What else should I know?
When buying a condo you must consider above all else how the corporation is managing it"s finances. Every month the corporation collects fees from the owners for the maintenance of the common property in the form of condo fees. This money is used to pay for utilities, cleaning, landscaping, snow removal, repairs, garbage collection, management fees, reserve fund allocation, etc. If managed properly the amount of the fees should remain in line with the local cost of living increases. If managed poorly owners can be charged excessive fees or cash calls may be required to keep the common property in good repair. For this reason every buyer must have a condition in the purchase contract to review all documents relating to the corporation to discover the true financial position of the corporation. Nothing is more important in purchasing a condo than these documents. Below is a list and desription of the most important documents.
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the one time within the year that Owners are brought up-to-date with the business of the Corporation. It is also the time when Owners direct who they want making the business decisions for the Corporation during the next year by electing The Board of Directors. The Owners elect this board. In Alberta the legal system and the Condominium Property ACR, RSA 2000 support the decisions made by The Board. If you are unable to attend this important meeting, you can give your proxy to another person who will vote on your behalf at the meeting.
Bare Land Condominium
In a Bare Land Condominium Plan, the boundaries of the units are determined by references to boundaries governed by monuments placed pursuant to the provisions of the Surveys Act. The units are two-dimensional lots of dirt, and typically there is no defining of the buildings or structures built on the land.
Board of Directors Minutes
These are the minutes of The Board of Directors monthly meetings. The buyer should get at least three or four sets of the most recent available. These will provide the buyer the insight into how much maintenance work is being conducted, and what issues The Board is currently dealing with. If the Condominium Corporation is engaged in a lawsuit or a difficult maintenance project, there will be a mention of that in many sets of the minutes.
The operating budget for a condominium corporation shows what funds are expected to be spent over a fiscal year in the various categories laid out in the budget, such as landscaping, snow removal, etc. The budget is sent out to each Owner 15 to 30 days before the end of the fiscal year and included in this is either a fee schedule detailing the expected monthly fees for each unit or a letter that states the fees for that unit.
The bylaws for the Corporation are given power by the Condominium Property Act, RSA 2000 of Alberta. Any bylaw registered with the Corporation is enforceable as law. Registered Bylaws apply to all occupants of the Units (Owners and tenants). The by-laws provide the rules and regulations basis on how life is conducted in the complex. Only the set of by-laws registered can legally be enforced, and these are the ones that must be provided to the Owner along with any proposed by-laws the Corporation is trying to pass.
Certificate of Insurance
The buyer should receive a copy of the current Owner's certificate of insurance, which will show how much the property is insured for, and what the deductibles are. If a loss occurs and the Corporation does not have enough insurance in place than the Corporation must make up the difference (the Corporation consists of all the Owners). The deductibles are most important as that will show the Owner how much the Corporation must pay before the insurance kicks in. This also shows the Owner how much they would be responsible for if a repair is deemed to be the fault of the Owner and the Owner is required to pay the damages. The Owner will want to see that the Corporation has liability insurance and directors & officers' liability insurance.
The Condominium Plan, which is registered at Land Titles, shows the overall site and all of the units and their boundaries. It gives you the unit factor chart with the legal number of all the units. It provides the basis for determining the unit factor, gives you the approximate floor area or land area (square footage) of the units, describes where the boundaries are in the surveyor's notes, and reveals whether parking stalls are titled, delineated (may be leased to the Owner) or common property (stalls maybe assigned).
Condominium Additional Plan Sheet
The Condominium Additional Plan Sheet (also referred to as a CAD or CS) contains any registrations against the condominium plan such as: charges against the Corporation; caveats; easements; redivisions; the registration date for the Bylaws: amendments to the plan; and change of The Board of Directors. Information can be registered on this document through the South Alberta Land Titles Office. NOTE: According to the Condominium Property ACT, The Board is to be registered on an annual basis within 30 days from the conclusion of the annual general meeting.
The fees are calculated on the unit factor assigned to that unit, or if the by-laws permit, on a fair and equitable basis. The condominium fees or contributions are necessary and are the means for the corporation to conduct repairs and maintenance and pay the corporation's obligations.
Most property management companies are able to produce a balance sheet that will reveal the current status of the Condominium Corporation's finances. It must be a balance sheet for year to date, not a monthly one. The year to date balance sheet will show the current amount in their operating account, the current amount in their Reserve Fund, and outstanding liabilities. Even a letter stating the amount in the Reserve Fund can be useful.
The audited financial statements will provide the Owner with the overall financial transactions of that corporation over the stated fiscal year. The Owner should have the most recent set, and if possible the previous year set as well. Depending on the detail provided by the auditor, the Owner will learn what capital work has be done over the past year, and in the notes the Owner may gain some additional information, such as whether the Corporation has been or is engaged in a lawsuit.
The Board of Directors contracts with a Property Management Company to handle certain aspects of the operations of the condominium corporation. Normally they have the management company handle all the day to day activities, including financial, administrative and maintenance, through an offsite Property Manager. The contract details how the arrangement has been set up, including if the Property Manager attends every meeting and if there is an additional charge for meetings beyond a certain number. The management company is also given the authority in their contract to charge a fee for the reproduction of any of the corporation's documents for a potential purchaser of a unit.
Post Tension Cables are, simply stated, a stressed cable form of structure. The cables are imbedded in poured concrete slabs. These cables are prone to deterioration when exposed to water. It is not uncommon to PTC problems. It is not uncommon to have a building with and PTC structure system. As long as the PTC is being maintained and monitored there is no greater safety risk to living in the building with PTC than any other form of structure. What are the advantages of a PTC building structure? More floors, as slabs are thinner. Wider span area, more usable floor space. How safe is a post tension building? As safe as any other building as long as the post tension slabs are being maintained repaired and monitored.
Reserve Fund Study
The Reserve Fund account is a fund established for the replacement of capital items on the Common Property. A Reserve Fund study gives The Board of Directors a guideline to follow which will minimize the risk of future special assessments in order to repair or replace capital items such as the roof, building envelope, fencing, roadways, parking areas, etc. A Reserve Fund study customizes the Corporation's financial projections to meet the needs of the individual site.
Unit factors and the Unit size in square meters are designated on the plan. A condominium corporation is based on a total of 10,000 unit factors. The unit factor assigned to the individual unit represents the Owners undivided interest share (Ownership) of the common property of the Condominium Corporation. The unit factor determines the Owners voting rights as well as the portion of the operating budget or any special assessment Owners are required to contribute, unless bylaws state otherwise. In Alberta, the registered bylaws can state a method of determining the amount of contribution based on a formula other than the unit factors.