What’s A Condo Declaration?

A declaration is like the constitution of a condo. It is a thick document that is based on the Act and that each owner receives upon buying a unit in a condo. For resale condos, it comes with the status certificate. (Click here for Why Is the Status Certificate So Important?)

Condo Declaration

A declaration provides information regarding each suite’s boundaries as well as its share of common expenses, which common elements are “exclusive use,” that is, are used only by each unit, such as a terrace, balcony, parking spot, locker, or even a patio or a yard in a townhouse condo. The declaration describes the recreational facilities and how they are to be used. It may mention restrictions on pets.

Declarations are specific to each type of condo. For instance, a condo that shares facilities with another one will include sections that focus on this aspect and regulate how these shared facilities will be administered and used. A townhouse condo will have sections that will not appear in the declaration of a high rise and vice versa.

The declaration is the basic document for condo owners. Therefore, a unit owner should at least leaf through it, or ask the real estate lawyer to interpert certain sections, preferably before buying. For instance, declarations put limits on some activities (pets, business) and a prospective buyer who doesn’t know about these may have problems later on.

Declarations are written by a builder or a developer’s legal firm. Therefore, it is this building company that decides what will be an exclusive-use common element versus what is owned by the unit. When a unit is resold, declarations are contained in the status certificate given to prospective or new owners. (Click here for Factors to Consider When Buying a Condo)

Unfortunately, declarations are not user friendly: They are not clear, are written in legalese, and very difficult to understand.

(Between June 2009 and December 2011, this website has received at least 40 requests for interpretation of certain segments of various owners' declarations--regrettably, these readers are advised to contact a lawyer or the referral service of the Ontario Law Society--where people can consult a lawyer for up to 30 minutes for a very small fee.)

Another problem with declarations is that they are not standard from condo to condo, so that what is an exclusive-use common element in one may not be in another. This makes for a very confusing situation.

The declaration cannot be changed unless 80% to 90% of unit owners consent in writing, depending on the issue. A written consent is obtained by the board after a meeting of owners during which the amendment is discussed. Lawyers are consulted by boards before any amendment is considered.

Declaration, by-laws, and rules will differ somewhat depending on whether a condo shares facilities with another, whether it’s a high-rise building, townhouses or bungalows, or a mixed-use building. Or yet, if it includes a marina or gardens for the use of residents.  A time-share and hotel-condo will have their own set of rules as well.