Those working in the condo industry often complain that real estate agents and lawyers do not adequately advise their clients before they purchase units in condominiums. With the substantial changes recently made to the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”), and more to come in the following months, it is sure to be a complaint we continue to hear for the foreseeable future. Today, I thought that I would provide a few tips for real estate agents and lawyers acting for those looking to purchase a unit in a condominium.
- There are two new authorities governing condominiums in Ontario.
- Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO). The CAO is responsible for improving condo living by providing resources and services for owners, including a new condo tribunal (called the “CAT”) to hear some disputes between owners and condos. The CAO also has a condo buyer’s guide, which is available here: https://www.condoauthorityontario.ca/en-US/resources/condo-buyers-guide/
- Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO). The CMRAO is responsible for licensing and regulating condo managers.
- The CAO has a searchable database where the public can search for basic information on condos, such as the names of the directors, the manager, and the address for service. The database can be found here: https://www.condoauthorityontario.ca/en-US/public-registry/
- Owners must notify the condo as reasonably possible after becoming an owner, and no later than 30 days after. There are typically forms, such as a resident/owner form, that the condo will require the owner to provide upon purchasing the unit.
- Within 30 days of notifying the condo that they purchased a unit owners will receive a “New Owner Information Certificate” that contains basic information about the condo, such as any legal actions involving the condo.
- Owners must notify the condo of any lease of their unit within ten (10) days of entering into the lease or renewal of it. Owners used to have 30 days.
Apart from changes to the Act, I’d also like to remind those advising purchasers to make sure someone reads all of the condo’s documents. Every condo is unique. Some prohibit pets. Some have restrictions on the type, size, or number. Others allow most pets. Some condos prohibit smoking completely on the property, while others permit smoking. It is vital for purchasers to ensure their intended use of the units will not be a violation of the condo’s rules. Failing to review the documents before purchasing is not an excuse, and it could be a very costly error.
The most important tip that I have is to ALWAYS request a status certificate, even if you know the seller. There may be issues that the seller is not aware of, or the seller may be hiding something from the purchaser. The status certificate will provide basic information about the condo and the unit being purchased. The purchaser also has the right to request additional records, like minutes of meetings, if the purchaser wants more information about an item disclosed in the status certificate or simply wants to know more about the condo before purchasing it.
If you are thinking of purchasing a condo I encourage you to use real estate agents and lawyers who are familiar with condo issues.