Every condo building or complex is governed by a set of rules and regulations. They usually record these in a document titled ‘Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions’ or CC&R’s for short. It may also be referred to as a ‘declaration’.
These rules are enforced by the condo association or a homeowner’s association. Their primary goal is to oversee the maintenance and management of the common areas of your building, and to establish the accepted behaviors within the complex. For instance, there may be rules on noise making or rules that determine the type or number of pets each unit owner can have.
It’s very important to make certain you’re comfortable with the rules set out in your condo association’s declaration document. That way, you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when its time for you to move into your new home. After all, you want to adapt to your new community and feel like you belong.
Common issues that a condo association declaration document might address
There will always be a set of rules to determine the use and maintenance of common areas. This section will cover things like usage of walkways and lawns. It might prohibit unit owners from obstructing walkways, entryways or any of the common areas. This makes sense when you consider that leaving a bicycle or personal property unattended in a public space can be a great inconvenience, or even a barrier to other owners.
Noise and nuisances
Your condo association will most definitely prohibit activities that cause unreasonably loud sounds or noises to emanate from your unit. This is to prevent unit owners from disturbing one another’s peace and comfort.
A condo association’s document should also deal with the issue of garbage disposal. Namely, how unit owners should dispose of their trash. Most condo associations require unit owners to dispose of trash using the garbage chute, unless it is cardboard or a large item. In that case, the owners would need to take the item down to the garbage room or near the tri-sorter.
Most condo buildings or complexes have designated recreational areas for kids and adolescents. Entry into these common areas is limited to certain times of the day and they do not allow children to engage in potentially dangerous or destructive play activities. Kids may not play or ride their bikes in the parking lot either, even though it might be tempting to do so.
Many condo associations do not allow unit owners to barbecue on their balconies, but may have designated areas where they can use a shared BBQ.
Condo associations frown upon vandalism for obvious reasons. Homeowners aren’t allowed to inflict any damage or destruction on any part of the common areas. Defacing of property is also prohibited. This refers to inscribing parts of the exterior or mounting notices or signs in the common areas. Of course, there should be a designated area like a communal notice board where owners may post “items for sale” and other approved notices.
Some communities will not allow owners to run a business out of their condo units. They may also prohibit things like Airbnb. Chances are high that if the activity has the potential to disturb the peace or comfort of other neighbors, it won’t be permitted in the community.
Pets and animals
The issue of pets and animals has to be one of the most contentious in any planned development. The pet section of the condo association rules describes the animals that are allowed in the building as pets and how many pets each unit owner should have. Most condominium associations prohibit the raising of animals altogether, so don’t owners cannot breed and sell dogs or cats.
Condo associations that do allow pets usually have strict rules on how to keep them. For instance, unit owners are required to keep their pets on a leash so that the animals don’t run amok when you’re out taking them out for a walk. There will probably be something in there on cleaning up after your pet and making sure pet waste isn’t polluting the front of the building.
This section will also determine where you’re allowed to take your dog or cat on walks. For instance, this by-law may limit you to landscaped areas within the condo complex. It might prohibit you and your pet from walking your dog through the parking lot. If the pet accidently causes damage to another owner’s property or to a common area, the pet owner may be responsible for costs.
Unit owners may also be required to vaccinate their pets.
Operating motor vehicles
Depending on the condo association, the declaration document might prohibit you from driving or parking vehicles without a registration plate. The association might also prohibit you from parking a vehicle of a certain class in the parking lot. In most cases, this rule applies to vehicles like trailer trucks, boat trailers, and campers.
Owners may not have permission to repair or work on vehicles in the parking lot unless it’s an unavoidable emergency. If they do have the ability to perform work on their vehicles, the unit owner must clean up the area once repairs are done.
There should be a parking policy that offers guidance on common parking issues. Parking rules are different for each building. Some may assign one or two spots to each unit owner, while others operate on a first-come, first-served basis. To make sure that unit owners adhere to the parking policy, the condo association might enforce it through some form of the registration process. Some condos issue parking stickers to unit owners as a form of registration and identification of the vehicle so that there isn’t any confusion about who can park where. But most condo boards use paperless solutions like parking management software to expedite and simplify the process.
There will most likely be a clause on guest parking spaces and how to navigate them as well.
Another important policy that’s usually included in a condo association document relates to the maintenance of architectural integrity. Mostly, unit owners aren’t allowed to alter the structure or architectural design of the common areas. The by-laws under this clause should cover the alterations allowed within individual units. These limits may not be as restrictive as the limits placed on the outer common areas.
Should a unit owner wish to change the interior appearance of their home, they would have to submit a written proposal to the relevant committee within the CA board of directors. The unit owner must detail this proposal enough to include a diagram of the proposed changes and a thorough description of how it will change the unit.
The committee in question will inform you in writing when your request has been approved so you can go ahead with your renovations or alterations. But, your condo association will most likely inspect the unit to make sure the changes won’t clash with the structural planning and architectural foundations of the condo building.
Basically, unit owners may not make any architectural alterations to their units without getting written approval from the condo association.
You’ll also notice a section on penalties that the condo association uses to enforce its rules and regulations. Depending on the condo association in question, unit owners that violate the rules may receive a written warning along with a fine, while a repeated offense might warrant a higher fine.
However, you don’t just get slapped with a fine. You have to go through some form of a process first. In most cases, a neighboring unit owner must report the violation to the board. This report is usually followed by a hearing where the alleged violator is given an opportunity to state their case. The board will make a decision based on the statements provided by both parties.
It’s important to note here that a unit owner may suffer a fine and warning even if a guest committed the offending action. Failure to pay the imposed fine may lead to a lien being placed against the unit owner’s property.
As you can see, the rules and regulations which govern condo buildings and complexes are there to ensure that everything runs smoothly. They cover the whole gamut of condo living, from parking regulations to the garbage disposal and the use of common areas.
It’s very rare that you’ll find a condo association document that doesn’t cover these important issues. At least now you have an idea of what to expect and look for when you decide to move into a condo building that’s managed by an association.
Keep in mind that these rules may differ according to the specific condo building you move into. Otherwise, they’re there to ensure your safety and comfort as well as to elevate your home’s resale value.
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