FAQs About Your Building & Your Unit

The purpose of these pages is to address some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about

  • owners’ responsibilities concerning their common elements
  • the most common practical issues that residents face
  • problems residents encounter regarding their unit (noise problems are addressed elsewhere: click here for Noise Problems)

One of the key elements in understanding how a condo building works is to understand what types of "common elements" exist.

What Are Common  Elements?

Common elements are those parts of a condo complex that belong to all owners. With a few exceptions, they constitute everything except the units in which people live. Corridors, garbage rooms, lobbies, locker areas, garages, technical rooms, the roof, grounds, walkways are all common elements.

Other common elements include heating and air conditioning systems, hot water system, pipes, electrical systems, all light fixtures in common elements, and the security system.

Common elements generally are the responsibility of the condo corporation in terms of maintenance, repairs, and replacement.

What Are Exclusive-Use Common Elements?

Exclusive-use common elements are those parts of a building to which only the owners of a unit or owners whose units are adjacent to them have access. The most obvious are balconies, terraces, patios, and front and backyards. Also falling into this category are parking spaces and marina slips. 

However, it should be recalled that there is no uniformity in what constitute an exclusive-use common element in Ontario. In some units, some features, such as terraces and patios, are common elements while in others they are freehold (that is, entirely the property of the suite owner). How do you know what is what? The declaration of your unit will give this information.

Less obvious, fan coils, fire and security systems in each suite may also be common elements. Thermostats and exhaust vents may be part of the unit as well or may be common elements. In other words, these can be entirely owned by the unit or by the corporation. Again, this information will be found in the declaration.

A sound rule is that any feature that is within a unit is owned by that unit, unless stated otherwise in the declaration. Click here for What's a Declaration?

Townhouses, in particular, vary greatly in terms of what is considered to be a common element versus what is entirely owned by owners--please click here for issues provided by readers: Issues Specific to Townhouses.

What Are Restricted-Use Common Elements?

They are those parts of the building occupied by staff, such as the concierge desk and various offices, as well as electrical and technical rooms where only staff and contractors are allowed for obvious safety and security reasons. These belong to owners but are not their concern.

Amenities fall half-way in that category in the sense that some may be accessible only upon reservation (guest suites, party room, theatre, bowling alley). Others may be accessible only with a special entry card and within limited hours (pool, gym).