Know where you stand

Each condo has its own set of documentation, which you should review prior to entering into a lease with a prospective tenant. Some buildings require a minimum length of term for a lease by enacting short term tenancy rules, while others may not have any such restrictions.

It is also important to see if there are any other rules or provisions in the documentation which could limit the number of occupants you can rent to. Some condominiums have occupancy standards which limit the number of people residing in the unit based on the number of bedrooms or square footage of the unit. Many condos have provisions which stipulate that the unit can be occupied only as a single family residence. This could prevent you, for example, from renting to a group of students.

Once the unit is rented, you have an obligation to notify the condominium board or property management that your unit is rented and will be required to provide certain information. In Ontario, for example, every person leasing their unit must provide the condo corporation with a copy or a summary of the lease.

Owner responsibility

Owners should always provide copies of the condominium documentation to their tenants. Indeed, in some provinces, this is mandated by legislation. Owners are responsible for the actions of their tenants, and this would include any costs relating to damage caused by the tenants or any costs associated with breaches of rules.

Once the documentation is provided to the tenant, you should highlight some of the restrictions. These usually include areas such as the types of window coverings permitted, whether there is a requirement to cover hardwood flooring, pet rules, noise restrictions, barbeque prohibitions, smoking rules and any parking space limitations (including motorcycles, scooters and Smart Cars).

It is often a good idea to incorporate reference to the condominium documentation into any lease with your tenant and to seek advice from a lawyer as to what additional provisions should be included. Your lawyer should also explain how the interplay between the condominium legislation and residential tenancy laws may impact on your termination rights in the event that your tenant does not comply with the condo documentation.

Insurance needs

You will also need to advise your insurance company that you are renting your unit and should stress the importance of your tenants obtaining their own policy to get appropriate coverage.

You will continue to have an obligation to pay maintenance fees, common expenses and property taxes as a condominium owner. If there are separate meters for utilities, you will need to determine whether you are passing those costs on to the tenant or if you are absorbing them yourself. If the tenant is paying, then you will have to provide notification to the utility providers.

Notices of meetings, financial and other information will continue to be sent to the address noted on the records of your condominium, so it is important that you provide your current address. If you want your tenant to attend and vote at meetings, then you can provide a power of attorney or a proxy for each meeting. In some instances, condominiums permit tenants to be elected to the board of directors.

If you intend to use any amenities in the building after you rent your unit, you may find non-resident owners are not be entitled to use such facilities. You will need to check to see if this is one of the restrictions for non-resident owners in the condo documentation.

Remember that as an owner, you continue to be responsible for your unit, including maintenance of certain items that are set out in the documentation. Check to see what items you are responsible for. Items such as smoke detectors, washer hoses, dryer vents and fan coil units are commonly your responsibility, and any failure to maintain could result in damages and liability. Being proactive and conducting inspections of the unit on an ongoing basis will go a long way in reducing any risks of maintenance failures.

Denise Lash is a condominium lawyer at Heenan Blaikie, host of MondoCondo tv and founder of the Toronto Condo Show.

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