Rights and Obligations of Condo Owners in Alberta
January 4, 2023
Thinking about buying a condo? They require less maintenance than a house, but condos also come with certain restrictions and limitations. Before purchasing your first condo, it’s essential to understand both your rights and obligations as an owner.
Most condominium developments include both shared spaces and individual units. When you purchase a condo, you are given total control over your unit. The condo corporation manages every other aspect, including maintenance of the buildings, grounds, parking areas, pools and other structures.
Condo corporations are usually made up of condo owners like yourself. These appointed administrators are responsible for managing the budget, holding regular meetings, supervising maintenance and suppliers, and enforcing building rules.
Every condo owner is a voting member of the condo syndicate and has a say in approving future expenses and adopting of new rules.
Each condo community is unique, which is why it’s essential to read the bylaws carefully before signing. These rules govern everything from what kind of blinds you can have to whether spas and barbecues are allowed.
Some details to consider when reviewing condo rules and bylaws include:
- The size of a contingency or reserve fund: A larger fund is necessary in case of emergencies, which may put some buyers off due to large monthly fees but can be a godsend when major repairs are required.
- Board member elections: Voting can be done by a show of hands or through a recorded measure, which can include electronic votes if bylaws permit. If you are physically impaired, travel often, or do not expect to be able to attend meetings, ensure your board allows electronic votes as every condo owner has the right to vote.
- Volunteer requirements: If volunteering is required, you may need to set aside time monthly or seasonally to help maintain grounds or take part in other activities. If you do not have the time to volunteer and do not attend, you may be in breach of condo rules.
- Restrictions regulating common areas and shared spaces: Some condos do not allow yard ornaments, sidewalk chalk, outdoor spas, and may even prevent you from painting your door.
- Landscaping rules: Do you have to hire a particular landscaping company approved by the board? Can you garden in your backyard or do the shrubs and trees belong to the condo?
- Whether short term-rentals are allowed: Can you rent your condo to travellers through a site like AirBnB? Is it possible to let your relatives stay in your condo while you are traveling? Some condos strictly prohibit renting and even guests.
In addition to unique corporation rules, provincial laws determine the rights that you have as a condo owner. Understanding what some of those laws are is integral to enjoying your experience.
In Alberta, condominiums are regulated under the Condominium Property Act. The Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) has provided its recommendations regarding the new regulations that came into effect as of January 1, 2020.
Alberta’s Condominium Property Act determines how condos should be operated and governed. The Condominium Property Regulation includes laws concerning how condos should be governed by development companies and condo managers.
Some of the new changes made under the Condominium Property Amendment Act are:
- Notice of an annual general meeting (AGM) must be provided to condo owners at least 60 days beforehand. If owners wish to add items to the agenda, they must submit the request by 30 days before the meeting.
- Unit owners will receive a copy of the AGM meeting’s minutes, including the result of votes, within 30 days of the meeting.
- Condo boards are entitled to raise condo fees based on the results of reserve fund studies.
- If damage originates from within your condo unit, you will be responsible for the deductible up to $50,000. Take, for example, an instance where an individual’s toilet explodes in their unit. If damage extends to the structure of the building, and the claim’s deductible is $30,000, you will be responsible for that amount.
- If stated in the condo’s by-laws, a condo corporation can require individual unit owners to purchase their own insurance.
Your rights as a condo owner in Alberta
As a condominium owner in Alberta, you are usually entitled to the following:
- Involvement: You have the right to join any existing condo corporation and campaign to hold an elected resident position such as the president of the corporation or another status. You also have the right to volunteer for various positions (such as snow removal chairperson or landscaping director).
- Voting rights: You have the right to vote on any change to condo bylaws or rules. Everyone that lives within a condo community has the right to vote on changes impacting living spaces.
- Respectful living: You have the right to a quiet and respectful living space. If a member of your community is infringing on this right — with loud music, parties, or other disturbances — you can bring the matter up with the condo corporation.
- Fair warning: Others (including workers and community members) do not have the right to enter your unit without your permission.
- Selling and renting: You can sell or rent your condo without gaining permission from other owners. Some condo corporations do have bylaws preventing the installation of “for sale” signs on windows and green spaces. You do have the right to advertise the sale of your home elsewhere and to sell your home as you wish. You also have the right (unless otherwise noted and agreed upon) to rent to visitors or long-term renters.
- Issues and problems: It is your right to address the condo corporation with any concerns regarding your quality of living or shared living space. Most corporations hold weekly or monthly meetings to hear the complaints of residents.
- Accessibility: It is your right to request disability access to any common area entrances and exits. If you cannot access a shared space, you have the right to request a ramp, handles, or other building amendments. However, any disability adjustments required inside of your home are your responsibility unless otherwise noted in your condominium agreement.
- Transparency: You can request access to any documents concerning the condo corporation, including all transaction records, receipts, and other paperwork. Note that there may be a fee for the paperwork, but this is now capped at $10/document, assuming the document isn’t a rush or estoppel.
Your responsibilities as a condo owner
As a condo owner, you will also be expect to follow all the adopted bylaws. The most common ones are listed below, though all communities are unique.
- Remember what you agreed to: Abide by the condominium rules and bylaws. Most condo corporations have fines for breaking the rules, and some may be legally allowed to vote you out of the community if you repeatedly break the rules.
- Membership dues: If there are monthly fees associated with your new condo purchase, you must pay those fees on time. Missed membership dues may result in legal action against you.
- Be a good citizen: While it’s not a legal matter (in most cases), you are expected to maintain your condo and keep it in decent condition. It’s also an unwritten rule that you keep shared spaces clean and avoid any intentional damage.
- Insurance details: Master condo insurance is included in your monthly corporation fees, but that does not necessarily mean that accidents inside of your home are covered. Many master insurance policies cover accidents that occur outside of the home and are “blanket policies” protecting common areas and spaces. If you do not have coverage inside of your home, you will need to purchase additional individual insurance. Check to see if the master policy covers guests in common areas, renovation costs, accidents in shared areas, and incidents inside of your home – if not, purchasing individual insurance will ensure that you are covered in case of an accident no matter where an accident happens.
Just as you have rights as the owner of a unit, you also have responsibilities as part of the broader condominium community. When one member does not respect the condo agreement, it can cause stress for others. Make sure to keep both your rights and responsibilities in mind while living as part of a community.
In Alberta, 16.8% of the population enjoy living in condominiums. If you’ve taken a close look at your condo corporation rules and understand your provincial rights, you’ll love being part of a condo community — just make sure that you have enough insurance in case something happens.
Your insurance broker can provide you with more details about individual insurance, help you determine what is covered with your monthly corporation fees, and help you gain all the coverage you need.