkeep of the property. If the owner of a unit that is rented defaults in his or her payments, the corporation has the right to require the tenant to re-direct part or all of the rent to the corporation until the arrears are paid. A tenant would be made aware of this issue by the condominium's property manager if it becomes necessary.
In the case of unpaid condominium fees, the owner cannot sue the tenant for unpaid rent, nor will the tenant's credit be affected if the condominium seizes some or all of the rent. Usually the condominium does not involve the tenant in cases of arrears but simply registers a lien which does not affect the tenant. Regardless, the right to seize rent for arrears of common expenses does exist and any demands for payment by the condominium of the tenant should not be ignored. A tenant faced with such a claim should likely contact his or her own lawyer for advice.
Most municipalities have a 24 hour noise bylaw which applies to any and all noise deemed to be excessive at any time of day or night. Noises emitting from loud stereos, parties and pets are not appreciated by neighbours and can result in court proceedings as condominium rules prohibit unreasonable noise.
If court proceedings are undertaken by the condominium the costs can be recovered from the owner and the occupants of the unit. These costs can amount to several thousand dollars. It is crucial to ensure that the rules about noise and the rules generally are complied with as there are efficient enforcement mechanisms set out in the Condominium Act, 1998.
Some condominium corporations have recreation facilities such as pools, tennis courts, exercise rooms, saunas, and club houses. You can obtain more information from the landlord or the Property Manager on how you can enjoy the use of these facilities.
Check with the landlord or obtain information from the Property Manager on how to dispose of your garbage and recyclable materials. You can be charged by the Condominium Corporation if garbage is improperly disposed.
Keys/Parking Permits/Recreation Passes
All keys, permits and passes are usually issued to you by the landlord, not the Property Manager. You will likely need to pay the landlord a fee if you lose any one of them.
Use of Common Roadways/Driveways
For the safety of all residents, skateboard riding, ball throwing, street games (ball hockey, soccer) are typically not permitted on the common roadways, driveways and parking areas.
Your municipality may have lodging bylaws prohibiting an owner from renting a unit to more than a certain number of unrelated persons (e.g. The City of Guelph's is 3 unrelated persons). All complaints received by the Condominium Corporation or Management will be investigated, and if a violation seems to be occurring, it will be reported to the City bylaw enforcement officer The condominium may also have an Occupancy By-Law which can limit the number of persons residing in a unit. If in doubt contact the City bylaw enforcement office or the Property Manager before signing a lease.
Most high rise condominiums have rules respecting moving furniture in and out. You may have to reserve an elevator in advance and pay a damage deposit. Some condominiums prohibit moving on Sundays and holidays and require you move in or out only between designated times. Look in the rules the landlord gives you or call the Property Manager for more information. These rules normally don't apply to townhouse-style condominiums but it would be safer to check to make sure.
Be a Good Neighbour
Some home owners may be nervous about having students living next door so don't hesitate to introduce yourself and let them know you intend to be a good neighbours. A few kind words or good deeds, (like shoveling snow for an elderly resident) will help to eliminate these concerns. Whether you are in a high rise or town house condominium noise tends to travel easily between units, so be considerate and turn down the volume.