Community Living – What does it mean to live in a Condo Community?
From the Volume 16, Summer 2023 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine
Community living, or specifically Condo living – “What does it mean?” The first premise we should probably establish is that – living in a Condo community is not the same as living in a detached or semi-attached home. You are moving into an environment where you have neighbours living side by side and/or above and below – neighbours that are just a wall, floor or ceiling thickness away!
Condominium life is living in a joint ownership community that is within a larger community such as a village, city and/or a region. You are living in a setting with many individuals of varying backgrounds, with a shared ownership in the community. In essence, you may own your unit, but the unit is part of the community and with that condominium community comes documents that are mandated to be adhered to. The rules, bylaws, declaration must be followed.
When I moved into my condo 20 years ago after having lived in a detached home for 25 years, and prior to that an apartment for 10 years, I knew that it would be different. I was moving from a five-bedroom raised ranch, which was situated on a one-acre country property in north Burlington. I had friends who had moved into the same complex a couple of years before. I can remember receiving all of the documents from my realtor, was told to read them and then take them to my lawyer for review. As I read the documents, especially the rules, I wondered “why”. My friends also told me – you can do this, cannot do that, etc. As I became familiar with condo living, I soon came to realize that the items I had questioned made sense. I also know from my teaching and life experiences in general, that rules/regulations/by-laws are necessary so that everyone is functioning/operating with the same information; therefore, preserving the integrity of the community as a whole.
In today’s society, we cannot assume that we are all on the same page – that we have all interpreted and/or understand what is expected in the same manner; thus, there are misunderstandings and conflicts that often occur within Condo communities.
Condo ownership requires that a unit owner has the mindset required to live in a condo – that there are rules by-laws and a declaration that you do have to abide by for the betterment of the community as a whole. It is poor judgement to purchase a condo and think you can just change the rules, or they really won’t apply. If this is not in your DNA, you might need to reconsider condo living for you.
“Community living” may not always be what you want for yourself, but it is what works best for most of the owners/residents most of the time and will provide for a healthier environment for the entire community. Although unit owners jointly own the common elements of the corporation, they do not have control over them – such as landscaping (i.e., tree trimming, removal) snow removal/storage, use of facilities (i.e., party room, pool, gym, etc.). Unit owners elect the Board; the Board governs and sets the tone/direction for the community. The Board makes the rules in consultation with their lawyer, which are then in turn approved by the unit owners. The Board makes decisions based on the rules and all governing documents of the Corporation, including the Condominium Act, 1998.
Condos are regulated by the Condominium Act, 1998. The Act was revised in 2017 and the regs within the Act continues to be refined. Condo Corps are required by the law to follow/enforce The Act. The Declaration, By-Laws, Rules and Procedures must embrace the intention of The Act. You may not agree, but these have all been put in place to protect the assets of the Corporation as well as the owners. There is an expectation that Board members will do their due diligence when carrying out their duties – necessary to make sure that everything is done correctly and to mitigate any liability to the Corporation.
The most common issues that Corporations have to deal with revolve around pets, parking and compliance of governing documents – nuisance issues and asking permission when renovating and altering common/exclusive use common elements.
Most issues could be resolved if each of us, when we move into a communal community, would follow these steps:
- Actually, read all of the governing documents and then make a conscious effort to abide by the governing documents, and
- If a conflict does arise, communicate first with the other resident, and if that fails, then
- Contact management who will inform the Board so it can be dealt with before making it into a “mountain” – everyone putting their “two cents worth” in.
We do not always agree with a rule, or the Board’s final decision. But we need to remember that the decisions made by the Board are based on the Corporation’s documents (declaration, by-laws’ rules, etc.), which are intended to benefit the majority of the residents most of the time, ensuring the process runs smoothly.
How can we as owners/residents living in a condominium complex help to make day-to-day living run smoothly and ensure a healthy environment for all unit owners?
The following are suggestions that can help the process run smoothly.
- Tolerance is being able to accept different points of view; to put up with difficult situations/conditions/individuals; that you, management or the Board has no control over the weather delays, supply chains, etc. – jobs will eventually get done.
- Servility is being courteous, not rude; staying calm not yelling/swearing; and if necessary, suggesting a time out and continuing the discussion when all parties have calmed down.
- Patience goes hand-in-hand with tolerance and servility. Sometimes patience is required for maintenance work or projects. They do not always go as planned, and delays do occur. An entitled stance does not help an already difficult situation. Be patient, ask questions and receive the answers. Embarking on an argument over the situation does not help. It consumes valuable time and resources regarding an already troublesome situation. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
- Respect for each other such as noise, odors, pets, parking as noted in the governing documents.
- Acceptance that you have purchased a small piece of a larger community and that the documents are put in place not to hinder your enjoyment but rather protect your largest investment, and abide by the requirements set out in the documents.
All of the above are useful tools when dealing with upsetting situations or those situations that are not going as wanted or planned. When moving into a condominium community, one must expect a certain amount of noise (children playing, pets, music) and odours (dryer sheets, cooking and smoking – cigarettes, marijuana, pipes, cigars). Most condominiums have a “nuisance” rule which states that unit owners are able to enjoy their unit/exclusive use common element. But, remember children make noise and some food and BBQ’s cause odors. There is an expectation that “regular living noise” is permissible, and the nuisance rule does not mean that you will live in silence. Have a reasonable expectation that some noise will occur.
The following attitudes and behaviours should be avoided. They do not contribute to creating and maintaining a pleasant and healthy environment in which to live.
- Entitlement. Just because we want to do something does not make it okay. It may not be what is best for the whole of the community.
- Bullying. This not acceptable at anytime. It certainly does not work when trying to work with and live harmoniously within a condo community – unit owners, the Board and management.
- Anger. This can get in the way of finding a suitable solution – one that is agreeable for everyone. Avoid responding to requests for compliance with the documents with a knee jerk reaction out of anger. Review responses and compare them to what is in the corporation documents – the very documents you agreed to abide to when purchasing the unit.
If you receive a decline to a request, don’t be offended. Understand that while it may not be the answer you wanted, it is the answer provided, to meet compliance with the documents, and in consideration of the benefit for the whole corporation, not just for one person’s benefit.
If the above positions or actions are the norm within an environment, they can lead to a lack of respect for those involved.
Values within the condominium community such as culture, religion, etc. may vary from yours and what you have been exposed to previously. Now you may be in an environment that has a variety of cultures and religions. This can be a very positive experience to learn about other customs and celebrations, speciality food, etc. What better way to learn them than to have an International Pot Luck – celebrating everyone’s heritage. Human Rights legislation outlines that unacceptable behaviour towards a person(s) due to their cultural heritage or religious beliefs, amongst other groups, is not acceptable by law. Don’t bring this behaviour to a condominium community.
In conclusion, in order for condos to run smoothly and be inviting/inclusive for the entire community, there needs to be respect shown to one another along with lots of give and take.
Participation within the community – attending condo functions (i.e., social get togethers, information sessions, town halls, AGMs), participating on committees such as social and garden, serving a term (or longer) on the Board, etc. – lends itself to a healthy environment within a community. If we just listen, we can learn so much – ask questions to clarify, but please do not argue with the answers. Always being critical and pushing the governance documents to the limits, does not help foster a pleasant atmosphere in which to live. Negativity does not lend itself to positive actions/change. On the positive side, feeling a part of a community can promote a sense of pride and belonging, which can lead to a happier, healthier environment.
You may not want to get involved and that is your right, but you are still expected to follow all of the regulations, governing documents – condo laws – no exceptions. If you cannot find this within you, Condominium living may not be for you.
Communication, communication, communication is at the base of everything along with cooperation and understanding. It is essential that communication is twoway. Not only is it important to ask questions, its equally important that owners/residents read all communications sent to them, posted on site, etc. These are things as simple as notices, or more informative such as newsletters.
Condominium living can be a positive, rewarding, worthwhile experience, it is up to you.
Carole Booth, B.Sc. in Education; MA, is a retired teacher. As a member of the GHCCCI Board of Directors, she participates on several committees. Carole lives in a 69 unit condominium where she served 12 years as president.
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