A reserve fund is a fund that condo corporations use for major repair or replacement of common elements and assets as needed. The Condo Act requires that all condo corporations have a reserve fund. Adequate reserve funds and proper use of those funds are critical to maintaining the structural integrity of the condo corporation’s property. Reserve funds may only be used for major repairs and replacements of the common elements and assets of the condo corporation. Condo corporations must collect contributions to the reserve fund from owners as part of their common expense fees. Condo corporations must complete reserve fund studies. Reserve fund studies are completed by certain specialists (e.g., engineers) and determine how much money needs to be in the fund to be able to pay for anticipated major repairs/replacements that will be needed in the future. Generally, after the first reserve fund study, reserve fund studies are completed/updated every three years.
Common expenses, which are typically described in the Condo Guide as “common expense fees” (also commonly known as condo fees or maintenance fees) are collected by the condo corporation under the Condo Act. In addition to including a contribution to the reserve fund as described above, common expense fees may be used to fund:
- The cost of maintenance to the common elements (e.g., standard elevator repairs, cleaning).
- The cost of your condo manager or management service provider.
- The condo corporation’s insurance policies.
- Services, such as garbage or snow removal, landscaping, security etc.
As an owner, you are required under section 84 (1) the Condo Act to pay your share of common expense fees attributed to your unit. As per section 84 (3) of the Condo Act, you are obligated to pay your common expense fees even if:
- You have waived or abandoned your right to use the common element(s);
- You have made a claim against the condo corporation; or
- The condo corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules restrict you from using the common element(s).
How are Common Expense Fees Calculated?
Condo boards make a budget every year which outlines various expenses for the fiscal year that are to be paid by the owners. The condo corporation’s declaration will state the portion of the common expenses each owner is required to contribute, expressed as a percentage. The percentage may, but need not, relate to the size of your unit. The amount of common expenses you are required to contribute may fluctuate (e.g., increase) for various reasons (e.g., as the needs of the condo corporation change).
Section 56 (1) of the Condo Act also permits condo corporations to pass by-laws governing the assessment and collection of common expense fees.
If you as an owner default on your obligation to pay common expense fees, your condo corporation automatically has a lien on your unit. The lien will cover the unpaid amount owing as well as all interest, and all reasonable legal costs and expenses incurred by the condo corporation in its attempt to collect.
The condo corporation has three months from when the default occurred to register a certificate of lien, otherwise the lien will expire after three months of the default. At least ten days’ notice is required to be provided to owners before the certificate of lien can be registered on title. Condo liens have priority over every other liability, including mortgages, subject to some exceptions, and may be enforced in the same manner as a mortgage.
As described above, your condo corporation will create a budget for every fiscal year. Should there be a budget shortfall (i.e., where expenses exceed revenues), your condo corporation may levy a special assessment to cover expenses. A special assessment is an extra one-time charge added to your common expense fees.
Under section 84 of the Condo Act, you are required to pay your unit’s share of the common expense fees, which may include special assessment fees. Your portion is calculated using the same percentage used to calculate your regular common expense fees.
A chargeback is an addition to an owner’s common expense fees to reimburse the condo corporation for a cost it incurred. This is to ensure that certain expenses or costs incurred are not levied to all
Your board may need to levy a special assessment for unforeseen major expenses such as repairs related to flooding, costs related to legal proceedings, etc. Your condo corporation’s by-laws may include provisions about special assessments. owners, particularly where they are not all responsible for the circumstances leading to the expense or cost.
Some chargebacks are specifically authorized by the Condo Act. For example, section 92 (4) of the Condo Act allows condo corporations to add repair costs to a unit’s common expenses fees, where repairs were completed on an owner’s behalf after they failed to complete them within a reasonable time. Condo corporations may also have provisions within their declaration that require owners to indemnify the condo corporation for certain costs, called an indemnification clause.
If an owner does not pay the chargeback, a lien will automatically be placed on the defaulting unit, just as would occur if the owner does not pay their regular common expenses on time. If the condo corporation registers a certificate of lien and the owner does not pay the lien in full (this is known as discharging the lien), the condo corporation has the ability to attempt to have the unit sold to cover the costs.
Under the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to obtain and maintain both property insurance and liability insurance:
- Liability Insurance Under section 102 the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to obtain and maintain insurance against the liability resulting from a breach of duty as the occupier of the condo corporation’s common elements or certain land as well as insurance against liability arising from the ownership and use of boilers, machinery, pressure vessels and motor vehicles.
- Property Insurance: Section 99 (1) of the Condo Act requires condo corporations to obtain and maintain insurance for damage to the units and common elements that is caused by certain major perils, including fire, smoke, lightning, windstorm, hail, or any other peril specified in the condo corporation’s declaration or by-laws.
A condo corporation’s obligation to insure the units does not cover “improvements” made to units. Section 99 of the Condo Act states a condo corporation’s obligation to insure against damage to units from major or other perils only includes what is called a “standard unit”.
What constitutes a standard unit in your condo corporation is important as it not only outlines responsibility for property insurance coverage but also partly determines what the condo corporation or the condo owner is responsible for when dealing with repairs after damage.
According to section 105 (1) of the Condo Act, if an insurance policy obtained by the condo corporation has a deductible clause that limits the amount payable by the insurer, the condo corporation is responsible for paying the portion of a loss that is excluded from coverage, and that amount must be included in the common expenses.
A single owner may be responsible for paying a deductible if a claim to the condo corporation’s insurer arose due to the owner’s (among others) action or inaction. In this case, the lesser of the deductible limit or the actual cost of the repairs must be charged back to that owner’s unit. For more information on chargebacks, please see section 3.4 of this Condo Guide.
Your condo corporation may also have an insurance deductible by-law that would extend the circumstances in which an owner would be responsible for paying for a property insurance deductible. Common examples of extended circumstances could include:
- Where the owner, occupant, or guest of the unit, through an act or negligence causes the insured damage; and/or
- Where the insured damage is caused by accident (i.e., where no one is at fault).
- Introduction to Condominium Living
- Condominium Governance
- Condominium Corporation Governing Documents
- Condominium Finances
- Living in Units and Using Common Elements
- Condominium Management
- Raising Issues with your Condominium Board
- The Condominium Authority of Ontario
- Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario
- Compliance and Enforcement Mechanisms