16 Things To Know About Owning A Condo In Alberta
Condo ownership is a whole different aspect than living in an apartment. There are more rules and things to be aware of. Whether this is your first condo or you’re a long term condo owner, you need to stay on top of various things.
You’re not just buying into a single-family home. Buying a condo means being part of a bigger community and understanding your own rights.
Fortunately, the Alberta Government has published a 27-page Consumer Tip Guide to help. This guide takes the encompassing – and more complicated – rules outlined in the Alberta Condominium Property Act (CPA) and makes them easier to understand.
It’s highly recommended that you read this guide if you haven’t. And if you have and it’s been a while, be sure to read it again.
To help with this, below are summaries of key points in the guide. And if you want to read the whole guide itself, here is a helpful link to it.
What You Absolutely Need To Know
1. The Definition Of A Condominium
The first thing to know is what the law defines as a condominium. Unless you bought the first condo you set eyes on and never considered other condos, you should know there are many types of condos.
Some are residential while others are apartment-style with low-rise, mid-rise, or high-rise buildings. You’ve also got detached or semi attached (duplex) townhouse dwellings and even some commercial and industrial units.
Regardless, the boundaries for each condo unit is mentioned in the condo plan itself. You should have a copy of the plan. If you don’t you can order it through Alberta Land Titles.
Beyond that, a condo is a residential space that is bound by walls, floors and ceilings. Owners are responsible for maintenance, repair, and remodelling unless specified by condo bylaws. However, owners might still need the approval of the Board of directors if the changes affect common property.
2. Who Is Responsible For The Doors And Windows
Owners are responsible for a lot of things but what about the doors and windows? First, any doors and windows that are on the exterior walls of the unit are technically in the common property area. The exception is if the condo plan states otherwise.
If the plan makes no mention, then they’re part of the unit or common space making it the corporations responsibility for repairing and maintaining them.
3. How Much Insurance You Need
The corporation does need to have insurance that covers the condo as a whole. That said, you’ll still need to buy insurance yourself. Though it’s to cover any personal property damage. It’ll also cover personal liability and also improvements you make to the unit.
On the note of improvements, changes you make may not count as improvements if they’re already included in the corporation’s standard insurable unit description (SIUD).
Getting into specific numbers, the one number to keep in mind is $50,000 in deductibles. In BFL Canada’s recent notice they stated:
“the board can recover the Corporation’s deductible from an owner for damages that originate in or from the owner’s unit or an exclusive use area, to a maximum of $50,000.”
4. What A Condominium Corporation Is
These are created when a developer registers the condominium plan with Alberta Land Titles. The corporation consists of all the units identified in the plan.
Bylaws are then set in place for the corporation to regulate. These provide control, management, and administration of the units, common property, managed property, and other real and personal property the corporation has. A board of Directors will also be elected by the unit owners to carry out corporation responsibilities too.
5. What Are Condo Bylaws
Every condo you go to will have a set of bylaws. As stated above, these are set once the corporation is registered and formed. They have an initial set of bylaws which could be the only bylaws. However there are also default bylaws that the CPA applies too if a corporation doesn’t register with Land Titles.
Instead of using those default bylaws, corporations can develop their own that suit their needs. However the corporation can’t make bylaws that supersede the CPA bylaws.
As a result, corporations should be looking for legal advice to draft a set of bylaws. Owners do have the right to change these laws or pass motions to adopt any changes too. All they need is a 75% or more approval of the changes amongst the owners named on the Title to make those changes.
Because of this aspect, condo bylaws vary from complex to complex. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific bylaws that are outlined in your condo.
6. The Difference Between Corporation Rules And Condo Bylaws
Beyond the bylaws, the board of directors can set rules and policies for the corporation. They need to be within reason and consistent with the CPA and bylaws of the corporation still.
When rules are created, enforcement of those new rules doesn’t start until after 30 days. This is the time frame given to send notifications in writing to owners. The exception to that waiting period is if the rule is addressing a safety or security concern.
Rules can also be repealed or amended by owners too.
7. What A Condo Board Of Directors Is
Every condo has a board. The members are elected amongst the owners and are meant to carry out corporation responsibilities. Naturally, there are bylaws that state how many people can sit on the board, the selection process and eligibility requirements too.
Directors are usually volunteers who agree to help out for one term. Two thirds of the members are required to be unit owners, or mortgagees unless stated otherwise.
The board has to conduct regular meetings and has to act in the best interest of the corporation and exercise care and diligence. They also have other responsibilities such as:
- Enforcing corporation bylaws,
- Managing, administering and maintaining common property
- Setting up and collecting condominium fees
- Making financial statements
- And more
8. What Property Managers Do
They have two primary roles:
- First is manage the daily operations of the complex.
- Second is carry out policies and procedures that are set by the board of directors.
They often work closely with the board and act like an advisor, but also separate from the board.
Other things they do are serve as the point of contact for necessary vendors on maintenance and repair issues as well and perform regular inspections. They also handle financial affairs too like collecting condo fees, making monthly financial statements and make a yearly budget to submit to the board.
9. What Documents You Need
You’re entitled to copies of:
- minutes of the board or general meetings,
- recent financial statements,
- insurance and the reserve fund study report or plan or annual update as required under the Act and regulations.
You can request these at any time through written request. Note that you could be charged fees for these documents too in certain circumstances.
10. What Are The Condo Fees For?
Condo corporations have expenses like insurance premiums, snow removal, landscaping, repairs, maintain a reserve fund, and more. The main source to cover those costs are the condo fees.
Contributions are typically set annually and paid monthly but the board can collect special levies in the event they need extra funds to meet their obligations.
The amount is determined by the budgeted needs of the corporation. Each contribution is portioned by the number of people.
11. What Are Reserve Funds?
The CPA requires that corporations establish and maintain a capital replacement reserve fund. This is meant to cover major repairs and replacement of property and common property that the corporation owns.
This is to be expected since buildings age and need more repairs and maintenance done to them. This reserve is there to cover those costs. These also cover costs associated to external property like underground utilities, landscaping, or even asphalt in the parking lot as those break down after a while.
When a corporation is registered, they have two years from that date to have the initial reserve fund study and have the plan approved. Depreciation of that study has to then be conducted every five years.
12. Know About The Annual General Meeting & Voting Rights
Owners are given a 14 days’ notice on when the annual general meeting is being held, including the first one. After that, these meetings will need to be conducted no later than 15 months after the previous annual general meeting.
Special general meetings can also be held in 14 days’ notices to owners as well. Owners have to request them and they need to represent 15% of the unit factors who are making the request.
The request has to be done in writing and outline the business to be dealt in those meetings too. If the board doesn’t respond, owners can convene to those meetings.
Regardless of the situation, your voting rights are simple: you can vote personally or by proxy. A proxy can be in an electronic format or hard copy.
For the proxy to be validated, you’ll need:
- The name and unit number of the owner,
- The name of the individual who holds the proxy,
- The date the proxy is given
- And the signature of the owner on the proxy.
Owners voting rights entail voting on matters presented in general meetings, bylaw changes, changes to common property, and other matters permitted under the Act, regulation and the bylaws. They can also elect board members too.
13. General Rights And Responsibilities As A Condo Owner
When you own a condo unit, you have the right to:
- Vote on matters
- Access common areas
- Obtain info on management or administration of the corporation,
- Use mediation, arbitration, or court action to resolve disputes with a corporation, board, or owner
- Legally challenge improper conduct of developers, condo corporations, employees of a corporation, director, or other owner.
Along with those rights, you’re responsible for:
- Abiding by the bylaws and rules the corporation has. This also means enforcing them to family members, tenants and guests.
- Paying all contributions and assessments or levies on time.
14. Whether Someone Can Enter Without Your Permission
Like an apartment, you have to give consent and people will need to give you proper notice unless there is an emergency.
Emergencies include providing water, power, heat, or another service that would affect other owners.
You have to be given at least 24-hour notice before someone can enter or repair any problem in the unit. The notice has to be in writing, state the reason, and have a set day and time.
15. How To Rent Out A Condo
You can rent your own condo, but there is a way to go about it. First, notify the corporation in writing you intend to so. You’ll also provide your future address, the amount of rent you’ll be charging to the unit, and the name of the tenant. This must be done 20 days after they occupy the place at the latest.
As the owner, you might also have to pay a deposit which is used to cover repairing or replacing common property damage from the tenant. The maximum asked is $1000 or the equivalent of one month’s rent, whichever is higher.
That tenant is then bound to the bylaws of the corporation. If they ever break them, the corporation is able to ask you to evict the tenant. The corporation can also send that eviction notice to you and the tenant directly.
As a condo renter, you should give the tenant a copy of the bylaws at the start so they know what to follow.
16. What Personal Info A Condo Corporation Has On You
Corporations are allowed to gather personal information, but they need to provide adequate protection that meets the requirements of the Personal Information Protection Act.
Despite that, corporations are allowed to collect and use personal information that is reasonable for their business or required under the CPA. For example, they can maintain lists of owners, contact info, record names for minutes, and provide copies of those minutes to other owners.
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