Get legal advice on dealing with condo emergencies
Q: My condo complex consists of 12 units and has been successfully managed by the board for the past four years. The water shut-off valves for the buildings are inside two private units, and this cannot be changed. Recently, one unit owner (where one water shut-off valve is located) refused access to the plumber. This caused inconvenience to another resident and raises the question of the board’s legal right to enter a unit containing vital infrastructure in the event of an emergency.
A: The condominium corporation may have the right to enter a unit without the consent or notice of the owner if it has reasonable grounds to believe an emergency is occurring. The issue then turns on who determines whether a situation is in fact an emergency. The issue is not black and white.
Helpful hint: Given the seriousness of this issue, I would encourage you to retain a lawyer to give the corporation a definitive opinion on this, to protect not only the condominium corporation but also the individual board members, when in fact they do need to act in an emergency.
Q: I am a first-time condo buyer. During construction, I asked to have laminate installed in the two bedrooms of my unit, but the developer refused, citing noise concerns. The developer then said that I can do whatever I want after I take possession.
A: The developer’s response sounds odd to me, and I have to wonder whether the developer has noise concerns (which are valid) or cost concerns (a separate issue). While it is true that laminate flooring can cause a noise issue, this is a difficult question to answer without knowing more facts. For example, sometimes flooring finishes are specified in the condo’s bylaws.
Helpful hint: When putting together your purchase agreement for a new condominium unit, you can incorporate specific finishing selections.
Q: I am the newly elected president of our homeowners’ association, an adult community of semidetached bungalows. We have maintenance fees for snow removal and lawn maintenance, but we do not have condo fees. Are we governed by the Condominium Property Act, or is there separate legislation that governs homeowners’ associations?
A: You are not governed by the Condominium Property Act, as it does not apply to homeowners’ associations at all. Rather, you are governed by an agreement that should be registered on everyone’s title. The agreement should set out how fees are to be collected and list the responsibilities of the association.
Helpful hint: If you live in a condominium or a homeowners’ association, it is important to understand the rules and how you are
to govern yourself.
Q: I have been a member of my condominium board for eight years, and have amassed a wealth of electronic history of the corporation on my home computer. If I retire this fall, what are my responsibilities with respect to the information I have collected and stored on my home computer? Do I have a responsibility to return all data from my hard drive to the board of directors, which includes emails from the property manager and board members?
A: The information that you have collected over the past eight years belongs to the condominium corporation. Your personal notes and any other information that you have prepared for your personal use relating to the condo corporation belongs to you. However, if you were the collector of all of the information on behalf of the condo corporation, then you have a responsibility to return that information once you have left the board.
Helpful hint: Condo boards should consider implementing a policy in terms of how to deal with issues relating to information collected over time.