Does a unit owner need to get permission from the condominium board to renovate his/her unit?
Many condo owners do not understand condo living comes with restrictions and obligations. The first step is to read the condominium’s declaration, bylaws and rules, which restrict alterations, even if only to the unit (for example, painting, vertical blinds on windows and hardwood flooring).
Next, determine if the alterations are strictly to the unit, or if they impact the common elements (for example, piping, wiring and load-bearing walls) or exclusive use common elements (for example, balcony). This could be as minor as changing a light switch or bolting into the concrete floor slab.
If the latter then, pursuant to Section 98 of the Condominium Act, the owner must obtain the board’s approval and sign an alterations agreement, which must be registered on title against the unit. If an owner proceeds with alterations in breach of the condominium’s declaration, bylaws, rules or Section 98, the corporation can legally compel the owner to restore the area to its original condition at the owner’s expense. If the owner refuses, the corporation may do it and add the costs to the owner’s common expenses, then collect these costs in the same manner as any arrears (lien against the owner’s unit and, ultimately, power of sale). Depending on the nature of the alteration, the owner might also need a building permit.
Thus, before proceeding, a unit owner should ask management or the board for guidance.
Armand Conant is a partner and head of the condominium law group at Shibley Righton LLP. He is past-president of the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI), Toronto chapter, and chairman of the joint committee that prepared the legislative brief to the Ontario government regarding suggested amendments to the Condominium Act.