Tricky utility charges - Metro US

Tricky utility charges

Q. We are a family of three (me, my wife and our 11-month-old baby).

As we are first time home buyers we spent three months looking for the perfect condo to match our current and next five-year budgetary needs.

With the ongoing increases in rent and hydro we decided to purchase a condo, as the mortgage will be far less than paying rent/parking/laundry and hydro.

Our main criterion were a safe neighbourhood and the condo fees to be all inclusive utilities and hydro.

We were successful in our search, but in mid-July, we received a post-purchase shock as the property management posted a notice that they will start installing sub-meters by the month of August 2011 to charge each unit owner for their consumption of hydro.

I contacted the management company and they provided me a copy of the document — dated April 26, 2011 — circulated to all owners.

The seller did not inform us nor our realtor and nothing was presented to my lawyer from the property management.

A. I do not know the timing of your purchase but I assume it occurred after April 26, 2011.

The problem here is that the status certificate that is reviewed by your lawyer and would reveal such a change may have been silent with respect to this new development.

The Board of Directors would have decided this; presumably after you had made your purchase decision.

Regardless, the decision was made for the cost of hydro to be passed directly on to the individual owners.

This is a very frequent change for older condos as many condominium corporations do not want to bear the costs of increasing utilities.

The reality is that you would have paid for the increase in utilities any way because the cost would be transferred to the operating budget of the condo and probably would result in an increase in your condo fees.

At the end of the day, you would end up paying more for your utilities — either way.

Lo and behold, the cost of home ownership.

Jeffrey Cowan is the principal of Cowan Law and can be reached at jeff@cowanlaw.ca.

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