The myths of condo living
Here is where CondoMadness busts some common condo myths.
1. Condo living is perfect for people on fixed income
This is true only if these people have savings
that they can draw on. If they are living month-to-month—if they can't
rent out rooms—they may have to sell.
The unit owner has to pay for their unit's maintenance and to replace
wore out appliances, fan coils, plumbing facets and shutoff valves.
Condos have many unexpected expenses that the owners need to pay.
Municipal taxes can go up, electricity is getting expensive and condo
fees should have annual increases to keep up with inflation.
Then there are unexpected special assessments and/or the condo takes out multi-million dollar loans.
2. When buying a condo, my real estate lawyer will read the documents and tell me if there is anything wrong.
Most likely, your real estate lawyer will skim the first
few pages of the status certificate and check if the title is clear.
That's about it
You, or your real estate agent, hunted around to find the lawyer with the cheapest rates so you get what you pay for.
3. The lower the monthly maintenance expenses, the better.
The monthly expenses must be high enough meet the corporation's
expenses and to have sufficient savings to pay for future major repairs
If the monthly expenses are too low, then the building will start to deteriorate.
4. I am the king of my castle.
No you're not. You do not have the right to
complete privacy in your apartment, at all times. There are a number of
reasons that employees and/or contractors can and
will enter your unit and there is really not much you can do about it.
If they give you 24 hours notice, they can come in yearly to test the
fire and smoke alarms and they can enter your unit to inspect and treat
pest infestations. They can come in to inspect the balcony for any
safety concerns and to perform any required maintenance.
If there is an emergency, usually a water leak or fire, they can enter the unit without prior notice if you are home or not.
5. I can put decorations and an extra lock on the door to my unit.
You don't own the outside of that door or the
lock. They are common elements. You just own your keys. You need
permission to put on a second lock or to put up a
Christmas wreath or a welcome sign. (Of course, many condos are very
lax in enforcing
these rules and only a few are very strict.)
The building management needs a key to every lock you have on that door
in case of fire or for entry for maintenance when you are not home.
You can paint the inside of the door.
6. I own my balcony.
No you don't. You just have "exclusive use" of it. The
corporation owns it, maintains it and has a huge list of rules on what
you cannot do with it.
7. Condo living is worry-free living.
I make one monthly payment and everything is done for me.
If you believe this, then it is time to worry. All owners better know
who they are electing to the board, better be able to read the Reserve
Fund Study, be able to understand the audited Financial Statements and
at the very least, show up at the AGM and listen to what is going on.
In clobbering an owner, an Ontario judge ruled:
"In choosing not to attend meetings
of the condominium owners or to not fully read correspondence he
received demonstrated that [the owner] had little interest in the
—Ottawa Small claims Deputy Judge
8. Condo living is maintenance free living
The condo corporation generally handles snow removal, lawn care and window-washing, but owners have obligations.
Everybody has a role to play. The owner's role is to elect competent
board members, pay assessments, be eyes and ears for potential problems
and comply with the by-laws and rules.
Whatever happens inside the walls in your property, from drywall to
drywall, that's yours. If the stove breaks down, your tap drips or if
you plug your toilet, it's your responsibility to take care of it.
9. I can make any modifications to my unit that I want.
No you can't. You can makes minor changes to non load-bearing walls,
change kitchen cabinets, bathroom sinks, change tiles and the like but
you cannot make any changes to the common elements, cut into concrete
walls or floors or make major changes to the plumbing or electrical
systems without written permission of the board and you will need
10. The property manager, the corporation lawyer and the auditor work for the owners.
They all work for and take instructions from the majority on the board. You just pay the bills.
Check your condo documents before you decide to start any major
renovations. Some older condos will not allow washing machines or
dishwashers in the residential units and almost all apartment condos ban garburators as they
tend to plug the drains.
11. Outside the boardroom, the directors are just ordinary owners.
No so. The superintendent, security guards, cleaners and contractors
treat the directors far differently than they do the ordinary
residents, especially the president. After all, the directors have the
power to fire them, don't they?
12. This is a well maintained, very quiet and safe building
Maybe. However you need to know that the manager, security, the board
and the employees will hide everything that's negative from the owners.
Examples: The swimming pool didn't fail water tests, its closed for
minor maintenance. The elevator isn't out-of-service because we haven't
paid the service company for the last three months, we are waiting for
custom parts to be made in Germany. The overnight security guard was
not fired for smoking dope and sleeping on the job, he went back home
to look after a dying relative.
Huge water leaks, police raids on a drug den, thefts in the underground
parking, muggings and loud parties will be known only to the few
residents affected. Major repairs may be pushed out into the future
with nothing said to the owners and nothing stated in the Status
13. If I rent my unit, the board will go after the renters if they break any of the rules or damage the common areas.
No. The manager and the board will go after you, the owner. It is up to you to go after your renters.
14. The condo has insurance so I don't need any.
You had better get unit insurance to pay for any improvements and upgrades you made to your unit plus your contents.
Water leaks is the most common problem because if someone above you has a water leak, it could flood all the units below.
The condo insurance will pay to restore your unit to a "standard unit"
so you, or your insurance will have to pay for the any upgrades you
paid for to the floors, cupboards, counter tops, and wall tiles.
Finally, if you cause a leak or a fire, the condo corporation insurance
will pay for the repairs but you will be responsible to pay the
deductible. A few condos in Toronto have a deductable as high as
$25,000 to $100,000 so you need unit insurance that will pay most of
15. Condo owners will vote for the best candidates.
I wish. Far too often the majority of owners will vote for whoever
promises to keep the fees low and they don't care how its done.
16. I don't have to go to the AGM, I'll just hand in a proxy.
If you don't go to the AGM, you
won't know if any of the owners have serious problems with their units
that will affect you (such as water leaks, cockroaches, bedbugs or
break-ins in the parking garage), if owners have problems with the
management, if owners have discovered problems with the audited
financial statements, if there are conflicts between owners and the
directors or with anything else that can occur in an apartment or
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