Purchasing a Condominium

Most people understand that, with condominium ownership, you buy exclusive ownership of the unit and a percentage interest in common with other unit owners in the rest of the complex. You pay a monthly fee to a property manager who takes care of the maintenance and repair of the building and all of the common areas, such as sidewalks, parking lots, gardens, corridors and stairwells. You are responsible for the cost of repairing and maintaining your own unit, within the four walls, the ceiling and the floor. Every year, you and the other unit owners hold a general meeting to review what has happened during the past year, maybe arrange for renewal of the property management agreement, discuss any physical changes you want to make to the amenities, and so on.

When you sign an Agreement of Purchase and Sale to buy a condominium, sometimes you are buying more than one unit, i.e. the dwelling, a parking space and a locker. If so, these are separate parcels of ownership, and each require a separate title search. By the way, sometimes the numbering on lockers and parking spaces does not match the legal numbering system.

Part of what your lawyer checks out is the legal makeup of the condominium, as well as whether or not the seller is up-to-date in their condo fees, whether there are any liens against the unit for unpaid fees, whether or not the property manager has a record of needed repairs to the unit, condominium rules, and so on. All of this important information is contained in a collection of documents and statements collectively called a “status certificate”, which must be obtained from the property manager. If the status certificate contains anything objectionable, the agreement should be amended to require the seller to fix whatever problems may exist. Otherwise, they become your problem.

There are always restrictions on what you can do with and in your unit. These rules will vary from one condominium to another, but the common theme is that the condominium exterior cannot be changed, and you must not do anything which will have an adverse impact on those around you, since you are living in fairly close quarters with others. For example, some condominiums ban pets other than those which would probably not affect other people, such as tropical fish. Other condominiums will ban satellite dish antennas, hanging anything over a balcony railing, or even changing the exterior color of drapes.

If the building is new and the unit is being built for you, you have ten days to back out of the contract for any reason at all (this is not the case with the purchase of a resale condominium!).

If the condominium is a new build, frequently there is a two-part closing: Once the unit itself is ready for move in, you pay a part of the down payment, and then for the next several months, you pay a type of rent (called an “occupancy fee”) to the builder until the title is ready for transfer to you (the builder can’t transfer ownership until the condominium project is registered by the Ontario government, and that can be done only after all of the units are substantially complete). You pay the remainder of the purchase money on the final closing date, and that is when your mortgage is registered, along with your Transfer. The Land Transfer Tax is also paid at that time.

If you have managed to reach this point in this article, you will understand that what I have said is very general in nature, and that not every comment or point applies to every situation. Therefore, you should not rely on anything in this article without first consulting your own lawyer about how the particular issue or point applies to you.