Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any limits to what I can do as a unit owner?
Almost every condominium corporation will have something in its Declaration or By-laws which limits the way in which the unit owners use their units and the common property. There might be, for example, restrictions on the ownership of pets, the hours of operation of common amenities, the way in which balconies or patios can be used, how renovations are performed and many other matters.
While some might view these restrictions as an invasion of privacy, most acknowledge that community living needs some guidelines.
What is a reserve fund?
Every Condominium Corporation is required to have one or more reserve funds to which the unit owners are required to contribute. The purpose of these is to provide a source of funds for major or unanticipated expenses. The amount to be contributed to this fund is determined by the conclusions of the reserve fund study which is required by the Condominium Act of Nova Scotia or by the unit owners at the Annual Meeting of the Corporation. The study must be completed by a professional engineer. Contributions into the Reserve Fund are generally part of the regular common expense or condo fee contributions. A special assessment is in addition to the common expense contribution.
The Reserve Fund, however large, is an asset of the Condominium Corporation; no one owner has any individual rights to it.
How are realty taxes paid?
When a property is registered as a condominium, each unit is assessed for realty taxation purposes. The assessment by the responsible government department will normally include an appropriate amount for that unit's share of the common property.
As a result, no separate tax assessment is made regarding the common property.
Can I get a mortgage on a condominium?
Generally, mortgage financing should be as readily available for the purchase of a condominium unit as for any other property. Some condominium projects are not eligible for 'high ratio' financing, where the down payment available to the buyer of a condominium unit is less than 25% of the purchase price. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation decides which projects are, and are not, eligible.
What can I expect from the vendor?
If you are buying a unit from an individual owner, you can expect no more than you could if you were buying a non-condominium residence or other piece of real estate. In other words, the rule is 'Buyer Beware'!The responsibility for inspecting the unit and making sure that it is a good bargain is yours. It is important to receive and review a copy of the declaration, by-laws, the reserve fund summary (if required by the applicable provincial legislation), the common element rules and a copy of the latest audited financial statement of the corporation before an offer to purchase becomes final.
If you are buying from a property developer, the best rule is still 'Buyer Beware'. Some purchase agreements might contain promises about the property or what the developer plans to do with it. If you are relying on promises to do specific work to the property or promises about what will happen when the project is turned over to the purchasers, get the promises in writing.
Legislation in some provinces requires a vendor who is the declarant (developer) to provide specific information to a prospective purchaser. In Nova Scotia, for example, the Regulations of the Condominium Act set out a comprehensive list of items of information that must be provided to the purchaser and provides a period of five days after receipt of the documents for review of this information and resolution of any issues.
What is the role of the property manager?
Most condominium Declarations and By-laws provide that the Board of Directors may, if they choose, hire someone to manage the property. Many condominium projects are, in fact, managed by professional property management firms.
The job of the Property Manager is usually to look after the common elements, to pay the common expenses and to collect the contributions for the common expenses from the unit owners.
The condominium property manager does not usually become involved with maintenance or repair duties which are set out in the Declaration to be the unit owners' responsibility in connection with individual units.
What advantages are offered by condominium ownership?
In many cases, the ownership of a condominium unit offers financial advantages over renting the equivalent unit. Depending on the financial situation of the owner (eg. the amount of down payment available), the cost of owning a condominium unit often is less on a monthly basis than rent.
Even where the monthly cost of paying a mortgage, realty taxes, utilities and a share of the condominium's common expenses is more than rent, the ownership of a condominium provides the opportunity to invest the owner's money in an asset (the unit) which will, it is hoped, increase in value.