Over the past decade, condo living has become an increasingly attractive way of life for many new home buyers. Beyond the desire to downsize or live somewhere more affordable, there are a variety of reasons why people may choose to purchase a condo. Even though condo living may mean giving up some square footage and a little less privacy, there are several benefits such as less maintenance and a lower price point. Whatever the reason, condo living means you need to work with a new level of administration in your life, the infamous ‘Condo Board’.
When you own a single detached home, you own all of it, when you own a condo you only own the inside of your unit and maybe a parking spot. The pool, the exterior, the shared space, hallways etc. are the domain of a shared collective. If you are the type of person who enjoys playing loud music, loves vaping indoors, or you absolutely must cover your balcony in festive lights around the holidays, then you may have to learn to live with a few house rules.
The Condo Board is the entity which governs the shared collective of the community living within a specific building or group of buildings. Each individual Condo Board is unique, and the rules they set are specific to the building. Along with price, location and amenities it is important to consider the rules enforced by the Condo Board before deciding to make a purchase. You should ask yourself “are there any compliance rules (i.e. noise and nuisance) that might limit how I want to live in the unit?”
The condo community is made up of the Condo Board of Directors, Condo Management and the condo owners.
Condo Boards are responsible for the general operations of the building on behalf of the owners, and they make the big decisions in regard to the building rules, bylaws, maintenance and finances. Condo Boards must also enforce compliance with provincial legislation, such as the Saskatchewan Condominium Act. The Condo Board is made up of volunteers, usually owners in the building, who are elected into power by fellow condo owners.
To ensure that the building operates smoothly on a day-to-day basis, the Board may enlist the services of a professional Condo Management company. The management company will look after repairs, fee collection and respond to complaints, along with other duties. If the Board does not hire a management company, they self-manage, but it’s not commonplace.
From occupancy bylaws, to determining the place where your dog may do their business, Condo Boards have the most power when it comes to setting rules, though it isn’t a total dictatorship. While owners can’t break condo rules without penalization, they can choose to vote against new rules and bylaws in owners’ meetings or try to remove the current directors if they’re unhappy with their practices.
Members of the Board are the decision makers, but before they pass rules there is an opportunity for condo owners to vote for or against proposed changes. Beyond that, if owners are continuously disappointed with the way the board is conducting itself, there is a process for removing Board members called requisition.
Every condo community has a different set of regulations and these laws are always evolving. Policy changes that take place outside of the condo influence the kind of rules that you will encounter as an owner, from new local zoning bylaws to federal regulations.
For example, when cannabis was legalized, Condo Boards needed to decide how they would manage the consumption and growth of plants in their buildings, which in some cases prompted condos to go completely smoke-free. From a purchaser’s perspective, it is important to recognize these rules prior to making a purchase so that bylaws don’t impede on your lifestyle.
There are other rules that you need to be aware of. In the declaration there are specifications as to what “shared spaces” are, and some are not obvious. For example, the balcony is a common element with exclusive use, meaning that while only the owner has access to it, the balcony must still comply with common element rules. It is often the case that Christmas decorations need to be removed after a certain date to control the appearance of the condo building from the outside.
No one possesses magical foresight into the future, but when buying a condo, it is important to consider your lifestyle and plans for the space. Are you a young couple hoping to start a family one day? Some condos have a two-people-per-bedroom rule. Dreaming of renovating the kitchen? Watch out for building regulations. Even if you plan to get a pet one day, make sure the condo will allow it as per their breed and size restrictions, especially when your furry friend grows up — it’s not unheard of for puppies to one day outgrow weight bylaws.
Condo living needs to be managed but it is ultimately impossible to achieve perfect coexistence between everyone. For this reason, condo rules should strive to achieve balance while ensuring the safety, comfort and security of everyone in the building. Condo living can be great and offer a terrific path to homeownership. With that been said, it is up to the potential condo owner to learn the rules – and keep in mind the rules may change – this is the only way to be somewhat prepared for what condo living will truly entail.