While condo living is a type of home ownership structure, it differs from standard property ownership. Condo living means there's both personal property and common property – that is, shared space and services among all unit holders. When it comes to living in close quarters, and sharing space and services with others, some rules and regulations are required to help things run smoothly. These are called condo bylaws.
If you're new to the condominium lifestyle, there are some common questions to ask before buying a new condo, and part of this should involve finding out specific condo bylaws. Bylaws may vary slightly between different condo corporations; however, they all have a great deal in common. Here's a brief overview of common bylaws and what to expect.
Let’s start with the most obvious of bylaws: renovation guidelines. Condominiums are a mix of personal property and common property. So while every unit is the personal property of the homeowner, there are still limitations on the type of renovations and improvements that can be made. This is because the complex itself is owned and governed by a condominium corporation.
For example, in an apartment style condominium, a flooring upgrade may require extra soundproofing to respect unit holders below. In a townhome style condo, there may be restrictions on exterior paint and colours in order to ensure the community maintains a certain degree of uniformity. It's all in the interest of fellowship.
Similar to the rules around renovations and upgrades, condominium corporations also typically have regulations on aesthetics. These might include anything from the colour of window coverings to the installation of air conditioner units, to whether or not planters and barbecues are allowed on balconies. Aesthetic restrictions may be for the safety of unit holders, the uniformity of the condominium complex, or both.
When it comes to questions around aesthetics it’s best to consult with the condominium board or corporation before making changes. It’s commonly misunderstood, for example, that despite homeowners having full ownership over the individual unit, all exterior doors and windows are typically considered part of the condominium’s common property and thus under the care of the condominium corporation.
Another common set of condominium bylaws are rules and restrictions around pets. These are important things every pet owner should know about condo living. Some condominium complexes may not allow pets at all, others may restrict the number of pets you are allowed in a unit or the type of pets that are permitted. These bylaws are imposed to ensure multi-residential living is comfortable for all occupants, furry or otherwise.
Most condominium complexes have designated parking, whether it’s above ground, underground or garage parking. Condo bylaws may dictate the type of vehicle that can be parked in a parking space, what the parking space can be used for, and rules around visitor parking such as long-term and overnight rules or restrictions. The goal is ease of access for all residents.
Many condominium complexes have amenities built into the building or grounds for all unit holders to share. Amenities could be outdoor spaces such as decks and gazebos, or indoor spaces such as entertainment rooms or fitness centres. In a condominium ownership structure, amenities are owned equally by all unit holders and thus shared equally by everyone.
As such, there are typically bylaws put in place to help ensure that amenities are respected by all and available for all to use. Amenity guidelines might include things like hours of operation, maintenance standards, and visitor policies.
While they don’t always impact the day-to-day of condo living, condo governance structures are very important for homeowners to be aware of. Every condo corporation has a board of directors–a condo board–elected by the individual condo owners (not the property management company) to oversee the corporation’s responsibilities.
Responsibilities typically include seasonal maintenance, building upgrades and repair, oversight of the condominium’s reserve fund and any special condo assessments that may arise. Governance structures are typically enshrined in condo bylaws. It’s the unit holder’s responsibility to be informed of the condo bylaws, the policies in place and the governance of the condominium corporation.
Condo bylaws will also inform unit holders of how board members are elected and voting occurs. Why is this important for unit holders? It ensures accountability and transparency, and it means that unit holders are made aware of how to take action should there be concerns about decisions being made.
It’s Good For Everyone
Condo bylaws apply to all unit holders, renters, and visitors. If you’re not used to condo living, condo bylaws can come as a bit of a surprise at first, but they’re in everyone’s best interest at the end of the day.
Condo living is a uniquely convenient, low-maintenance living option, as homeowners gain year-round services and shared amenities. Condo bylaws are simply in place to facilitate multi-residential cooperation, and ensure that everyone benefits equally.