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Linda Palfi
CNC Properties
Box 47033 Creekside, Calgary, Alberta
P: 403-998-7732
F: 403-592-8002
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Exterior windows and doors - who pays?

 

One of the beauties of condominium living is the freedom from performing exterior maintenance, be that roof repairs or cleaning out gutters, gardening work or shoveling snow. We pay for these to be done through our monthly condo contributions and forget all about them. This freedom, in fact, is why most of us buy into condominium living. When I owned a house I used to grumble that I spent more time cutting the lawn than playing on it with the kids. Today at my condo apartment home I spend that saved time soaking in my roof-top hot tub. Now THAT's condo life!

 

There is, however, one possible exception to this maintenance-free living. In some condominium buildings and townhouse developments the exterior windows and doors are the responsibility of each homeowner individually. That means that if an owner has a leaking seal in a double-pane window he or she must pay personally to repair or replace it. If all the exterior windows and patio slider doors are simply worn out, their replacement is at the homeowner's personal expense.

 

The history behind this is easy to explain. Before Alberta's new Condo Property Act of 2000 there was no rule on this question. Some condominium developments---often townhouses---had always left it up to each owner to maintain their glazing. When the new Act of September 1, 2000 required exterior glazing to be common property, an opt-out option was made available to avoid creating unfairness. If one owner had just paid personally to replace the glazing and outside doors of their home it would be unfair to make them contribute through condo fees towards their neighbour's new glazing the next year.

 

In an unfortunate development many other condo buildings and townhouse developments in Alberta also applied for this exemption, often on the advice of their property management firm. The thinking was that condo contributions could be held down for everyone by not having to save in the Reserve Fund to replace those components of the buildings. Even after the two-year deadline for the opt-out expired, some Calgary condo corporations applied to the courts and obtained permission to assign their windows and doors to individual owners.

 

So today in Alberta we have all new developments and most old ones in which exterior windows and doors are common responsibility, just like the buildings' cladding and roofs. We in these condo homes pay our condominium contributions and our corporations save towards replacement of all these exterior elements. But in a minority of buildings and more commonly in older townhouse developments, windows and doors are not covered, and each homeowner is responsible for them. If this is the case, there will be a notation on the first page of the condominium plan. You can't trust what the Bylaws say; it the Plan that matters.

 

For someone owning for many years in such a development this is hardly material, because there's only one taxpayer, as we say. Whether a homeowner pays for a new patio door personally or through their condo fees matters only in the timing of the expense, and they'll have had years of awareness of this situation.

 

If you are buying a resale condo home that has all original glass and frames, though, you'll want to know whether the condo corporation is responsible for them and has saved money for the replacements, or whether you'll be funding the project directly. It may well still be an affordable buy and a nice home, but buyers don't need a surprise expense after their purchase. If you're buying, be aware of this issue, and adjust the value of the property to compensate for this future expense if it's entirely yours to cover. If window and door replacements are not included in reserve-fund savings through the condo contributions, start your own little savings account to cover the cost when it arrives.

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