Toronto Condo Finances
Saturday Jan 23rd, 2021
A reserve fund is a fund that condo corporations use for major repair or replacement of common elements and assets as needed. The Condo Act requires that all condo corporations have a reserve fund. Adequate reserve funds and proper use of those funds are critical to maintaining the structural integrity of the condo corporation’s property. Reserve funds may only be used for major repairs and replacements of the common elements and assets of the condo corporation. Condo corporations must collect contributions to the reserve fund from owners as part of their common expense fees. Condo corporations must complete reserve fund studies. Reserve fund studies are completed by certain specialists (e.g., engineers) and determine how much money needs to be in the fund to be able to pay for anticipated major repairs/replacements that will be needed in the future. Generally, after the first reserve fund study, reserve fund studies are completed/updated every three years.
Common expenses, which are typically described in the Condo Guide as “common expense fees” (also commonly known as condo fees or maintenance fees) are collected by the condo corporation under the Condo Act. In addition to including a contribution to the reserve fund as described above, common expense fees may be used to fund:
•The cost of maintenance to the common elements (e.g., standard elevator repairs, cleaning).
• The cost of your condo manager or management service provider.
• The condo corporation’s insurance policies.
• Services, such as garbage or snow removal, landscaping, security etc.
As an owner, you are required under section 84 (1) the Condo Act to pay your share of common expense fees attributed to your unit. As per section 84 (3) of the Condo Act, you are obligated to pay your common expense fees even if:
• You have waived or abandoned your right to use the common element(s);
• You have made a claim against the condo corporation; or
• The condo corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules restrict you from using the common element(s).
How are Common Expense Fees Calculated?
Condo boards make a budget every year which outlines various expenses for the fiscal year that are to be paid by the owners. The condo corporation’s declaration will state the portion of the common expenses each owner is required to contribute, expressed as a percentage. The percentage may, but need not, relate to the size of your unit. The amount of common expenses you are required to contribute may fluctuate (e.g., increase) for various reasons (e.g., as the needs of the condo corporation change).
Section 56 (1) of the Condo Act also permits condo corporations to pass by-laws governing the assessment and collection of common expense fees.
If you as an owner default on your obligation to pay common expense fees, your condo corporation automatically has a lien on your unit. The lien will cover the unpaid amount owing as well as all interest, and all reasonable legal costs and expenses incurred by the condo corporation in its attempt to collect.
The condo corporation has three months from when the default occurred to register a certificate of lien, otherwise the lien will expire after three months of the default. At least ten days’ notice is required to be provided to owners before the certificate of lien can be registered on title. Condo liens have priority over every other liability, including mortgages, subject to some exceptions, and may be enforced in the same manner as a mortgage.
As described above, your condo corporation will create a budget for every fiscal year. Should there be a budget shortfall (i.e., where expenses exceed revenues), your condo corporation may levy a special assessment to cover expenses. A special assessment is an extra one-time charge added to your common expense fees.
Your board may need to levy a special assessment for unforeseen major expenses such as repairs related to flooding, costs related to legal proceedings, etc. Your condo corporation’s by-laws may include provisions about special assessments.
Under section 84 of the Condo Act, you are required to pay your unit’s share of the common expense fees, which may include special assessment fees. Your portion is calculated using the same percentage used to calculate your regular common expense fees.
Under the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to obtain and maintain both property insurance and liability insurance.
• Liability Insurance: Under section 102 the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to obtain and maintain insurance against the liability resulting from a breach of duty as the occupier of the condo corporation’s common elements or certain land as well as insurance against liability arising from the ownership and use of boilers, machinery, pressure vessels and motor vehicles.
• Property Insurance: Section 99 (1) of the Condo Act requires condo corporations to obtain and maintain insurance for damage to the units and common elements that is caused by certain major perils, including fire, smoke, lightning, windstorm, hail, or any other peril specified in the condo corporation’s declaration or by-laws.
A condo corporation’s obligation to insure the units does not cover “improvements” made to units. Section 99 of the Condo Act states a condo corporation’s obligation to insure against damage to units from major or other perils only includes what is called a “standard unit”.
What constitutes a standard unit in your condo corporation is important as it not only outlines responsibility for property insurance coverage but also partly determines what the condo corporation or the condo owner is responsible for when dealing with repairs after damage.