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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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Have a professional update your Bylaws

 

Volunteers perform many tasks in condominium developments but one thing they should not do is write Bylaws. Sure, the Directors should list the things they want covered and specify what behaviors they want controlled, but the document itself should be written by a condo-qualified lawyer. It's similar to having a will and testament prepared: you instruct your lawyer as to its contents but leave it to him or her to put your wishes into legal language.

 

Once Directors have the draft document in front of them they should confirm that everything is covered, go over it to find typos, and even tweak wording and clarify intentions. Lawyers know the law, yet sometimes grammar can be improved or a misunderstood instruction can be corrected before it becomes final. In the end you want a set of Bylaws that will stand up in court. The wording must be legally enforceable and address provisions of Alberta's Condo Property Act.

 

Before heading off to a lawyer, of course, a condominium Board is well advised to communicate with all owners and summarize the changes that are proposed, perhaps giving 90 days for feedback and asking whether anyone wants a general meeting of all owners before proceeding. Usually owners are happy to leave Bylaws up to the Board, and no one speaks up. The Board then instructs the lawyer, edits the draft, and puts the final version to all the owners for a vote to adopt the new Bylaws.

 

Under Alberta's Condo Property Act, Bylaws require a 75% double-majority vote to be adopted. In other words, 75% of the units must vote in favour, and they must represent 75% of the total unit factors. Keep in mind that those not participating in the vote are deemed to have voted "no", so virtual unanimity is required to successfully adopt Bylaw changes. If your building or townhouse development has even a few owners opposed to the changes they'll combine with the non-participants and make 75% support an impossible threshold.

 

No actual meeting need take place to adopt new Bylaws. Your Board will vote to recommend the final version to owners and then circulate the resolution of adoption to the owners. Prepare voting sheets with the resolution and affix owners' mailing labels obtained from your property manager, then write in the legal description of the suites, titled parking stalls, and titled storage lockers for each owner (some buildings don't have titled stalls or lockers). Make a copy of the entire set and then distribute the originals. Directors usually volunteer to go door-to-door to collect signed copies and carry along the duplicate sheets for people who can't find the one you delivered or mailed to them. When you've collected enough signed voting sheets to exceed 75% of all units, go to the Land Titles Office to register your new Bylaws. Be patient with this process. It will take door knocking, reminders, and follow-up to obtain the needed signatures.

 

Failed efforts to change Bylaws are those that propose a divisive change or perhaps one that's marginally legal. An example would be an attempt to impose an age restriction, which obviously isn't going to get the vote of those under that age threshold and those who foresee needing to market their condo home without such limitations. If your new Bylaws will ban dogs, I'd first have a house rule prohibiting dogs for a few years and amend the Bylaws in this regard after the last dog has died or the last dog-owning resident has sold and moved out.

 

Recently I've begun to add schedules to Bylaws, such as a list of assigned parking stalls and storage lockers. Land Titles has no objection to registering Bylaws including those details, making such assignments as good as permanent and letting condo home sellers show buyers that they have the permanent right to park in a particular stall and store things in a particular locker. Oh; have the lawyer put the name of your building or development on the face of your Bylaws, which otherwise carries only a document registration number. You could also put in an introductory paragraph summarizing your building's address, number of suites, and so on.

 

Condominium Bylaws can obviously be customized for your specific condo apartment building, townhouse development, or even for your bare-land condo house subdivision. Have them say exactly what you and your fellow owners want. But it's unwise to do the actual writing; leave the legalese to the lawyers.

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