You have found your ideal condominium. It may be a conversion of sorts, a shiny high-rise in a tony neighbourhood or one of the row house varieties. It fits you like a glove and you cannot wait to move in.
This was me exactly one year ago. Once my partner and I retained possession, a few days before we moved in, a full-scale celebratory dance around our very empty new home ensued. It was during chorus-line kicks across our living room that I noticed a thick, spiral-bound book on sitting on the kitchen counter. Flipping through it, I briefly read the first few disclosure statements and admittedly lost interest with every page turn. We were moving into our first home! It was time to break out the bubbly, not to read the fine print.
As you may or may not have guessed, this book was full information that condo owners should be aware of - not toss aside as I did. Common element fees (where your maintenance fees go), a breakdown of the board of directors duties and board-appointed officers are all contained in the book, as well as copious amounts of other legalities and rules that pertain to condo living.
Within the book that I had retrieved from the depths of a kitchen cupboard, I found the rules for my particular building sandwiched between Standard Condominium Corporation By-Law No. 1 (and its thirteen articles) and the Insurance and Trust Agreement. I was curious about the rules that I should be abiding by and if I indeed had been abiding by them for the past year.
I soon learned that being a pet owner of two cats was breaking the 'one pet' rule; my dog-owning neighbours who neglect to stoop-n-scoop after their four-legged friends are rule breakers as well. Real Christmas trees are deemed flammable and are prohibited. Evidence of pine needles in the hallway last winter proves that this rule was previously unheard of, overlooked or plainly ignored; however, the CBC reports that fake trees can be just as detrimental as their live counterparts. Does that make this a no-tree building? In our day of energy efficiency and preservation does the prohibition of clothes lines on terraces mesh with the current environmental trend? What are the repercussions for these rules that are broken on a daily basis? I am starting to wonder if, perhaps, they were made to be broken.
I appealed to Rachel to shed some light on my plight. Is my second cat a one-way ticket for eviction? Are my winter barbequing neighbours on the same train? (Terrace use is frowned upon from November to April.) According to Rachel, "You will not be evicted, but there has to be a way for the condo board to enforce the rules. This means that if you fail to comply with a by-law of the corporation, they can bring an application to make you comply. They can also seek the cost of bringing the application against you. If you still fail to comply they can technically take the case to arbitration."
It is important for any condo owner to seek out and understand these rules before any action might be taken against you for breaking them. Ignorance, in this case, is anything but bliss. Learning the rules and regulations that apply to your specific condominium and, as per Rachel's advice, joining the condo board, will help you be more active and have more control over what is decided respecting your home.
I have come to terms with my rule-breaking - after all, 100% compliance can't be achieved overnight. I have resolved not to smuggle my cats out one-by-one to their vet appointment until I see someone chasing my dog-loving neighbours with a biodegradable baggie.
Jesse Fleming is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Email Jesse