At some point during the process of buying a condominium, you will face off with a 1-2 inch stack of papers, all of which are legally required and binding. And no, I’m not exaggerating the thickness of the stack. This is real, folks.
It’s also real that provincial legislation that can and does supersede real estate agreements, legislation like the Residential Tenancies Act, the Homestead Act, even the Condominium Act.
If real estate transactions are all about contracts, condominium transactions are contracts on steroids.
And contracts, my friend, are a sticky, tricky mess. Especially since the new Condominium Act (2015) added even more requirements.
Did you know, when the buyer and seller of a condominium each meet with their lawyers, they are required to sign an affidavit? It’s true. Each party must legally acknowledge (and therefore take legal responsibility for) their delivery or receipt of the required documents. (the 2” package).
If you didn’t check whether or not each page was present among the documents, but signed anyway, YOU would now be legally obligated to provide those documents to the next buyer. It would be a serious thing to have sworn you had them when you didn’t. It would be an impossible thing to resell the condominium without the proper documentation.
The Thing that Saved One Condo Buyer’s Behind
Even before legislation tightened up and added more documentation, I’d always sit with my clients and go over every piece of documentation. I’d make sure it’s all there, go over what they should read, and highlight what I felt required a deeper dive. (For example, if the condominium had rules about pets, or whether or not planters or storage boxes were allowed on the balcony or other details that might reveal whether or not the condo suited you)
One time, I paged through the documentation, making sure it complied with the Act, and noticed the number of pages didn’t match. The index said the package should have 48 pages, and it only had 36.
Some of the pages missing were a real yawner - bios of board members, yet others included some charts and graphs that were referenced in other pages so were relevant, but still. The client would have to swear to having received them. He’d also be obligated to hand over all the pages (including the missing ones) if he ever wanted to resell adding expense to him that was unnecessary.
Had I not caught those missing pages, my client would unknowingly reviewed the accompanying document and not had all the information he needed to make an informed (and legislatively required) decision and that particular document was a very crucial one as it was the Reserve Fund Study, "THE" document that shows the financial health of the condo corporation.
Three Things to Watch for to Protect Yourself Legally
Contract law is a tricky, convoluted labyrinth of legal risk. Protecting yourself though, isn’t. Here are three ways to protect yourself when buying (or selling) a condominium.
First, as mentioned, make sure you have a knowledgeable REALTOR®️ you chose, representing you who understands and can clearly help you identify the finer details inportant to "You" and all the documentation is there. Then read and review it all. I know, it’s mind-numbing. I get it. I do. But these are the waters… Welcome to the world of real estate, and specifically condominiums where an old 1960's act was updated 10-fold from approx 34 sections in the old one to over 300 in the 2015 revision.
Second, don’t just hire “a lawyer” - get one who specializes in condominium law. There are all kinds of law a lawyer can specialize in. Family, corporate, civil, criminal, real estate, bankruptcy, etc. More than that, even in real estate law there are specialties - commercial law, foreclosures, agricultural, condominium.
Get a lawyer who is focused and specialized in condominium law. Like I said, it’s a labyrinth. You want a seasoned guide - someone who’s been in and made it through, not someone who will ‘figure it out’ as they go.
One of my clients learned this hard fact the hard way when he did not follow my advice and used a corporate lawyer to handle his purchase of a house and the lawyer did not order a survey which if I had not taken the step to get one done he would have been on the hook for an undisclosed encroachment that if he did not discover it before possession would have no recourse and would have to absorb the remedy himself.
Third, don’t just hire “a real estate agent” - get one who’s knowledgeable and well practiced with transacting condominiums. The real estate landscape of legislation is changing all the time, and Condo law is changing with it. Drastic changes were made in 2015 to protect buyers from the many pitfalls they can fall prey to, but for everyone that was covered, two more remain. Does your agent know what to look for in the documents? Do they have a history of experience and expertise about condominium sales and purchases? Do they know the difference between each of the documents involved and how they’ll impact your life and legal liability?
That’s it. Three things.
Only three things you need to do.
And two of them are outsourcing to experts!
It’s not as hard as you think ;)
What are your thoughts on buying a condo? Is it something you foresee in your future?