Buying or selling a condominium is one of the most complex real estate transactions one will ever make. Especially with the newer Condominium Act and its newer rules, navigating the whole system is tricky, involved, and has a LOT of legal ramifications.
So let’s simplify it a bit with a quick overview.
In Manitoba, there are as many as eighteen different required documents that must be given to the buyer under provincial legislation. It can be more or less depending on the circumstance of condo being sold.
Anyone contemplating buying a condominium needs to seriously devote time to reviewing the stack of documents. You may need to engage up to two other professionals (besides the real estate agent) to help you through this piece of due diligence. In particular, you’ll want to acquire a knowledgeable lawyer and perhaps an accountant. (By knowledgeable lawyer, I mean those who are experienced with condominiums.)
Who Cares? Why Do These Matter?
There are a lot of reasons why these documents matter, and some serious ways they can impact your life, but here are a few key ones:
* You are legally obligated to possess these documents.
- As the seller, you must pass them ALL (and they must be current) to the buyer.
- As the buyer, you must receive them ALL.
* You will sign an affidavit saying you have as the seller given them, and as a buyer, received all the documents. This is a legislatively required part of the condominium buying and selling process now. If you don’t have (or have not given) the required documents, you cannot sign the affidavit and any attempt to can cause a legal nightmare.
* Let’s not forget that what’s embedded in these documents actually affects your quality of life.
Here you’ll discover the financial details, and even the rules that will govern your day-to-day living (like whether or not you’re allowed to have pets, install hardwood or laminate flooring or BBQ on your patio/balcony.
Fair warning; the condominium documents are a big pack of papers. This package can be several inches thick, makes a terrible, dread-inducing thwacking sound when it’s slapped on the table, and it’s dull, dull, dull to go through.
BUT, it’s mandatory and had boat loads of legal repercussions, so grab an espresso, and let’s slog through them.
Key Condominium Documents
It used to be that only one disclosure was required. Now there are two, and they are VERY different from each other, and each critical.
Disclosure #1: This is the disclosure statement provided by the owner of the individual condominium suite. The seller’s disclosure can be 3 to 6 (sometimes more) pages of key information.
Disclosure #2: This is the disclosure statement provided by the condominium corporation. This will provide various details about what your monthly condo fee includes, what other costs there may be, and also the status of the corporation (how much money is sitting in reserve for future capital expenses like roof repair, etc.) It will also highlight certain rules and bylaws. Basically, it’s an overview of additional key elements.
The condominium corporation will provide you with a budget which shows the various expenditures of corporation on behalf of unit owners. This includes things like utilities, property management, and other fees, basically whatever money is paid out from a portion of their monthly fee.
The financial statement, (which may or may not be audited), will also be provided to demonstrate the finer details of the corporation you’re considering becoming involved with. If they’re audited, it simply means some due diligence will have been done by the accounting firm to verify the numbers. If they’re not audited, it doesn’t necessarily imply there’s funny business. It could, but doesn’t necessarily. Audits carry an additional cost to the corporation, and they may not have gone that extra step to have the accounting firm confirm the numbers provided were accurate.
BYLAWS AND RULES
Bylaws and rules will dictate what you can and cannot do in and on the property, so you’ll want to take a close look at these. Can you do your own oil change in your own parking stall? Can you store your boat in an outdoor parking stall? Can you put a planter’s box on patio? Or have a small utility shed on site? Satellite dish? Pets? What kind? Are there restrictions like smoking? (Often if pets are allowed, the number, weight, size, and type of pet are restricted.) This is what you’ll find out in these documents, of which there can be any number of pages and amendments.
If there is a property manager, this agreement will be included. If the property is self-managed, meaning it is managed by the residents themselves, this is something the buyer will need to know.
RESERVE FUND STUDY
Requirements vary depending on the number of units in a building or project, but as of Feb 1 2018, it is mandatory to have the study included. The Reserve Fund Study basically reveals the current status and future health of the condominium corporation’s finances by revealing what’s being held in and future contributions to the reserves.
The Fund Study can look at a 30-year plan, and figure into the financial plan such long term big expenses of the "common elements" including roof repairs/replacement, heating system maintenance or replacement, or parking structure repair. The study shows whether or not these costs are figured in allowing for inflation and future expenses and can indicate the likelihood of the corporation requesting additional funds from condominium owners when the time comes to pay for these things.
In my experience, when a buyer sees $900,000 sitting in reserve, or even $86,000 or $42,000 their eyes light up a bit and I can tell they’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot!” But they don’t realize there are 20, 50, or 200 units that all rely on that figure to cover BIG expenses. The roof of a condomium costs exponentially more to repair or replace than a residential house. A tar and gravel roof for example can eat up $500,000 alone.
Are the funds enough? What will it cover in future years based on current injection of monies? What might it need to cover? These issues are addressed in the study, which allows buyer to make an educated decision.
The declaration is what actually creates the condo corporation. It is registered and filed at the Property Registry (previously known as the land titles office). This Declaration will show some important information like the percentage of the corporation the condo unit buyer will buy into.
Sometimes bigger units may own a larger share of the corporation than smaller units. In some condo corporations, they keep ownership equal, perhaps holding to the belief that, since everyone shares the hallway and stairs and other common areas equally, the share ownership should also be equal. Either way, the declaration will tell you what ownership you’ll be obtaining.
EXCERPT OF PLAN
This part of the documents could arrive in print, on a jump drive, or be delivered as a 3’ cardboard tube which can double as a weapon when walking in downtown Winnipeg at night. The Excerpt of Plan is simply the actual drawings showing the actual location of the unit being sold.
The weird reason for this is that the legal address of the unit you’re buying or selling often doesn’t match the municipal address.
Unit 103 in your Offer to Purchase may actually refer to the legal address of unit 602.
Confusing, right? So how can you be completely, 100% sure that the unit you’re buying or selling is the unit you MEAN to buy or sell? By confirming it on the plans.
These condominium documents are absolutely critical to your buying or selling decision, and have massive legal implications not just on your transaction, but as a buyer, on your lifestyle, your current and future financial obligations.
By legislation you have 7 days (after receipt of ALL required documents to review them (it used to be only 48 hours!) That gives you time to thoroughly review them, to talk to a lawyer and/or accountant about the rules and bylaws and the numbers in the financials, and to go over it all with your real estate agent who can verify that all the documentation is there. There are a couple of additional documents, not required to be given but can offer critical information. If you'd like to discuss this with me, please give me call at 204-946-5333.
Have more questions? These may help:
How to find the right lawyer
How to assemble your professional team (even if you’d rather curl up and die)
Need a Real Estate Agent Who's Got Your Back? Here's What to Look For.
Buying a Condo? Protect Yourself; Watch for These Critical Elements
Also, we can just talk in person. Coffee’s on me ;)