What Do you Actually Own as Part of Being a Condo Owner?
Thursday Feb 14th, 2019
If you are thinking of buying a condominium unit or have already purchased a Toronto condo for sale, you must be aware of the fact that there won’t be a parcel of land for the taking when you sign off the agreement, as compared to when you buy a single-family home. But have you ever wondered what you actually own?
In essence, condo buyers actually own their own unit, in addition to an interest in the common areas of the project, alongside other owners in the compound. The Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions and Easements (CC&R’s) as well as the condominium map governing the condominium project, determine these details. If you are still in the throes of purchase, you can ask for a copy of the relevant governing documents from either the title company handling the purchase transaction, a real estate attorney, your real estate agent, or the real estate records in your country. Here are a few things to look out for:
THE CONDOMINIUM MAP OR PLAN
For any project, the condominium Map depicts the actual physical location of the unit – where the boundaries of the unit are drawn and where the unit is located in the condominium building. This delineates the boundaries between your property and common property. However, looking at the map alone doesn’t suffice. Map doesn’t tell you anything about what parts of the windows and doors or which interior fixtures are included as part of the unit.
When it comes to your project, the CC&R’s will clarify if the following things are part of the common elements or the unit.
• Patios, balconies, and desks: These might be part of the limited common elements, common elements, or your unit.
• Air conditioning, electric, plumbing systems: Portions serving multiple units are construed as common elements, while those serving only your unit are only part of your unit.
• Permanent fixtures: Sinks, flooring, cabinets, and the like are generally considered part of the unit. However, a fixture such as an outdoor porch light might under a communal element.
• Doors and windows: The hardware, glass, and frame might not come under your unit.
• Ceilings or floor: As with walls, your unit might include the entire ceiling or just the surface.
• Exterior walls and Roof: The unit may include the drywall or interior surface, while exterior walls or roofs are defined as common elements.
Difference Between Exclusive, Limited, and General Common Elements
Within a condominium complex, anything not part of your unit is deemed a common element. However, even different common elements have different rules attached. You will need to dig deep to know if you have a right to use them and to what extent. Peruse through the CC&R’s and the condominium map to know which elements are listed as exclusive common elements, limited common elements, or general common elements.
General common elements are used by all the owners in the condominium project, such as amenities, hallways, lobbies, or stairways, in addition to the land the condo complex sits on. Limited common elements can be used by fewer owners, for instance a common patio may only be permitted to be used by the owners of a certain floor of a building.
Different exclusive common elements can be used by different owners and each is only permitted to the owner of one unit. You can think of them as limited common elements with “exclusive use rights.” For instance, a particular parking space may be reserved for one unit, or a balcony may only be used by a particular unit.
It is important that you know what you own
Most condo buyers are only looking for a comfortable place to live, so they don’t bother with the nitty gritty details of what their unit actually includes. In addition of being aware of what your money bought you, there are plenty of reasons why it is utterly indispensable to know what is included as part of your unit, and what is off limits.
Firstly, costs for repairs and other maintenance responsibilities with respect to the property depend on what you actually own. When you live in a condo, you are only responsible for the maintenance of things that fall within your unit. Anything not part of your unit or not owned by you as per the CC&R’s, cannot be upgraded or changed by you without being granted special rights. For instance, if you are embarking on a remodeling project that entails moving an interior wall, you can kiss your plans goodbye if the wall turns out to be a common element. The wall cannot be altered without the approval of the association unless it is owned by you.
Being aware of what you are responsible for and what you own can come in real handy if you know who to turn to when things go south. Let’s say a flood wreaks havoc on your walls, or a storm knocks off your deck railings, it would be important to know if the problem is covered under the condo association’s insurance or your own homeowner’s insurance.