What are you buying?

When you buy a condo, you are buying a unit and you are also buying a portion of the common elements. That portion is based on the square footage of your unit as a percentage of the total space of all the privately owned units.

If the parking spots and lockers are privately owned, they are also included in the total square footage. The bigger your square footage, the more you pay.

Each unit owner pays their share of the costs to maintain and service the common elements on top of the maintenance and replacements to their individual unit.

The unit owners in a condominium residential tower have to pay the for the utilities, cleaning, repairs and replacements for all the common elements including the amenities, hallways, lobby, driveways, parking lots and landscaping. They also have to pay for security and property management.

Shared facilities
If you belong to a condo corporation that owns facilities that are shared with other corporations, you will pay a share of all those costs as well.

When condos first became possible in Ontario in 1967, it did not take municipalities long to figure out that condo townhouses were a great way to get residential housing on the cheap.

All the municipality had to do is allow the developer to hook up the condo corporation's utilities to the city mains and not much else.

The builder put in the roads, street lighting water and sewage pipes, the electrical wiring and the playgrounds and then the condo corporation took over the responsibility of maintaining and replacing them.

Investor towers
There are many new towers that have been built with a large percentage of bachelor and one-bedroom units. These units were not designed to appeal for owner-residents but for investors who would rent them out to young professionals and students or use them as short-term hotel suites.

If you are looking for a permanent resident, you may want to avoid these buildings.

Common Element Condominium Corporation (CECC)
These type of condos are still rare in Ontario and were usually built as detached houses in rural areas. People own their own homes but the land, roads, sewers, fire hydrants, street lighting and electrical lines are owned and maintained by the condo.

They are very much like American Home Owner Associations (HOA).

Developers love them because the roads, sewers, water lines and street lighting don't have to be built to municipal standards.

Some townhouse complexes in urban areas are being built as CECC's. The condo fees seem really cheap so purchasers, especially of re-sales, may not understand that the fees are cheap because they have to do all the exterior work on their units themselves. So you have to pay a contractor to replace your shingles and windows; you need to caulk your own windows, paint your own door and maintain your own front lawn.

When buying a townhouse be sure what it is that you are buying. Some real estate agents may think that a CECC townhouse is a freehold. This can cause the new owner a lot of grief when they fail to pay their monthly fees and battle with their neighbours when they paint their front door a different colour.

Condo Nazis
Even though the owners own their individual units and their front and back yards, the condo has by-laws, rules and regulations stating what colour the shingles, exterior paint and doors must be painted. They may restrict the type of windows the owner installs, what types of trees are planted and how well the lawns and flowerbeds must be maintained.

It is very important that anyone thinking of buying a unit in a CECC understands what they are buying into to. Here are a couple of news reports on the costs that some condo owners where not expecting.


Sewage problem to cost St. Cloud condo owners thousands
Osceola County Reporter
By Bailey Myers,
Last Updated: Friday, February 13, 2015

Homeowners in one St. Cloud condo community said their kids are playing is sewage-filled yards.

It’s all because of a sewage burst that happened months ago and now homeowners are being asked to foot the repair bill.

“They say we are going to fix it this month, this month, this month," said Mayra Fuentes. "But we don’t see them fix it and that’s just what we want.”

Homeowners say “This Month”  has turned into about seven at the Palm Gardens complex and still no fix. Instead they have seen just a temporary band aid for a major sewer system problem.

Some owners even said they think it’s a health problem because they’ve seen sewer water bubbling out of the system onto the road.

“It’s the sewer water that’s coming out. It’s not safe for the kids, it’s not safe for us,” Fuentes explained.

We spoke with a manager at Palm Gardens off camera and they told us they are working with the City of St. Cloud to fix the sewer problem. But it doesn’t stop there. The city spokesperson told us the entire system in the complex will need to be replaced.

Homeowners also said now they are being asked to pay $3,000 out of their own pocket.

“I can’t pay. And I know a lot of people around here can’t pay because this is low-income housing,” Another home owner explained.

Although she didn’t want us to use her name, this other woman said she has lived here for years and pays $165 a month in maintenance fees. She doesn’t understand why those collected fees are not being used to fix the problem or why it’s taking so long to resolve.

The City of St. Cloud said they do plan on working on this project in the first few weeks of March.

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