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Have a Great Condominium Balcony or Terrace? Careful You May Not Actually Own It!

A gentleman came into my office in order to see what he could do about a notice his condo Board, or how he referred to it “the condo police”, served him with. Having invested thousands of dollars towards tiling the terrace off his new unit, his condo Board mandated that he now remove the tile. The prospect of spending thousands to remove the tiles, after spending thousands installing them, was beyond comprehension to this gentleman.

After reviewing his condo declaration and by-laws we discovered that he had what is called an “exclusive use” of the terrace. This means that he has the right to be the sole user of the terrace; however, he does not legally own it because the condo corporation does and while it’s his duty to keep the terrace clean, he did not have free reign over it and had to get permission from the condo Board in order to make what is called either an addition, alteration or improvement to the exclusive use common element. Therefore the Board was in their right to enforce removal of the tiles, and the gentleman had to comply in order to avoid further complications and/or legal actions by the Board.

Balconies and terraces continue to be property of the condominium corporation for numerous reason such as providing provide access points to condo utilities, allowing repairs and maintenance to the building and because balconies and terraces are visible from outside the building. Imagine unit owners, who love gardening, turned their terraces into lucious gardens which could invite unwanted wildlife, vegetation and insects onto the building!

It may seem trivial or trite that a condo board would concern themselves which such a matter, especially if your intention is to improve your unit. However, condo boards are created to enforce, monitor and make rules on matters of the condominium building in the best interest of all their member occupants. Allowing certain matters go without consequence sets a bad precedent and could lead a condo building down a slippery slope of condo anarchism.

Before buying a condo and/or making any improvements to your balcony or terrace make sure you or your lawyer has read and reviewed your condominium declaration, rules and by-laws. This will avoid all kinds of problems, including the dilemma herein. You should also keep in mind that even if you do own your balcony/terrace there may still be restrictions on the use of it.

My next article will elaborate on what constitutes an addition, alteration or improvement under the Ontario Condominium Act.