1. What covenants, bylaws, and restrictions govern the property? Many associations are strict about what you put on or by your front door, and whether you can store anything in your parking stall. Are any grandfather clauses are in place? Grandfather clauses mean that you may find that rules are different those who buy a property after a certain date. An examples is when new owners can’t rent out their units or own a pet, but people who bought earlier can.
2. How solid are the finances of the association? Find out how that money is being spent by reviewing the Budget and Financial Statement. See the Reserve Study for details on how well they are planning for future expenses. Higher monthly fees are not necessarily a negative, depending on what is included and what reserve funds are in place.
3. What is the past history of the monthly association fees? Most boards raise assessments each year to build reserves to fund future repairs. Unless they are flush with money, it’ s normal for the fees to go up around 5% a year to cover expenses: water and electricity on the common areas, insurance on the building, and increased costs of payroll for the staff – to name a few.
4. Have any special assessments have been mandated in the past five years? How much was each owner responsible for? Some special assessments are unavoidable. But repeated, expensive assessments could be a red flag about the condition of the building or the board’s fiscal policy.
5. What does the Maintenance Fee cover? Find out precisely what it includes. Typically, it covers common-area maintenance, recreational facilities if any, trash collection, building repairs, and water and sewer. Other possible areas are pest control, basic TV cable, and sometimes electricity.
6. Can you live with the House Rules? Some buildings are very strict about enforcement, and others are not. You can probably tell from a stroll around the property. If you have pets, be sure you understand the policy. Planning to put holiday decorations on your front door? Find out if that’s allowed. And don’t assume you can add a washer and dryer if none currently exists. Ditto with air conditioners – some don’t permit them due to energy costs, or the difficulty in safely installing them. Others prohibit hard floors (tile, wood, etc.) in certain rooms to keep the noise level down.
7. Is the condo building in litigation? This is common, but a red flag. If the builder or home owners are involved in a lawsuit, reserves can be depleted quickly and financing can be hard to obtain. Some disputes have gone on for years.
8. Is the developer reputable? Find out what other projects the developer has built and visit one if you can. Ask residents about their perceptions. If the roof, windows, and bricks aren’t in good repair, they become your problem once you buy.
A majority of these inquiries can be answered via the Form B documentation in BC or Strata Package requested by your Realtor, or from the Strata Management company with the Owner’s consent. It is highly recommend that you have your Realtor® or preferably a Real Estate lawyer assist with this review.
(This information has been provided by Sean Aujla & Associates (2014) please consult with your Legal Advisor prior to acting upon)