Three things new condo owners need to know about Common Elements

One of the greatest benefits of living in a condominium is the low maintenance lifestyle. No need to worry about such tasks as mowing the lawn, weeding the garden or power-washing the driveway. But this doesn’t mean you can ignore the common elements of your building altogether.

Know your common elements

Common elements are the shared spaces in and around your condominium building that are owned collectively by all owners in the building. Essentially, it’s all the areas outside of your unit and could include:

  • Laundry rooms
  • Hallways
  • Lobbies
  • Garages
  • Roofs
  • Gardens
  • Walkways and steps to building entrances
  • Utility systems (e.g., heating, cooling, electrical, security)
  • Fitness rooms and pools
  • Elevators

In addition to these regular common elements, there are “exclusive-use” common elements. These may include spaces such as patios, balconies or parking spaces. These areas are common elements to which only the owners whose units are adjacent to them have access.

If you are unsure where your unit’s boundaries end and common elements begin, refer to your Disclosure Statement or your registered Declaration and Description.

Each owner in your building is responsible for paying a percentage of the costs associated with maintaining and repairing the common elements.

Know your condominium fees

Each owner in your building is responsible for paying a percentage of the costs associated with maintaining and repairing the common elements. These monthly condominium fees are usually based on the square footage of your unit. They are also separate and in addition to your mortgage payments and property taxes and will need to be considered carefully to understand your total monthly housing costs.

Monthly condo fees cover the costs associated with regular maintenance of the common elements such as landscaping, garbage collection and recycling, exterior window cleaning, snow removal, common-area carpet cleaning and utility fees.

Condo fees also cover the costs of repairs and replacements of the common elements. A portion of your monthly condo fee will go toward your building’s reserve fund that will help pay for any unexpected costs. However, in extreme cases, additional monies will need to be collected from owners.

To understand what your condo fees cover and the amount you pay each month, be sure to review the Disclosure Statement.

Know your warranty coverage

Both the units and the common elements in a condo project may have warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Unit owners can make warranty claims to Tarion relating to their units, and the condominium corporation can make warranty claims relating to the common elements.

Interim occupancy starts when you move into your unit and ends when you become the registered owner – a timeframe that can last a few weeks or a few months. Warranty coverage on your unit begins when you take interim occupancy of the unit.

During your interim occupancy period before registration, the rest of the project may not be finished. This period is a time for your builder to complete construction of the common elements and the remaining units in your building. Warranty coverage for the common elements does not begin until the condominium project is registered, so warranty coverage will likely not have commenced during your interim occupancy period.

Even without an active warranty, your building should still be safe for you to live in. So, if you have a concern about the common elements that you think requires repair, report it to the property manager, who can contact the builder. Refer to the Common Element Construction Performance Guidelines to determine whether your concern is covered under the builder’s warranty. If your builder is unresponsive, form an ad-hoc committee with three to five members elected by unit owners who will bring your concerns to Tarion’s common elements warranty team.

Shared spaces such as common elements can be tricky to navigate for new condominium owners, especially if condo living is new to you. So if you have questions or need more information, contact Tarion.