Wednesday, 16 March 2016

First of all – What is a Condominium?

This article has been provided by my fellow member of the Ontario Condo Group Laurie Gagnier, Sales Representative with Brussieres.Gagnier.Miller Real Estate Team of RE/MAX Metro-City Realty Ltd. Brokerage in Ottawa.
When people refer to a condominium, they are referring to a form of ownership as opposed to a place to make a home. They are often thought of as being high-rise residential buildings, but could be applied to townhouse complexes, individual houses and low-rise residential buildings. In British Columbia they are known as strata and in Quebec they are referred to syndicates of co-ownership as opposed to the condominiums in other regions of Ontario. It will be important for you to contact the member of the Ontario Condo Group that works in your area to learn about your local condominium styles.
Condos consist of two parts. The first part is a collection of private dwellings called “units”. Each unit is owned by and registered in the name of the purchaser of the unit.
The second part consists of the common elements of the building that may include lobbies, hallways, elevators, recreational facilities, walkways, gardens, etc.
Common elements may also include structural elements and mechanical and electrical services. The ownership of these common elements is shared amongst the individual unit owners, as is the cost for their operation, maintenance and ongoing replacement.
Each unit owner has an undivided interest in the common elements of the building. This ownership interest is often referred to as a “unit factor”. The unit factor for any particular unit will generally be calculated in proportion to the value that the unit has in relation to the total value of all of the units in the condominium corporation. The unit factor will tell you what your ownership percentage is in the common elements and will be used in calculating the monthly fees that you must pay towards their upkeep and renewal. It is very much like any business corporation. As a buyer, you are buying into the assets and the liabilities of the corporation.
The creation of a condo is regulated by provincial or territorial condominium legislation and municipal guidelines. It can be created in many different ways.
Once a condominium corporation has been established, a Board of Directors, elected by, and generally made up of, the individual condominium owners, takes responsibility for the management of the corporation’s business affairs. There is usually a turnover meeting where this transfer of responsibility takes place. Each unit owner has voting rights at meetings. Your voting rights will generally be in proportion to your unit factor.
Residential condominiums tend to be:
  • high-rise or low-rise (under four stories),
  • town or row houses,
  • stacked townhouses.
There could also be mixed- use condominiums, where part of the building is used for commercial use and the other part used for residential life. There are a variety of sizes and diverse features and condos Ottawa condos could be found in almost every price range.
“Regular” Condominiums
In most cases the homeowner owns the unit and shares in ownership of common elements. Condominiums are usually apartment buildings, but also include townhouse developments and developments of detached buildings on private roads (see Freehold condos below).
The homeowner is responsible for the interior area of the unit (everything from the plaster in). The condominium association is responsible for the up-keep of the exterior of the building, common interior elements (halls, elevators and parking garages, for example) and the grounds. All condominium owners pay a monthly fee to the condominium association to cover maintenance costs and common utility fees and taxes.
Condominiums often have strict rules regarding noise, use of common areas, and renovations to units. Condominium residents often enjoy less privacy than residents of detached homes. Condominiums are usually less expensive than freehold houses.
Freehold Condominiums
The biggest difference between a freehold condominium and a regular condominium is what is included as part of the unit. In a freehold condominium, the person owns the plot of land and the structure that is on the land, such as the condo. The owner would be responsible for the care and upkeep of the land and house, including the roof, exterior walls, garden, lawn, driveway and garage.
With a freehold condominium, the common property elements might include access roads to the units, recreational facilities, visitor parking area or a park with a playground. These items may be the responsibility of the condominium corporation. All unit owners pay a monthly condominium fee toward their upkeep.
With a regular townhouse or house condominium, the unit typically consists of the interior of the house itself, while the exterior of the house and the plot of land on which the unit sits are considered part of the common elements. This means that repair and maintenance of items like exterior walls, windows, lawns, gardens and driveways may be the responsibility of the condominium corporation. 
 In a freehold condominium, you usually have more freedom to make improvements, such as landscaping features, to the unit. However, there are usually provisions that give the condominium corporation some control over owners modifying the unit, such as determining when the roof will be repaired, and what colour the shingles must be. So if you want to change the colour of your door or build a deck in your backyard, you may have to ask for permission from the Board of Directors.
These are but a few of the pieces of information about Condominium. Be sure to contact any of us in this group to help you learn, navigate and understand all that can be involved.