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Newness Wears off Ontario's Condominium Act

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 27 June 2000 00:00

Although Ontario's revised Condominium Act came into force last spring (after years of debate and refinement), consumers and professionals alike are still discovering the full significance of the numerous changes.

The Act introduced new ownership concepts by establishing leasehold condominium corporations and 4 types of freehold condominiums – common elements, phased, vacant land and freehold ownership condominium corporations. Reserve funds, which pay for major renovations, modernizations and emergencies, must now be backed up with formal studies, maintained at newly-prescribed levels and invested according to an approved plan. Most condominium boards will have an owner-occupied director to represent that segment of the residents, a particularly important improvement in buildings with high tenancy rates.

The new Act, almost three times the length of its predecessor, also places new responsibilities of care, diligence and skill and therefore liability on condominium directors and officers, unit owners who are selected to oversee management of the complex. Unit owners may have more say in changes to the common elements, assets and services, but they can become responsible for insurance deductibles.

Condominiums, introduced with the first version of the Act in 1968, have grown to represent approximately one third of the home real estate market, according to the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI) .

This independent, non-profit organization, formed in 1982, serves as a clearing house and research centre on Canadian condominium issues and activities. CCI does not represent any one profession or interest group. Its members -- condominium corporations, unit owners, boards of directors, managers, governmental authorities, lenders and professionals from related fields – are encouraged to work together to "create a successful and viable condominium community."

The Institute serves its members, not the general public, but does offer seminars and publications on condominiums which may be useful to those considering this type of housing. Its condensed edition of the Act, "A Shortened Version of the Condominum Act, 1998 for Directors," is a handy reference guide for Boards and a less intimidating legal read than the full Act. Check the date of publications before you order as some pre-date the new Act. If you want some explanation with your legalese, a collection of conference presentations entitled "New Condominum Act Passed!", includes expert interpretations of sections of the Act but does assume a basic understanding of condominiums.

"Just lock the door and go" is the phrase most commonly linked to condominiums, but it may give some buyers a false impression about the care-free nature of condominium ownership. While this popular housing style does lighten the home maintenance load, the financial side of ownership still requires attention. Condominium owners are encouraged to become active in management of their complex to protect their investment and preserve the standard of living that first attracted them to the building.

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