Thursday, August 10, 2017

Top Ten: Condo Rules You May (Or May Not…) Disagree With


Living in a condominium means living with rules, some of which you may abide by, some of which you might loathe, and some you think are unique to your stupid, annoying, awful building.

Over the years, both living in condos and selling to clients, I've come to learn which rules irk people the most, as well as which are common and which are not.

Let me provide some context on the top ten rules condo-owners disagree with, which of course, some of you might argue serve a purpose…


Honestly folks, I feel like I've already written this blog.

Ten years, 2,000+ blog posts, and while I know I've covered "condo rules" many times, part of me thinks I may have touched on this subject before.

We've talked a lot in the past about condo rules.

I wrote a blog in 2014 called, "Five Rules That Residents Of Your Condo Are Breaking."

In 2009, I wrote, "Ignore The Rules," again, about broken rules.

And on a related topics, in 2015 I wrote, "Top Ten Subtle Annoyances For First-Time Condo Owners."  That was a doozie!

So while we've covered the ideas below before in passing, today I want to dedicate an entire post to the rules that most residents disagree with, and those that do agree with them, really think they're necessary.

I welcome your feedback on all of these, and whether you agree or disagree, and of course, why.

10) Closing the outdoor common elements for the season.

It seems reasonable, at least to most people.

I had a client once who disagreed, and took this issue as far as he could take it.

He told me, "I'd love to be able to enjoy a fine Cuban cigar outside, on the rooftop terrace, staring at the CN Tower and city lights.  But the goddam condo insists on closing the terrace from November to March."

He wrote letters, he solicited legal opinions, all the while, basically being the only person in the building who wanted to use the rooftop terrace, in -15 degree weather.

Sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

But sometimes, the fact that one person out of 200-some-odd residents is complaining about a rule, simply reinforces the appropriateness of that rule.

If you've served on a board of directors, you know that the common elements are closed because of insurance reasons.

There's not as much maintenance, and virtually no "risk" attributed to the elements, in spring and summer.  But come winter, management would have to salt every square inch of the rooftop terrace or other common areas, not to mention mop the hallways and stairs leading to and from the common areas, as drunk party-goers aren't going to clean up after themselves.

Add in the higher insurance premiums associated with an outdoor space, in the winter, with high foot traffic, and just about every condominium in Toronto closes their terrace for the winter.

But as I alluded to above, there will always be people who disagree.

9) Maximum visitor parking passes issued for each unit, per month.

I know I've told this story before.  I just can't find the blog…

At our condo AGM a couple of years ago, a resident stood up and said, "What's with the maximum monthly visitor parking passes?  My girlfriend lives with me, and I'm only allowed seven passes per month?  What the hell is this?"

Agree or disagree with the rule about a maximum number of monthly visitor parking passes, but you can't deny that the quote above illustrates exactly why the measure is put in place.

In the case above, if the girlfriend lives in the building, and wants to park her car there every night, then she should rent a parking space.

Visitor parking is for visitors, and the potential for abuse is massive.

8) Concierge cannot open door for residents.

This is a new one, eh?

Imagine coming home and carrying a dozen grocery bags, with your shoulders aching, fingers about to fall off, and smiling at the concierge – who you see every day, looking for he or she to open the door.

Then imagine the concierge – Jake, or Cathy, or whoever you see, day-in, day-out, shaking their head to say "no."

This is how some buildings in Toronto operate.

Every resident must use their key-FOB to access the building, regardless of day, time, circumstance, or being "known" to the concierge.

It's an across-the-board, no-room-for-grey-area approach that some management companies and/or board of directors' have implemented to avoid the concierge having to make a decision on who they know, who they don't, and who they might.

7) Cannot walk pets through front lobby.

A family member of mine lives in a building with this rule.

You cannot, at any time, under any circumstances, walk your pet through the front lobby.

You can however, walk your dog (or cat, or bird…) through the back lobby.

You can also, amazingly, carry your pet through the front lobby.

The rules basically boil down to the feet touching the tile.

You're not allowed to "walk" your pet through the front lobby, but you can "bring" them through, so long as they're being carried.

If you've got an 8-pound Maltese, you're good.

If you have an 80-pound Rottweiler, you'd better have been working those biceps at the gym…

6) No storage on terraces.

This is an interesting one, since it can take many shapes and forms.

Some condominiums specifically outlaw storage units, and I'm not sure why.

A client of mine bought a condo with a large storage shed – the kind you see sitting in the parking lot on display at Home Depot, and the unit was used by the previous owners for as long as they had lived there.

Upon moving in, and using the storage shed, he received a note from his property manager saying that storage units weren't permitted on terraces, balconies, or any exclusive-use common elements.

To make matters worse, when he refused to remove it, they fined him, and debited his bank account!

A storage shed is one thing, but some condos don't allow any storage, ie. bicycles, winter tires, or whatever else you might store for a day, or a winter.

There's a level of subjectivity to this too, so you don't really know what management will have a problem with, often, until they make it your problem…

5) Gym is closed for cleaning at set times, daily.

Most condominiums with gyms have a time, every day, where the gym is closed for cleaning.

This makes sense, right?

You want a clean gym, and you want to enjoy the space.

You're happy that the property manager is making this a priority, and rather pleased with the overall condition of the facility whenever you use it.

However, that doesn't mean that when you see the gym is closed every day from 12pm to 1pm, that you're going to abide by the rules.

Every man, woman, and child in the condo suffers from the same hypocritical contradiction: they want the gym cleaned, but not when they want to use it.

Let's be honest: you don't need to shut down the entire gym, when you need to clean it.

If you're the cleaner, and you're wiping down the dry sweat on the stairmaster, why can't a guy be doing squats 200 feet away?

If you're on the treadmill running a 5K, does it bother you that somebody is cleaning the adjacent yoga room?

This is one of those rules that just about nobody abides by, for what it's worth…

4) Certified funds required to book moving elevator.

When you go to book the moving elevator in your building, for moving in, moving out, or for a delivery, you almost always have to provide a deposit cheque.

This makes sense, right?

No objections here.

Any time you're turning a couch up on its side, and trying to ensure it doesn't slam against the glass walls that surround the inside of the elevator, I think it's fair to say you risk causing damage.

I don't know many people who would object to the "deposit cheque necessary to book moving elevator" rule.

But what about when the deposit cheque has to be certified?

That takes things to a whole new level.

For one thing, the amount is arbitrary, and differs significantly from one building to the next.

In my building, it was $75.00 for five years, until all of a sudden, it increased to a whopping $500.

So what if a resident needed that $500 in certified funds?

First of all, it means the resident can no long say, "Oh shoot, I have a fridge coming from tomorrow, I'd better go down and book the elevator."  Now they have to plan in advance to get to the bank, stand in line, dole out $8.00 for a bank draft, and do so before the elevator is reserved.

But isn't $500 a lot to some people?

Aren't there a lot of people in Toronto living month-to-month, especially those who rent, and complain that prices and rents are too high?

Maybe you're only taking that $500 from your bank account for two or three days, but I think for some people, that's a huge ask.

So what are the pros and cons of this approach?

Well personally, every time I write a cheque to book the moving elevator in my building, I do so on an account that has been cancelled for three years.  Not because I'm trying to stiff the condominium corporation in the event that I damage the elevator, but because that's the cheque book that happens to be in our hall table.

So using my own situation as an example of where things can go wrong for the condominium corporation, are they within their right to ask for certified funds, or is this being over the top?

3) Must book a security guard for any usage of the party room.

Note the word "any."

As in, if you want to use the space to play Warhammer with your old high school buddy.

As in, if you want to use the room for eight minutes, with one person, you need to book a security guard.

Oh – and perhaps we should add "Three Hour Minimum" to this rule, just for fun.

So imagine being a parent who lives in a condo with two kids, wants to use the party room for them to run around for ten minutes, and being expected to book a security guard for $28.60 per hour, for three hours.

This is how a lot of condominiums in Toronto function, and residents hate it.

Living on the floor that's down the hall from the party room, I can tell you that I believe all parties with 20, 30, or 40 people should have a security guard standing in the hall to ensure that drunk morons don't engage in a "who can shout louder" contest at 12:30am.

But where do you draw the line?  Do you say, "More than ten persons requires a security guard?"  Then how do you enforce that?  What if the person booking the party room says there will be eight people, but another dozen show up?

This is why the rules is often so hard-and-fast.

It goes back to the "no grey area" school of thinking with the concierges not buzzing anybody into the building.

You want to use the party room?  Book a security guard.  For one hour, or the whole night.  For your two kids, or your 40 friends from work.

Not every condominium has this rule, but many do.

2) Concierge does not accept or hold keys.

This is it, folks.

This is the rule that irks the most condo owners, and is the most disagreed-with in the city.

But it's not the most controversial, and most talked about, and thus why it sits at #2, and not #1.  And I think you'll see in a moment why #1 is #1…

Of course, if you're on a board of directors in your building, and you had a hand in bringing this rule about concierges not holding keys to your building, then I'm sure you'll post your displeasure below.

But at the risk of not remaining unbiased, let me say that I wholeheartedly disagree with this rule, for the same reason we've discussed over and over: a concierge is supposed to help.  The word "concierge" comes from a French root word, meaning "help."  Or you might say it comes from the Latin "conservus" which means "fellow slave," but either way, I believe a concierge is supposed to help residents.

Holding keys – for the dog-walker, the cleaning lady, or your mother, comes with risk and liability.  I understand that.

But unlike closing the terrace in the winter, I don't think that refusing to hold keys for residents is reasonable, given that every resident, at some point, will want a key held.

Toronto's downtown core is full of dog-owners, and they all have dog-walkers.  The city is also full of lazy and/or busy people who need cleaning services.  There are countless other reasons as to why you might need a key held at concierge, and this further illustrates just how important it is that a building does allow front desk, concierge, security, and the like, to hold keys.

1) No short-term rentals.

Two years ago, I don't know that we'd even be talking about this.

And while I don't want to think that my building is being used as a youth hostel to people who plan to stay in the unit for one night, and couldn't possibly care less how they leave the unit or treat the building, there are a LOT of downtown Toronto residents who want to lease their unit by the night.

This point could be an entire blog post, so at the risk of being too brief, I think enough has already been said.

But there isn't a "rule" in Toronto condos today that's under more scrutiny than the Anti-AirBnB rule being referred to as "no short-term rentals."

And I'd love to know your completely biased thoughts on this.  Let me know if you'd prefer to live in a building where AirBnb is allowed.

The post Top Ten: Condo Rules You May (Or May Not…) Disagree With appeared first on Toronto Real Estate Property Sales & Investments | Toronto Realty Blog by David Fleming.

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