Note that the answers provided below are the opinion of the writer. They should not be taken as legal advice. Consult a condominium lawyer if you need legal advice. Feel free to send us your questions, and we will do our best to add them to this list.
What is a Condominium?
A condominium is more than just the high rise residential building. Condominiums are corporations that can be residential or commercial, high rise or low rise, townhouse, or even vacant of any structure. This is because a condominium is actually a legal entity that defines co-ownership of a shared real estate asset. Condominium operate under their own law in Ontario, and come in many different shapes and sizes.
Is a condominium a corporation?
Yes. A condominium is a corporation, but under their own legal framework, and not under the Business Corporations Act. The Condominium Act, 1998 governs all condominiums in the province, although this law is currently being updated. For this reason, this FAQ will avoid citing exact sections of the law, as it will get confusing in the near future.
A condominium is a not-for-profit corporation, meaning its purpose is simply to exist and generate enough money to maintain itself, and provide a good life or investment for its owners. Small profits or losses are acceptable on a year to year basis, but the goal of every condominium is simply to pay for its own existence, and not make large profits.
Who owns a Condominium?
The unit owners do. A condominium corporation is broken up into two parts: The units, which are fully owned by the owner, and the common elements, which are shared among all owners. In a high-rise, this means that your unit itself is yours alone, but that everything outside of the units, including corridors, elevators, land, and parking garage is shared between all of the owners. It gets a bit more confusing since the unit is connected to the common elements, but we’ll get into this later on.
What are the different types of Condominiums?
In Ontario, there are several different types of condominium. Standard Condominiums can be thought of as buildings with different privately-owned units, as we described above. This is the most common type, and until 1998, the only type of condominium. In Standard condominiums, maintenance and repairs are somewhat tricky since the unit is connected to the rest of the building.
Common Element Condominiums are condominiums where owners own a parcel of land in a development instead of a unit in a building. The structure built on this “Parcel of Tied Land” (POTL) is entirely owned by the individual, making repairs and maintenance relatively simple. The word “tied” in “Parcel of Tied Land” means that the unit owners share a common asset, like a road, or an area of land. For example, in a Common Element Corporation in the form of a townhouse development, the owners may be responsible for the shared roads and street lighting. This differs from a regular townhouse development where the city would take on these services.
Vacant Land Condominiums, Phased Condominiums, and Leaseholds are some of the other types of condominium corporations that are possible in Ontario, but these are far less common.
What are common elements?
The common elements are the portion of the condominium that are shared among the owners. This could include assets like the building’s amenities (pool, gym, etc.), but also includes less obvious items like the parking garage, the lobby, the corridors, the lighting, and virtually everything else that lies outside of the boundaries of the units themselves. These assets are co-owned, with each owner owning a percent that is proportionate to their unit size (Other methods of determining percent ownership exist as well). The percent ownership of each unit can be found in the corporation’s Declaration. This document will be explained later on.
What are units?
A condominium unit is where you live. This is your home. Legally, the unit is the portion of the condominium corporation that is owned by the owner (as opposed to being jointly owned by all owners). In buildings, determining the boundaries of the unit, the repairs and maintenance of the unit, and the insurance on a unit, can all be complicated since the unit is physically attached to the rest of the building. These divisions are laid out in the corporation’s Declaration, which will be explored below.
I bought a townhouse condominium. Why do I pay property tax and maintenance fees?
A townhouse condominium usually requires the owners to share ownership of the roads on the land that they occupy. In other words, the owners pay for the roads and other shared assets that the city would normally pay for in a regular townhouse development. So why pay property tax? Obviously, property taxes pay for more than just the roadways in from of your home, but shouldn’t there be a discount if owners are already required to pay maintenance fees? This is a question that we can’t answer here. Call your city councillor!
The roads outside my townhouse are never properly plowed, and the city refuses to help. What should I do?
In most townhouse condominium corporations, the condominium itself is responsible for the roads within the development, meaning the City is not required to maintain them. If the roads are not being maintained, you should speak with your Board of Directors. More on them below.
The building is falling apart, and the management refuses to pay. What do I do?
Unlike in an apartment building, a condominium management company does not own the building. They are hired by the Board of Directors, and may or may not have permission to make the necessary repairs. The issue may indeed be the management company, but could also be the Board of Directors, or simply just a lack of the necessary funds to do the repairs. As an owner, you have the ability to get involved to try and fix the problem.
The board of directors decided to fill in the pool and make a garden, but no one asked me. Is this legal?
Probably not. If the condominium’s Declaration states that the condominium includes a pool, it is not within the rights of the Board of Directors to change this. In order to remove an amenity, the Board must first change the Declaration, which is a complicated and difficult procedure that requires your permission.