Introduction to condominiums: FAQs
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Uncertainty abounds when it comes to condominium living — even as its popularity increases, says Mississauga real estate lawyer Jia Junaid.
“Many people are still confused about what they’re supposed to do when issues arise because it’s not the type of ownership style they grew up with,” says Junaid, principal of Atlas Law.
She tells AdvocateDaily.com that condos are particularly popular with millennials because of the unaffordability of traditional single-family dwellings in the red-hot Greater Toronto Area market.
Indeed one recent study conducted by the Ontario Real Estate Association and Ryerson University suggests young professionals are settling for condo living despite sharing the desire of older generations for a detached house and back yard.
To help them negotiate this unfamiliar territory, Junaid has answered some of the most frequently asked questions she gets from new and prospective condo owners.
Q. Can I withhold my condo fees until necessary repairs are carried out?
A. “No. As a unit holder, you are required to pay your condo fees regardless of any dispute with the board,” Junaid says. “It’s similar to rent, in that you can’t just stop paying your rent because a landlord won’t carry out the work you want them to.”
In fact, she says the adjudicator in any dispute between a unit owner and condo board is likely to frown upon instances of non-payment.
“You want to show that you’ve done everything that is expected of you,” says Junaid.
Failure to pay condo fees could result in a lien being filed against an owner’s unit for the outstanding fees, as well as the corporation’s legal fees, she warns. In extreme cases, non-payment could even lead to a unit being sold against an owner’s wishes.
Q. Who pays for plumbing-related damage inside my unit?
A. “It depends,” says Junaid.
Each case will vary depending on the insurance held by the unit owner, the condo corporation’s policies and who was at fault for the originating issue. Owners should notify both their insurer and the board immediately so that the problem can be investigated and dealt with, she explains.
“The condo declaration will talk about who pays any deductible and in what situations,” Junaid says.
Q. Can a condo prohibit pets?
A. “Yes, within reason,” says Junaid.
Condos have extensive leeway to impose restrictions on unit owners, and buyers should check the building’s declaration — its prohibitions carry the most weight — but also bylaws and rules passed by the board, she says.
“Service dogs are exempt regardless of what the rules say,” Junaid adds.
Q. Can I smoke cannabis in my unit?
A. “Lots of condos have bans in place, but this is a very new and fluid area of the law,” Junaid says. “Broadly speaking, condos are entitled to include restrictions on smoking, so a person who wishes to use cannabis should check the declaration and bylaws. Even though the unit belongs to the owner, smoking can cause issues that affect other people in the building.”
Q. What can I do about a noisy neighbour?
A. “Condo boards must take reasonable steps to ensure owners and occupiers comply with the rules,” says Junaid, suggesting that owners put their complaints to the board in writing for ongoing issues.
Q. Can a property manager enter my unit without consent?
A. “Yes, in some circumstances,” says Junaid.
The Condominium Act gives corporations broad powers to enter units to deal with emergencies such as water leaks or fire that could affect other unit owners if not dealt with immediately, she says.
“You can’t expect the same degree of privacy as you would in a single-family dwelling, although this is more of an issue in highrise condos, as opposed to townhouses.”
For less-urgent but necessary maintenance and upkeep, Junaid says the condo corporation may also enter individual units, as long as reasonable notice is provided, typically 24 hours.
Q. Do I have to take my condo board to court?
A. No. Since late 2017, condo owners have had a dedicated body for disputes, known as the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT), she says. So far, CAT’s jurisdiction extends only as far as record disputes covered by s. 55 of the Condominium Act, but it is expected to expand its jurisdiction in the coming years.
“The aim was to develop a dispute resolution system that encourages people to work together, and can settle problems quickly and inexpensively,” Junaid says. “It’s in keeping with the idea that condos are communities, and gives owners a venue to hold boards to account without having to resort to the court system.”
This is the final instalment of a two-part series on condo ownership.
To read part one, the basics, click here.