A guide to ‘condo-speak’

Like a growing number of Ontarians, you’ve decided a low-maintenance condo is the new home that best suits your lifestyle.

During the purchase process, you’ll need to know a number of terms that relate to your rights as an owner, your warranty and the roles and responsibilities of owners and condo boards.  When you’re buying your condo, you’ll want to carefully review all of the details with your condominium lawyer and knowing ‘condo-speak’ will help with those conversations as well.

We understand that buying a condo is exciting but can be a little overwhelming so we’re here to help.

The following are some important terms to know.

What you’re buying

Unit: When you purchase a residential condominium, you are buying a “unit” in a condominium project.  The unit number should be identified in your agreement of purchase and sale and the disclosure statement which accompanies it.  When you complete the sale transaction, you will be provided with a transfer/deed of land which confirms the legal description of the unit.  In order to determine details of boundaries of your unit, you will look to the Declaration and Description for the condominium project which is registered in the appropriate Land Registry Office prior to completion of your purchase.

Common elements: A condominium will also include ‘common elements’, which are shared facilities in the condominium project that every condo owner has access to (e.g., recreational facilities, lobby, elevators, parking garage).

Exclusive use common elements: Depending on what kind of condo you’re buying, you may also have access to ‘exclusive common elements’. These may be things like balconies that are only for your use but are actually owned by the condominium corporation and covered by the common elements warranty (see below).

Your warranty coverage

Unit Warranty: Your Unit Warranty covers items within your unit, from walls and floors to cupboards and countertops. As mentioned earlier, you’ll find the details in your Declaration and Description which outline your unit boundaries and the common elements. Your unit warranty begins when you take occupancy. As the owner of the unit, you are responsible for filing any warranty claims for your unit. More information about the unit warranty process can be found in Builder Bulletin 42.

Common Elements Warranty: The Common Elements Warranty covers the common elements in the condominium project. Coverage will also include exclusive use common elements. This warranty begins when the condominium project is registered with the municipality. The condominium corporation is then in charge of managing the common elements warranty and submitting any claims. Builder Bulletin 49 outlines the common elements warranty process.

If there is an issue outside your unit, you should report it to your condominium manager or the board of directors of the condominium corporation, as they are responsible for making a warranty claim for common elements.

Both unit warranties and common elements warranties can be managed online using MyHome.

How your condo is managed

Condominium Corporation Board of Directors: The board is generally made up of unit owners who are elected by the unit owners to manage the corporation’s business affairs, including policies, finances, maintenance and repairs.

Condominium Manager: The condominium manager (formerly called  property manager) reports to the condo board and manages the day-to-day operations of the condo project. This person may also oversee the timely resolution of any warranty claims for common elements.

Reserve Fund: The reserve fund is a special account, separate from the condo corporation’s operating budget, used to pay for common element repairs and replacement.

These are just some of the important terms to understand if you’re in the market for a condo. Knowing what these terms mean will ultimately help you when discussing purchase agreements with the vendor and your real estate lawyer. Another good resource is the Homeowner Information Package for Condominiums, which will help familiarize you with your warranty coverage and who is responsible for what. Remember, if you don’t know a term, don’t be afraid to ask! And you can always contact us for help or visit Tarion.com.