We have recently received a letter from our board suggesting that we engage a contractor to clean out the ducts leading to our dryers. The ductwork is part of the common elements so shouldn’t the cleaning be the responsibility of the corporation?

You should examine your declaration. A declaration can render owners responsible for specified common element maintenance but not common element repairs. It is also possible for the declaration to provide that ducts servicing a particular unit are part of the unit although located beyond the unit boundaries.

The previous owner of my highrise unit installed high-end windows in the bedrooms without signing an agreement with the corporation. The corporation is insisting that I sign an agreement under which I will assume all responsibility for the windows. Shouldn’t these windows have the same status as all other windows in the building and be the responsibility of the corporation?

Windows in highrise building are invariably common elements. A unit owner is entitled to alter common elements under the Condominium Act only if approved by resolution of the board, and an agreement is entered into and registered on the title to the owner’s unit. The agreement must set out the respective responsibilities of the owner and the corporation for the maintenance, repair and insuring of the alteration. Those responsibilities — and the obligation to reimburse the corporation for the cost of preparing and registering the agreement — are usually stated to rest with the owner.

The agreement is intended to be registered before the alteration is carried out. Nonetheless, the corporation may require a non-compliant unit owner either to subsequently enter into the agreement or to remove the alteration and restore the common elements to their previous condition. You are not the non-complying owner. Registration of the agreement provides notice to a subsequent unit purchaser of their responsibilities in regard to the alteration. The alterations are part of the common elements and in the absence of notice to you by means of a registered agreement, the obligations to maintain, repair and insure the alteration remain as specified in the declaration.

The opinions of lawyers may differ, but in my view you cannot be compelled to enter onto the agreement. The situation may be different if the status certificate you received prior to the purchase referred to the previous owner’s failure to enter into the agreement.

We are one of three neighbouring condominium corporations that have entered into a shared facilities agreement. Our corporation, without owner approval, has started a lawsuit against the other two relating to interpretations of the agreement. We are told that the litigation could take years and there has already been a hefty special assessment to cover the legal costs. Was the board entitled to institute the lawsuit?

A condominium corporation is entitled to commence a lawsuit for damages and costs in respect of damage to the common elements, the units or the corporation’s assets. A vote of the owners is not required but written notice of the general nature of the lawsuit must be given to the owners — except for an action in Small Claims Court or to enforce a common expense lien or to require compliance with the Condominium Act, the declaration, bylaws or rules.

The Condominium Act provides, however, that an agreement between two or more condominium corporations is deemed to contain a provision to submit a disagreement relating to the agreement to mediation followed, if necessary, by arbitration. Your corporation was not entitled to sue the other corporations if the dispute related to the interpretation of the shared facilities agreement.

Content retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2014/09/12/cleaning_dryer_ducts_may_be_up_to_owners.html.