Living in a condo
Gazo: How's about investing in condominiums? It's safe.
Rocky Balboa: Condominiums?
Gazo: Yeah, condominiums.
Rocky Balboa: I never use 'em.
—Rocky II 1979

So you ignored my advice and bought a condo. Now I will tell you some of the issues you may have to deal with.

Before you move
“My roommate got a pet elephant. Then it got lost. It's in the apartment somewhere.
—Steven Wright

If you are a couple who are downsizing from a house to an apartment, you need shed many of your possessions. Old and unessential documents, books, furniture, keepsakes, workshop tools, clothes, wall decorations and knickknacks have to go.

Your kids will take some, a garage sale will help and the rest need to be given away or tossed into the garbage.

The people who fail to do this will pay good money to move their belongings into a one bedroom condo jammed full of stuff from floor to ceiling with the remainder sitting in a rental storage unit.

If you are buying new furniture for your unit, think small. A good quality convertible couch may make more sense in a spare bedroom than a full-size bed. That way a TV room/den becomes a guest bedroom.

The Japanese know how to live in small apartments. They buy laptops instead of desktops, cell phones instead of land phones and flat screen TVs with small speakers.

Moving in
Prior to moving day, you will need to book the service elevator. The earlier you do this, the better off you are as there may be other residents moving in and out on the same weekend. Once you have booked the elevator, then you can firm up the timing with the moving company.
When you go to your lawyer’s office to pick up the keys, make sure that you get the FOB or key for the lobby door and garage, the keys to your apartment, your locker room key and, also important, your
mailbox key.

Many sellers forget to turnover the mailbox key. Replacing the lock on a secure mailbox can be a headache.

Re-key your front door and the mailbox. You do not know how many keys are floating around.

Also, you do not want the previous owner dropping by the lobby and sorting through your mailbox looking for his or her letters.

Information from the corporation
Every buyer gets a set of documents the size of a phone book when they sit down in their lawyer’s office to sign the papers and pick up the keys and who wants to read a phone book? Guess what? If you haven’t done so by now you need to read those papers as they will explain all the rules and regulations that govern life in your new home.

Keep a copy of all notices and newsletters that the corporation distributes in a folder for future reference.  Put them in the same place as all the documents you received when you bought your unit. They may be important later. I also suggest that you keep all the AGM packages that you receive.

Personal savings
I strongly suggest that individual condo owners have cash or liquid assets in a savings account. This money is required in case of the board raises the common elements fees (taxes), there is an unexpected special assessment (a one time tax that can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands) or for unexpected moving costs, if you get flooded out, any insurance deductibles you are hit with or if you decide that you are not happy in your new home.

Most crime in a condo building occurs in the parking garage. Bad guys break into cars to steal laptops, stereo equipment, tires and wheels or loose change in the coffee cup holders. Sometimes cars are stolen or are stripped for parts right in their parking spot. At times the bad guys steal licence plates.

You may have your locker broken into. Some people conceal their locker contents by tying tarps or cardboard on the inside of their wire-mesh lockers.

Get to know the security guards and talk to them on a regular basis. They know what is going on. The lobby lizards will also keep you informed on the latest gossip. Management however, usually hides all bad news from the residents.

Forgot or lost your keys?
All condos insist that you give the property manager a key to your apartment. This is so the superintendent and a tradesman can enter your apartment to carry out regular service or in case of an emergency such as a water leak.

If you forgot your keys and you are locked out, some condos will not use the key left with the manager to open the door for you. They suggest you phone a locksmith. Other condos leave the apartment master key with the security guards and they will open a door when requested. Find out what procedure your building uses.

If you and your partner break up and he or she moves out, immediately inform the manager of this in writing. You do not want the security guard or the manager letting your ex- into your apartment when you are not home. Request that this person’s FOB be de-activated and have your apartment lock re-keyed. You may also have good reasons to want this person banned from the property.

One more thing about keys; be careful when you enter or exit the elevators. Approximately once a week, someone in Toronto drops their keys through the crack between the elevator cab and the floor. People also accidentally drop wallets, credit cards and cell phones down into the elevator pits.

A service call for a technician to come to the building and go down into the pit to retrieve your items may be expensive.

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