The Blog


The maintenance of your condo is in your hands

Hi Maria; Can you tell me why condo fees are so important?

Answer : You’ve heard me say it before and it goes without saying. A condo is a living organism and the condo fee is its lifeline. If you’re living in a condo, this is as constant as giving birth and paying taxes, but it is completely necessary for the good of your condo.

Every condominium operates under the same basic financial principles. Owners pay condominium contributions (also referred to as “fees”) to the condominium corporation. These contributions are
calculated based on unit factor assigned to their unit.

Condominium contributions vary with large amenity-rich buildings usually having higher fees than smaller buildings with minimal to no amenities.

The condo fees are made up of all the costs associated with running the condo corporation. From water and sewer expenses, common electricity, insurance, payment to a management company, legal, landscaping and snow removal are just a few items that may be included in putting together a budget.

And let’s not forget, a portion of this fee is allocated towards the capital reserves to pay for major expenditures over the lifetime of the building. The great thing about being on a condominium board is they decide how owners’ contributions will be allocated each year. The board is required to provide owners with a yearly financial reporting, typically done at an annual general meeting, showing how their money was allocated in the previous year and how it proposes to use the upcoming year’s contributions. Condominium fees are not optional or negotiable and must be paid to the corporation on a monthly basis, normally on the first of the month. Owners who default in paying their condo fees can put their condo corporation in jeopardy, and
tend to place a burden on those owners who do pay.

Before making the decision to move into a condo, ask yourself, “can I afford to pay the monthly condo fees and any extra expenses that might occur.” Condominiums are not the same as
purchasing a single-family home. A side from paying condo fees, you also have a responsibility to follow bylaws that govern the condominium corporation. These are specific rules that must be followed. The moral of this story is simple: If you choose to live in a condo, be prepared. Know the facts and always plan for the unexpected. Don’t place the burden on other owners to pay your fees

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Question Dear Maria; How will the new condo regulations affect me as a condo owner?

On December 14, 2018, Service Alberta Minister Brian Malkinson announced changes to the Condominium Property Regulation that will be coming into force to improve the governance of condominium corporations. These changes follow extensive consultation with condo owners, board members, managers, and other members of the condominium sector in 2017 and 2018.

“About one out of every five Albertans lives in a condo and our government has their back. Last year, we unveiled stronger protections for condo buyers and now we’re introducing new rules to improve condo living. These new regulations will make life better for everyone in the industry, including condo owners, condo managers andcondo boards.” Brian Malkinson, Minister of
Service Alberta

How does this impact the Condominium Community?
• Improve rules around meetings, such as requiring more notice to attend general meetings and get topics on the agenda.
• Revamp voting rules so owners can participate more effectively in meetings.
• Provide easier access to condo documents by clarifying which documents must be provided to owners, when they need to be provided and what needs to be included in them.
• Require a fairer process when condo corporations issue bylaw fines.
• Establish more protections for condo owners’ investments.
• Strengthen how reserve funds are managed.
• Establish new requirements for insurance and rental deposits.

The majority of the new regulations will come into effect July 1, 2019, with the remainder of the changes to follow on January 1, 2020. This will allow condo corporations and managers the time
they need to update any requirements under the new regulations. Alberta Condo Boards will need to be more transparent as a result of changes made to the Province’s Condominium Property Act Regulations.

It will hold condo boards more accountable for their actions. More specifically, they cover the governance of condominiums and the working relationship between condo owners and
condo corporations. The Condominium Property Amendment Act was passed in December 2014. The next step was to create more than 50 supporting regulations, which are being developed and
rolled out in stages. I’d like to thank Brian Malkinson, Minister of Service Alberta, for his contribution to this article. As a board member for CCI and as best said by Ryan Coles, president,
Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI), South Alberta Chapter; we would like to thank Service Alberta for the transparency in these changes and for including the voice of southern Alberta condo owners in their decisions. The Southern Alberta Chapter of CCI supports and congratulates the government in taking these positive steps. We look forward to collaborating in the next
phase of changes. To learn more, the announcement of the change is available at release.

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Some things to keep top of mind for condo fire safety

Question : Dear Maria; I am a new board member at my condo and I was thinking of bringing up a discussion on fire safety. What are some tips you can give on the topic?

Condominium buildings can present special fire safety concerns. When strictly enforced, local fire and construction codes can ensure that condos are designed to minimize the likelihood of a major conflagration. Fire alarm systems in condominium buildings are required to be tested annually in accordance with Alberta Law. The reason these inspections are mandatory is regular testing and maintenance of your fire alarm systems — including alarms, smoke detectors, emergency lighting and sprinkler systems — is because it saves lives in case of an emergency.

Do you know what to do if a fire starts in your condo? Here are some helpful tips that could save your life and others.

First and foremost—be prepared: Know your building and the emergency procedures that have been implemented for your condo’s fire safety plan. It is important to know where the nearest exits and stairwells are in the building as well as the fire alarms. Keep in mind that these locations may be inaccessible during a fire, so have an alternative escape plan. Establish a safe meeting place outside and away from the building. Assign a designated helper or point person for any individuals living in your unit that would require assistance to escape the fire. This could include, small children, elderly and/ or disabled individuals and of course our furry friends.

If you hear the fire alarms sound: Act, but don’t panic! Check the doorknob/handle for heat, if it’s not hot, brace yourself against the door and open slowly.  If you feel no air pressure or heat
coming from the corridor begin your exit out of the unit and to the nearest exit. Close doors behind you and activate the fire alarm by using the pull stations. Use exit stairwells and leave the
building immediately. When you are in a safe  place, telephone the fire department; never assume this has been done. Know the correct address to the condo building and never use the elevators and or return to your unit until instructed to do so

If you cannot exit the unit, close the door but leave it unlocked. Dial 911 and hang a sheet outside the window to get the firefighters attention. Use wet towels to seal any openings that the fire may make its way into the unit. Stay very close to the ground and place a wet rag over your mouth to lessen smoke inhalation. If you have a balcony, make your way to the balcony and close the
door behind you, or move to a protected area in the room and wait for rescue. If you have a cell phone bring it with you.

Fire inspection access into units: At some point, you would have received notice from your condo manager that the Fire Inspection Company requires access into your unit during the annual
fire inspection testing. Do NOT ignore this request. Part of the annual inspection is for the representative to check the smoke detectors, heat sensors and valves associated with the fire safety
devices inside your unit.

Combustibles and flammables: Do not belong inside a unit, storage facility or the parking enclosure. These can cause the risk of fire. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fire safety in condominium buildings. Help do your part to ensure compliance with Safety codes, and protect yourself and others that live in close proximity to you.

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