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Clarifying Maintenance And Repair Roles For Residents And Condo Corporations

You’ve no doubt been down this road before where a resident has asked about maintenance and repair roles. Or maybe you’ve had to listen to the board explain time and again about who is responsible for what.

On the surface, it can seem pretty clear and obvious – whatever is inside a condo is the unit owner’s and everything outside is your corporation. But the truth is it’s not so simple when you’re in a condo building. Furthermore certain areas can be confusing to residents.

Confusion doesn’t just come to residents but also board members too. There are plenty of instances where board members refused to assist when they should have or tried to fix things that was actually the resident’s responsibility. These possible scenarios have caused condo corporations unnecessary spending or legal battles that could be avoided.

Because of these possible scenarios, this article is aimed towards helping you get more clarity about these specific roles. You can then use this information to not only educate residents but also current and future board members about who is responsible for what.

Plumbing work


First, Be Familiar With Condo Terminology

In order to communicate properly, both parties need to be speaking the same language – in this case condo lingo. With respect to maintenance, both your corporation and board members as well as homeowners should know the following terms:

  • Units – The individually owned portions of the condo that are assigned as resident space.
  • Common elements – This typically encompasses everything beyond the units. Things like the space in and around the building that are used by two or more units. The condo corporation is responsible for this space.
  • Limited common elements – can also be called “exclusive-use elements” these are elements located outside of a unit that serve a single unit. Things like balconies, shutters, heating and cooling units and awnings fall into this.


Second, Know Relevant Laws And Policies Concerning Condo Corporation Governing Documents

At the base level, the corporation governing documents should have the definitions for those three terms mentioned above. It should also make it clear who is responsible for maintenance and repair responsibilities for anything that the Alberta law doesn’t address.

You want these to be the first documents you see when anyone has questions or disputes. Generally speaking the unit owner is responsible for everything in the unit and the condo corporation is responsible for common areas and elements.

But where people get the most confused is with elements that fall into the limited common elements category. These elements come down to what the governing documents stipulate. In some cases, the condo corporation is responsible for maintenance and repair. In others it’s the unit owner themselves.


Third, Make Amends If Responsibilities Aren’t Clear

In the event of both the laws and governing documents don’t provide enough detail, the third thing you can consider is making amends to your documents. It’s a necessary step as it’ll help to avoid situations where if rules aren’t clear that the corporation goes into a lawsuit over who should be paying for what.


Finally, Make A “Responsibility Matrix”

Even with having legal documents to refer back to, it might not provide all the information residents need to know. As a result, the board could still be faced with addressing answers and concerns.

This is where a “Responsibility Matrix” comes in. It serves as a quick-reference chart that moves away from legal terms hidden in documents and makes it into an easy to understand format. It covers the various elements and identifies whether the condo corporation or the unit owner is responsible for what.

Here is how to make it:

  • Have all your maintenance-related paperwork ready. This means governing documents, and recent reserve studies. You can also get warranty information for equipment and components too that were made by a contractor.
  • To ensure accuracy, get the help of a community manager and attorney. The community manager will have an understanding of the general maintenance around the building. The attorney can then cover any unintentional legal exposure you created from specifying or not specifying something. You also should make it clear on the matrix itself that it’s not a representation of a all elements or responsibilities.
  • Third is making the list of maintenance items. This also covers things that require repairing or eventual replacements. Label this as either “Items” or “Elements”
  • Next is specifying the responsibilities. Have one column listed as “Unit Owner” and the other “Condo Corporation”. Based on information gathered in the first and second steps, check off the boxes that apply to each part. Also have a column for comments or notes since some need explanations or have exceptions.
  • Review the final matrix. Before submitting the matrix out, you want to be reviewing to ensure it’s easy to read. Formatting can be helpful here since you can separate the columns and have them in bright colours. It also doesn’t hurt to have the attorney and community manager review it once more to ensure everything is clear. Lastly you want to date the final copy in the event you need to review or make changes to it in the future.
  • Lastly is distributing the document to all residents. Be sure to use multiple channels to announce its availability.

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