Do you remember the first time you heard the word “condominium?”
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I was just a teenager growing up in Forest Hill Village, a small community in Toronto. It was way back in 1967 while my mother was sitting at the kitchen table reading her daily newspaper. Written in large bold hyphenated letters was the word C-O-N-D-O-M-I-N-I-U-M. She asked my father if he had ever heard of such a thing. The article announced the passing of the first condominium legislation in Ontario on Sept. 1, 1967. I didn’t realize back then what a profound impact this strange word “condominium” would have in regards to my future.
Those of you who are not condo owners but are considering the idea, continue to ask me the same question. “What exactly is a condominium?”
When a building is constructed, it does not automatically become a condominium. The developer of such a property must register in a Registry Office a document called a “declaration” together with a “description.” Once this procedure is completed, the condominium will come into existence and is brought under the Condominium Act. The units will now be able to be sold and mortgaged individually.
The new Condominium Act, which was proclaimed law as of May 5, 2001, has made it possible for developers to build new types of condominiums such as common element condominiums, phased condos, vacant land condos and leasehold condominiums.
A condominium property consists of units, common property or common elements. Units are part of the property that is individually owned. The unit owner has title to the unit and can sell it, mortgage it or rent it in the same manner as any property owner can. However, a condominium owner is subject to the provisions of the Condominium Act as well as the bylaws, declarations rules and regulations that govern their particular property.
Common property or common elements is the part of the condominium property that is held in common by all the unit owners. This includes use of common areas such as balconies, front yards, rear yards, driveways, etc., that are exclusively used by one specific owner.
The developer must provide a prospective buyer with a table of contents that are part of the disclosure statement. This table of contents will assist the purchaser to easily locate information such as the condominium bylaws, declarations, rules and regulations. It will also include the financial condition of the corporation as well as restrictions concerning pets, parking spaces, responsibilities regarding repairs, lawn maintenance, snow shoveling and so much more. It is very important that buyers review these documents carefully with their lawyers.
Unfortunately, too many prospective buyers fail to examine this critical information until after they purchase their condo, not before. In future columns, I will address some of the misconceptions of condo living.
Marilyn Lincoln is a condo owner, board of director and author of “The Condominium Self Management Guide” 2nd ed. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org