Authors – Sybil Johnson-Abbott, Desneiges Teddy
Ottawa’s condo market is currently trending as a seller’s market – with 40% fewer condominiums listed for sale last month than there were during the same month in 2018. It is best practice to engage your lawyer early in the process to help you navigate this market.
In every real estate purchase, a lawyer conducts the appropriate searches, prepares the transfer and registration documents and handles the transfer of funds, after the agreement of purchase and sale becomes firm. When you are buying a condominium, your lawyer reviews the status certificate prior to the deal becoming firm in addition to the above. The status certificate is a document that confirms whether or not the condominium corporation meets all legal requirements and is financially and legally “healthy”. The status certificate includes such things as the condominium corporation’s legal registration, Board of Directors information, special assessment decisions, if any, financial statements, insurance documents, boundaries and percentage ownership details, reserve fund studies and the condo’s rules and bylaws – such as whether you can install your inflatable Christmas décor collection on your patio.
In a seller’s market, your offer or sale conditions may only allow for a short turnaround time for this status certificate review, so it’s a great idea to have your lawyer in place ahead of time. Securing a lawyer in advance ensures that your lawyer understands your needs and plans for your condo before an agreement is even entered into. For example, if you are frequently away and plan to put your condo on AirBnB, your lawyer can ensure that such a use is not prohibited by the condo’s rules and regulations prior to the deal becoming firm. This can alleviate a lot of hardship.
There are several other advantages to engaging a real estate lawyer early in the process. Your lawyer can:
- help you understand your liability as a condominium owner and your rights under the condominium declaration;
- advise you on upcoming changes to provincial legislation that might affect your condo, especially if you plan to rent or sell in the future; and
- determine if the condominium corporation, the developer etc. are named in any legal actions, and could even provide additional historical information about the developer or building you are considering.
Finally, an experienced lawyer can provide you with an estimate of expected legal costs, which is useful for budget planning and determining how much cash you will need to close your condo deal.