As discussed in my blog,
Introduction to Condominiums, the term "condominium"
refers to a system of ownership where a unit is owned separately by
the individual who purchases it, while the common elements
(hallways, elevators, lobby, walkways, swimming pool, front and
back yards etc.) are owned in common by all the unit owners. When
you own a condominium, you have individual title to your unit. At
the same time, each unit owner has an interest in the common
elements in a fixed proportion.
In order to facilitate this form of communal ownership of
property, individual unit owners have to make "common
expenses" payments in order to maintain the common elements of
the condominium. Since each individual unit owner depends on
the others to make their payments in order to maintain the
property, the Condominium Act, 1998 provides assistance in
enforcing the payment of common expenses. If a unit owner
defaults in payment of his or her common expenses payments, the
condo corporation has a lien right against the defaulting
owner's unit. The lien covers the unpaid amount of common
expenses as well as the interest, reasonable legal costs, and legal
expenses incurred by the corporation in collecting the outstanding
Registration of Liens
While the corporation's lien arises immediately and
automatically upon default, there are several legal steps that must
be taken. First, a Certificate of Lien should be registered
within three months after the default first occurred. A lien
is only enforceable for non-payment going back three months prior
to registration. For instance, if default began on January 1,
but a lien was only registered on April 30, the condo corporation
would only have an enforceable lien for arrears owing after
February 1. However, once registered the lien is effective for any
continued non-payment that occurs after registration.
As well, notice of the lien should be provided to the unit owner
10 days before registration personally or by registered mail.
It should also be provided to any others who have a legal
interest in the unit, such as a bank holding a mortgage, on or
If these requirements are fulfilled, the lien becomes a powerful
tool for enforcing payment because it then takes priority over
every other interest in the land, including any mortgages, even if
they were registered against title before the lien was. As a
result, the Act also provides that all mortgages
agreements automatically include terms allowing the bank to pay off
the lien on behalf of the unit holder and then add the amount paid
off to the mortgage debt. That way the bank can protect its
mortgage. If the unit owner does not reimburse the bank for
the payment of the common expenses forthwith, the bank is entitled
to "accelerate" the mortgage and demand repayment of the
entire mortgage debt.
The end result is that properly registered condo liens are
strong incentives for a defaulting unit owner to pay up his or her
common expenses. If the expenses are not paid, one's
entire mortgage may become payable. In addition, if one does
miss a common expenses payment, one should attempt to get up to
date before the condo corporation registers its lien. The
amount of the lien includes the corporation's legal expenses in
enforcing the lien. Registration of a lien usually involves a
lawyer and the lawyer's legal fees can increase the amount of
the lien considerably. Acting quickly to remedy the default
will minimize the amount needed to be paid.
The Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that courts will generally support and uphold decisions of condominium directors because they are better positioned than judges to make decisions pertaining to their buildings.
According to the city bylaws in Calgary, the grading of lots for new buildings must be done properly so that the water never flows toward the new building or any other nearby properties, but away from those buildings.
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