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Community standards for changes to units and common elements would be worthwhile

by Denis Lash

Here is a typical condominium problem. A unit owner decides to affix a satellite dish on her balcony. Five days later the unit owner receives a registered letter from the property manager stating that the satellite dish has to be removed. The unit owner who just spent $800 on this state of the art satellite dish feels that there is nothing wrong with having a satellite dish and ignores the letter.

The property manager continues to send letters and calls the unit owner. The unit owner continues to ignore.

The board of directors decides to hand this matter over to the Corporation's lawyer.

The Corporation's lawyer sends a letter to the unit owner advising the unit owner advising the unit owner advising the unit owner that she is not in compliance with the Corporation's rules and must remove the satellite dish and pay for legal fees. The lawyer warns the unit owner that failure to remove the dish could result in the Corporation taking further legal proceedings through the court process.

Should the lawyer have been involved? Could these steps have been avoided? Unit owners should always review the condominium documentation to determine whether an object can be placed on the common elements. In addition to reviewing the documentation, unit owners should make inquiries with the property manager or the Board of Directors. Where there is no prohibition in the documents, it may be simply a matter of getting board approval and perhaps entering into some form of agreement with the Corporation. Sometimes there may be a requirement for owners approval at an owners meeting.

Section 99 of Bill 38 (the proposed new Condominium Act) contains a subsection which sets out the requirements for approval where an owner wishes to make a change to "exclusive use" common elements.

  1. The change must not be prohibited under the Condominium Act or the Declaration.
  2. The Board must approve by board resolution.
  3. The Owner and Corporation must enter into an Agreement.
  4. No owners meeting has to be held if the Board of Directors are satisfied that:
    • The change will not have an adverse effect on the units owned by other owners.
    • The change will not give rise to any expense to the Corporation.
    • The change will not detract from the appearance of buildings on the property.
    • The change will not affect the structural integrity of buildings on the property.

Changes, which are not on exclusive use common elements, are treated quite differently under Bill 38 and require different steps to be taken.

You can see how it would be worthwhile for Boards and property managers to establish community standards for changes to units and the common elements and communicate these standards to residents who will hopefully take note of what changes are permitted early on.

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