Welcome to “Guide to Condo Living” created specifically for condominium owners as well as prospective owners. Currently over 25,000 condo owners are members of CCI North Alberta either as an owner in a condominium corporation member or as an individual member on their own. With the assistance of our Condo Owner Initiative committee, we will be working to create and update information for owners to better understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to condominium living in Alberta. In our premier foray, we are going to focus on some of the key basic information owners should know and will delve into more specific topics in the future. If you have any topic suggestions please forward them to email@example.com at your earliest convenience.
Why is Education Necessary for Owners?
For the majority of people, your home is your largest financial investment so why wouldn’t you want to protect that investment to the best of your abilities? Yes it’s true the Condo Board (with assistance from the management company when applicable) is responsible for the day to day operation of the condominium but who elects the board in the first place? The more education you receive as an owner the better evaluation you can make as to how effective the decision makers are and whether or not your investment is being properly maintained and governed. Every knowledgeable owner should volunteer for the board at some point, to ensure the physical and financial health of the corporation, maximize the aspect of community living and minimize burnout of key volunteers.
What is a Condominium?
Condominiums are a form of ownership where each registered owner owns their unit and shares ownership of the common property of the condominium (anything that is not contained within the boundaries of each unit). Condominiums are typically apartment or townhome style construction but can also be commercial buildings, recreational areas, parking garages, etc. Each condominium corporation consists of 10,000 Unit Factors and the developer allocates the proportional share of Unit Factors (voting shares) to each titled unit on the condominium plan when registering the condominium plan at Land Titles. More on the condo plan in a moment.
How are Condominiums Governed?
Condominium legislation is provincially governed and is under the purview of Service Alberta. The Condominium Property Act and Condominium Property Regulations apply to all condominiums and are available at Queen’s Printers either in digital or paper copy. Each condominium also has their own set of bylaws unique to their property which provide additional information as to how they are governed. The bylaws also apply to tenants and guests of each owner.
Every corporation elects a board of directors at their Annual General Meeting and the board is enlisted to carry out the day to day operations of the corporation. The Act and Regulation supersede any bylaw that is in conflict. The condominium plan which is the initial document registered for a corporation lists not only the Unit Factor breakdown but also unit and common property boundaries.
What are my Rights as a Condominium Owner?
Owners have the right to the use and enjoyment of both their Unit and the Common Property within the limitations outlined in the bylaws. They also have the right to vote on resolutions and both elect and stand to run for the board of directors. Any owner has a right to request certain condo related documents outlined in the Act and Regulations (soon to be updated) as well as the right to request direction and/or clarity from the board on matters pertaining to their complex.
What are my Responsibilities as a Condominium Owner?
Along with rights comes responsibilities as an owner. Obvious ones are to abide by the bylaws and other governing documents and to ensure payments for their share of common expenses (condo fees) are paid when due. Owners have a responsibility to repair and maintain their own unit and allow access when the corporation requires and to not interfere with the enjoyment of other residents providing no bylaws are being breached. In addition, owners are required to keep their contact information current whether it is their address of service, change in title or required tenant information if they are renting their unit.
Key Documents each Owner should Review and Retain
Documents that we have addressed earlier (Condominium Property Act, Condominium Property Regulation, Condominium Plan and your Corporation bylaws) are a good place to start. Additional documents which can be requested to the corporation would include any Rules or Policies set by the Board (more details on these with the pending legislation change), and a copy of the corporation’s Certificate of Insurance which a copy should be sent to your own insurance broker to ensure your owner’s policy covers everything the corporation’s doesn’t (e.g. – personal belongings, unit improvements, deductible coverage, etc.). Key financial documents would include a copy of the current budget, the most recent annual financial statements of the corporation as well the annual reserve fund report and current reserve fund plan.
Supplementary Materials for Assistance
We have a number of public resources and links in the Document Library of our website- www.ccinorthalberta.com. Documents such as “Owning a Condominium” by Service Alberta, and website links to the “Condo Law for Albertans” site as well as the “Personal Information and Condominium Corporations” information sheet from Service Alberta, are just a few of the helpful tools you can learn from.
Upcoming Legislation Changes
Although the latest condominium legislation was put on hold this summer there will be a number of significant changes for condo owners in place likely in early 2020. To keep up to date, sign up for our email newsletter where we will pass on the details once they have been confirmed along with updates on upcoming educational events and industry news. Contact the CCI office if you need assistance signing up.
We asked a few of our condo owner members for their own personal perspective on the following question:
What have I learned from condo living?
With over 10 years of condo living in two provinces under my belt, I’ve learnt that the key to condo living is understanding my role, my rights and my responsibility as an owner. Participation also helped me gain valuable knowledge; join the Board of Directors, volunteer for the Annual General Meeting or simply provide
feedback. Also, be cognizant of condo rules that govern things like pet ownership, parking, smoking and noise to name a few. Rules help maintain a smooth operation and reduce operating costs. Do your homework to decide if condo living is right for you!
My wife and I moved into a high-rise condo about 4 years ago from a 2 ½ story house and double garage. Since then we have learned that our life is simpler and that we now have more time to travel, to spend time with friends and family and to enjoy our favorite pastimes. But we have also learned that condo living brings challenges, such as: dealing with storage, adjusting to parkade parking, and learning to live with owners’ consensus on common area maintenance and improvements.
Why did I choose condo living? It certainly wasn’t well thought out nor did I have any knowledge about condo living. It was simply what I could afford. My primary motivation was to stop throwing rent money away! Aer 15 years I joined the board. What I had never considered was the potential financial risk. Was the board planning properly for future major expenditures? The previous board hadn’t been raising condo fees. It was fixable with a few years of work fortunately. Special assessment? What was that? Had no idea that could happen. Condo living can be wonderful if it suits your lifestyle and financial situation, but you have to do your research. Unlike when I bought in 1992 there are more choices out there. There are also more resources like the Canadian Condominium Institute. And unlike in 1992 we now have Google! Understand clearly how you want to live and what’s important to you. And finally once you buy – participate. Read the communication that comes to you, ask questions. Do what is asked of you. Most importantly join the board. If you don’t you are leaving your financial and lifestyle fate to other people.
My wife and I have lived in Condominiums & Stratas (in BC) for over 20 years. The main thing and most important thing I learned was to get involved in your condominium governance. But not for the wrong reason, board meetings are not coffee or wine club meetings. They are business meetings. You are running a multi-million-dollar corporation.
It is not much different than owning your own private home. You have to (or at least should), put money away for future repairs – does this sound like a Reserve Fund? You must also like living in close proximity to your neighbors. I have found that this is sometimes the most difficult obstacle to overcome for some people. Before you buy a condominium, talk to some owners that live in the style of condominium that you are searching for. This may encourage you or discourage you to proceed with buying.