Q. I am a condo owner and have a smoke alarm in my unit that was malfunctioning. The condo corporation hired a contractor to fix the alarm and now they have back-charged me for the work. Can I refuse to pay as it is one of the requirements of the corporation to have a functioning smoke alarm?
A. You raise an interesting point that is a bit more complex than you might imagine.
Contained in the documents for the condominium are rules and regulations that cover all kinds of situations and components of your communal living. Usually, somewhere in the constating documents, the question of who is responsible for the smoke alarm is addressed. I have seen both sides of the situation wherein the condominium pays for the upkeep or the owners of the individual units need to address any deficiencies. You need to look to these documents for the answer to your question. Your Board of Directors and the management office can probably point you to the exact spot where this information is set out.
Regardless, this question points out a somewhat obvious but often overlooked issue that condo owners forget. They are living in a communal environment and there are rules that affect their activities — from when they can move in and out to where they should be putting their recycling and garbage. It is extremely important that owners make themselves aware of their rights and obligations with respect to the condo they live in.
If for example the smoke alarm was the responsibility of the owner of the unit and they refused to pay for its’ repair, the condominium corporation has the right to place a lien on the property, which would show up if they tried to sell their home. They would end up paying for the equipment repair out of the sale proceeds or even before the unit was transferred to the new owner. Always read the fine print.
– Jeffrey Cowan is the principal with Cowan Taylor and McGee, Barristers & Solicitors. The information in this article should not be relied upon as legal advice.