Who is responsible for condo repairs?

What happens when something goes wrong and who is responsible for condo repairs? We look at the rules and regulations to help you understand your responsibilities as a condo unit owner or a condo manager.

As a property management company responsible for many residential condominiums in Ontario, we are often asked questions about issues relating to responsibility and the most common question is: who is responsible for condo repairs. A lot comes down to the structure of a condominium, so it’s worth reminding ourselves of that.

What is a condominium?

A condominium is a collection of individual units plus shared “common elements” that are managed by a condominium corporation. Individuals purchase units, whether they be apartment units in a condo building or townhomes in a condo townhome community, and generally own everything inside their unit. Everything outside of the unit, including the external walls of the unit, are part of the common elements that are managed by the condominium corporation or the property manager they employ. Unit owners pay a monthly maintenance fee to cover the cost of managing the common elements.

To go into a bit more detail, in a condo building the corridors and elevators are part of the common elements, along with any amenities and the driveways and footpaths on the property. For condo townhomes, gardens, external walls, roofs, and the private road on which the home stands are all generally considered common elements.

Who takes care of condo repairs?

Since a condominium is a mix of private and shared ownership, the responsibility for repairs depends on what is wrong and where it is located. Fortunately, Ontario’s Condominium Act, 1998 sets out rules for the responsibilities of the various parties.

Section 89 of the act states that:

“Subject to sections 91 and 123, the corporation shall repair the units and common elements after damage.”

This alone does not fully explain the responsibilities but things become a little clear with section 90 of the act, which says:

“Subject to section 91, the corporation shall maintain the common elements and each owner shall maintain the owner’s unit.”

The second part of that section adds further clarity with the following line:

“The obligation to maintain includes the obligation to repair after normal wear and tear but does not include the obligation to repair after damage”

What does this mean in practice? Well, day-to-day repairs of a condo unit are the responsibility of the unit owner. If a 10-year-old dishwasher stops working, for example, that may be considered normal wear and tear, which would mean the unit owner would be responsible for repair or replacement. However, if something is considered “damage” beyond reasonable wear and tear, that may then fall under the responsibility of the condo corporation.

These sections also make it clear that maintenance of common elements is the responsibility of the condo corporation. However, that does not mean that users can recklessly damage common elements without consequence, so unit owners still have some level of responsibility

Different rules for different condos

It all seems pretty clear but there is a notable caveat that comes later in the condo act that could change the responsibility for condo repairs in an individual condominium. According to section 91 of the act:

“The declaration may alter the obligation to maintain or to repair after damage as set out in this Act by providing that,

  • (a) subject to section 123, each owner shall repair the owner’s unit after damage;
  • (b) the owners shall maintain the common elements or any part of them;
  • (c) each owner shall maintain and repair after damage those parts of the common elements of which the owner has the exclusive use; and
  • (d) the corporation shall maintain the units or any part of them.”

This means that a condo corporation has the authority to redefine responsibilities for an individual condominium, within the boundaries of the act. The declaration is one of the documents used to create a condominium corporation and within it, the corporation can declare rules for the condominium such as restrictions on certain activities or, in this case, updated responsibilities for maintenance and repair. In particular, Schedule C or the declaration can be used to define the boundaries of individual units, which helps to clarify whether a particular common area is the responsibility of the unit owner or the corporation.

This is important information for someone declaring a condo corporation and anyone looking to buy a condo unit. For the prospective condo corporation, you need to think about what repairs you can and should be responsible for. Similarly, a condo board may look at altering the declaration to respond to new realities within the condo. For the prospective buyer, you need to be aware of the condo’s declaration, or any changes to it, and how it may affect future costs for repairs.

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