Canada: Condos Q&A Jan. 18

Last Updated: January 24 2014
Article by Robert Noce

Q: I own a condominium in a seven-year-old building. After I purchased my unit, I got a notice to attend a meeting for all owners at the property manager's office. After that, I received a letter saying that I had to pay $45,000 by the following spring. Someone at the meeting said the previous condo board knew of the upcoming repairs, but did not show it in any of the condominium documents or minutes. Since all of this happened within a few months of purchasing my condo, is there any Alberta real estate law that can protect me?

A: You have not given enough details to allow me to provide a specific answer, but I will make some general comments to assist you. First, there is no provincial law that would address this type of issue. The old saying "buyer beware" applies. However, you may have a claim against the seller of your unit if you can show that the seller had some knowledge of the upcoming special assessment and misrepresented certain facts. There was one case out of Fort McMurray where the Court ordered the seller of a unit to pay the special assessment, but the facts to the case were unique. As the amount of your special assessment is significant, I would suggest that you hire a lawyer to provide you with a legal opinion.

Helpful hint: When buying a condo, take the time to do your due diligence, which includes reviewing all of the minutes, the reserve fund study, and any other documents you can get your hands on to determine the financial position of the condominium corporation.

Q: When a condominium corporation undertakes repairs, large or small, can the owners vote as to how the monies are supposed to be spent by the board?

A: Yes, but the condominium corporation must still, however, comply with the law regarding the repair and maintenance of condominium property.

Helpful hint: Owners should become actively involved and be engaged in all of the issues touching their condominium project. Owners should, at minimum, attend the AGM.

Q: At election time, do candidates and their authorized agents have the right of access to an apartment-style condominium to canvass residents door to door? As well, are condominium corporations subject to provincial laws regarding privacy?

A: Candidates and their authorized agents do have the right of access to any apartment-style condominium building to canvass residents, as per the Local Authorities Elections Act. And yes, the Personal Information Protection Act applies to condominium corporations.

Helpful hint: When in doubt with respect to someone having access to your building, ask your property manager or your lawyer. Regarding privacy, check out the websites of Access and Privacy, Service Alberta, and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for more information.

Q: When we purchased our townhouse, it had its own private backyard. Six of the 28 units had this feature, provided by the developer. When the rear perimeter fence was replaced, the board decided the fences providing privacy between the units should be removed. Some expected that the fences would be replaced or that they would receive compensation for this feature that they no longer enjoy. Does the board have the right to remove such a feature without compensation?

A: It is impossible to answer your question without reviewing your condominium plan. I would need to know whether the fence was on common property, whether you had exclusive use of the fence or whether you owned the fence.

Helpful hint: The board is entitled to make decisions with respect to condominium-owned property.

Q: When it becomes known that a unit in a condo complex may be infested with bed bugs, what can the board and other owners do to ensure the problem is addressed? Can the local health authorities exert some pressure with the condo board?

A: If the board knows of a unit with bed bugs, they should hire an expert to assess the bed-bug situation in the building. If you are able to deal with it promptly and quickly, the infestation of bed bugs can be minimized.

Helpful hint: Boards have a responsibility to deal with issues when they arise, thus reducing potential liability.

Q: Our board paid a lawyer $5,000 to draft new bylaws, but no resolution or motion authorizing this expense was ever made or approved. Does a condo board have the authority to do this?

A: I am assuming that, when you say no resolution or motion authorizing this expense was ever made or approved, you are indicating that the owners never approved this particular resolution. The board is entitled to hire experts and professionals to assist them on an issue that the board feels is important for the condominium corporation. If there is a proper board resolution to hire a lawyer to assist the board in drafting a new set of bylaws, then the board has the authority to do that. I make these statements on the assumption that there are no limitations placed on the board by way of owner resolution or bylaw provisions.

Helpful hint: Boards are required to operate the condominium corporation on a day-to-day basis. They are entitled to make spending decisions to assist them in improving the quality of life for residents.

Originally published in EDMONTON JOURNAL JANUARY 15, 2014

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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