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Glossary of Condominium Terms

Annual Budget: Prepared by the condominium board, the budget is the basis for calculating fees you will pay for things like maintenance, repair and administrative costs.

Annual Meeting (AGM):The board is required to once a year convene (hold) an annual general meeting of the owners. This meeting must be held within 15 months of the last meeting. During the meeting financial statements are presented and also the next budget.

Board of Directors: an elected group of homeowners whose purpose is to serve the interests of the members of the condominium corporation.

Common Elements: Includes various components of the condominium in which homeowners share ownership. They may include parking spaces, hallways, lobbies, exterior cladding, shingles, roofs, elevators and shared balconies.

Condominium Corporation: A corporation without share capital, created under the Condominium Act for the purposes of administering the operation, maintenance and repair of common elements and assets of the condominium. It is guided by a democratically elected Board of Directors consisting of homeowners.

Condominium Declaration: the declaration is a “charter” document that creates the condominium corporation. It defines the boundaries for each home and common elements. It allocates the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the homes and common elements, outlines the condominiums provisions regarding occupancy and use, specifies common expenses and each owner’s proportionate interest in the common elements and details each owner’s percentage share of the overall common expenses.

Condominium Fees: Also referred to as common area expenses- a monthly charge (your share) of the utilities, upkeep, management, administration and insurance for the common elements. Fees vary according to project and unit size.

Condominium Ownership: the ownership of a condominium involves two aspects

Separate ownership and title of your home

Shared ownership and cost of maintaining and repairing common elements shared by all homeowners

Disclosure Statement: A summary of the significant features of the proposed condominium and of the relevant condominium documents governing the same.

Estoppel Certificate: Statment of a unit holder's financial and legal status. A "clear" certificate means no arrears.

Exclusive Use Common Elements: particular areas within the condominium’s common areas which you have the exclusive right to use and enjoy i.e. balconies, parking, storage.

Occupancy Date: the date upon which you must take occupancy of your home.

Registration: the process by which the condominium’s declaration and description are formally approved by the requisite governmental authorities.

Reserve Fund: A required fund set aside by the condominium corporation to cover the major replacement or repair of the common elements and assets of the condominium.

Special Assessment: If the reserve fund cannot cover an urgent repair, then the board may levy a special assessment to cover the expense. An example may be a common roof that needs replacing.

Unit: All space within the set of boundaries of your home, as specified in the declaration.


Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs). If you have a question that is not listed, please contact us.

Disclaimer - Please be advised, the FAQ's listed are opinions only. Please consult your attorney, real estate agent, and/or accountant for advice and consultation.

1. What is a condo (condominium)?
A condominium does not refer to a style but a form of ownership. With a condominium you own the space within your walls, floors and ceiling with a common ownership interest in the common areas, which are shared by all owners.

2. What is a town home?
Townhome refers to a form of ownership. With a townhome you own the space within your walls and the ground beneath and the air above. Usually there are separate entrances and garages.

3. What is a Co-op?
Co-op is a form of ownership. With a co-op the building is thought of as a company with each owner owning a % share of the building based upon your units value.

4. What is a better investment condos or single family homes?
Using appreciation as a measure, condominiums in some areas have been as profitable an investment as single-family homes in the last five years. And in some markets, condos appreciated even more, according to some experts.

While single-family homes have been the preferred investment by home buyers, changing demographics are helping make condos more popular, especially among single home buyers, empty nesters and first-time buyers in high-priced markets.

5. Are condos or town homes risky to buy?
While condos never had the kind of appreciation experienced by single-family homes, most ultimately have not lost value, say some experts. And with high prices in many urban markets and more single homebuyers in the market than ever before, the market for condos is strong.

As with any home purchase, you should do your homework about the neighborhood or development before you buy. In the case of condominiums, it is important to read the past six months of homeowners association minutes to see how effective the board is and to learn about any possibly detracting issues.

6. Are condos or townhomes a good investment?
While condos never had the kind of appreciation experienced by single-family homes, most ultimately have not lost value, say some experts. And with high prices in many urban markets and more single homebuyers in the market than ever before, the market for condos is strong.

As with any home purchase, you should do your homework about the neighborhood or development before you buy. In the case of condominiums, it is important to read the past six months of homeowners association minutes to see how effective the board is and to learn about any possibly detracting issues (such as protracted litigation with the developer).

The condominium community has worked hard in the last few years to overcome image problems brought on by disputes and lawsuits. Associations are becoming more sophisticated about property management and taking steps to prevent legal problems and disputes

7. What is a good process to find a condo?
The best process is to enlist the services of a real estate agent who specializes in the type of housing you are looking for. An agent will know all current listings and non public listings. They will also aid in the decision making process. The number one reason to use an agent is that it will cost you nothing! They receive their commission form the seller.

8. What determines the value of a condo?
The value of a condo or any other real estate is determined by the ultimate buyer. A seller can place any price they want for their real estate, if nobody makes an offer then that is a pretty good indicated the price is too high. Listed below are factors that will affect value.

Factors that affect value:

  • Location in the city
  • Location in the neighborhood
  • Condo building
  • Location within the building
  • Views and closeness to top floor
  • Parking
  • Square footage
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Decorating

9. What are the most important elements to look at when buying a condo?
Number one, will you really be happy there. Spend some time in the building, walk around the building, visit local businesses and hangouts, and walk around the neighborhood. Make sure you receive condo docs and review them. Get copies of minute of board meetings to see what issues are important and being discussed. Talk to some residents to get their opinions.

10. What is the process for buying a condo in a building that is not built yet?
Developers will have different procedures, make sure you check and find out what their procedures are. Typically units are first reserved with the right to cancel within a certain time frame. The first thing to do is sign up for notification when units will be available for reservation. Make sure you check the plans and specifications.

11. What is an Association?
An association is the group that runs and manages the affairs of the condo building. Learn everything you can about the homeowners association before you buy into a development governed by one. The association's financial, political and legal conditions are very important to your investment and quality of life.

When run properly, homeowners associations maintain the common grounds and keep civility in the complex. If you follow the rules, the association should not intrude on your privacy or cost you too much in association dues.

Poorly managed associations can drag down property values and make living there difficult for residents. Start by studying the association's covenants, codes and restrictions, or CC&Rs, and find out if you can live by them. For example, if the rules prohibit loud music after a certain hour and you like to play your CDs late at night, this may not be the place for you. Don't move in thinking you can get away with violating the rules or change them later because you may find yourself in turmoil with determined neighbors firmly in control of the association board.

Find out all you can about the association's finances. Beyond reviewing the budget, talk to the association treasurer and find out if dues are expected to increase and if any special assessments are planned. Ask if special inspections have revealed problems with roofs or plumbing that may cause a dues hike or special assessment later on.

Call and meet with the association president.

12. What are condominium fees?
Condominium fees are the fees you pay to live in a particular condo building. Fees are normally paid monthly and are not negotiable. If you do not pay the association can take legal action and enforce a lien and forclosure of your unit.

13. What are standard amenities are typically included in the association fee?
Condomimiums usually include more utilities in their fees and have more shared amenities. Some of the factors that may impact the fees include the age and condition of the buildings, the number of units to share the costs, and adequate reserve accounts for long term maintenance. With each association being different, here is list of what might be included:

Garbage removal
Basic cable TV
Outside building maintenance
Replacement reserve accounts
Pool maintenance
Elevator service
Legal costs
Staff salaries
Caretaker's unit (PITIA)
Air conditioning
Building insurance
Electricity or gas
Sewer and water
Snow removal
Lawn care
Professional Management
Accounting services
Cleaning services

14. What are typical upgrade special amenities that may be included?
Townhomes usually have few to none, while condominium amenities might include:

Indoor or outdoor pool
Tennis court
Party room
Exercise room
Pool maintenance
Guest room
Storage areas
  Game room 
Racquetball court 
Hobby room
Volleyball court
Golf putting green 
BBQ area
Security system

15. What type of insurance is needed?
Condominiums have a blanket policy for building insurance and it is included in the association fee. Coverage for your personal property is not included and is optional, but recommended. In townhomes some associations have a blanket building policy and others do not, and you would need to purchase a separate policy just like in a single family home.

16. Can a condo association ban smoking?
A homeowners association's board of directors can restrict smoking if it applies to indoor common spaces such as hallways or recreation rooms. Outdoor spaces are a different story, say legal experts. Any restriction would probably hinge on local laws (i.e. if a city banned smoking outdoors, a homeowners association probably could restrict smoking in its outdoor spaces).

Typical covenants, codes and restrictions, which govern condo associations, give the board authority to make and enforce reasonable rules for the use of common property. But that would not apply to interior spaces owned by smokers themselves.

17. Where can we find condo laws for newfoundland and Labrador?
Search condo laws in this province here.

18. What is an Association special assessment?
A homeowners association has the right according to their association bylaws to levy a special assessment just like city governments. If there isn't enough money in reserve accounts for a maintenance expense, the association usually has no choice but to raise the association fee for a certain period of time or levy special assessment to pay for it. A well run association will have all future long term maintenance items accounted for, and reserve accounts figured in their budget.

Questions about St. John's real estate? We can help!

Larry Hann
The Hann Group
Hanlon Realty
95 Bonaventure Ave
St. John’s, NL A1B 2X5
866.728.1169|Toll Free

Email Larry



The Hann Group St. John's Real Estate

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  Hanlon Realty St. John's Real Estate

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