For many first-time home buyers, condo ownership is a popular choice. But before signing a Purchase Agreement, it’s critically important for buyers to understand the scope of the decision and how to protect their rights.

“There’s a wealth of information available to help you,” says Robin Dafoe, CEO and Registrar of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO), an administrative authority established in 2017 by the Ontario government.

The CAO is mandated to help protect the rights of condo owners, residents, and directors by providing them with easy-to-understand online services and resources. These include information on owners’ rights and responsibilities, mandatory training for condo directors, resources to help condo owners and residents resolve common issues, and Canada’s first fully-online dispute resolution service, the Condominium Authority Tribunal.

The CAO’s wealth of resources has been developed to support and empower Ontario’s condo sector, which has grown significantly over the past 15 to 20 years. More than 1.6 million Ontarians live in condos and that number continues to grow, with condos comprising almost 60 percent of new home builds. “The CAO was established in response to a call from condo communities across the province for services to enhance consumer protection and for ways to solve issues and settle disputes,” says Dafoe.

Helping de-mystify the condo market

For first-time condo buyers, the CAO offers much-needed guidance on many key considerations, such as the roles and responsibilities of owners, boards of directors and condo managers, the legal framework that governs the condo corporation, as well as budgeting and financing. When it comes to roles and responsibilities, for example, “both the owners and the board of directors play important roles in the well-being of the condo community,” says Dafoe. “Though owners can make a lot of decisions about their own units, many decisions are the responsibility of the board of directors, who are elected by the owners to manage the condo corporation.” First-time buyers also need to understand the unique role of the condo manager — the individual hired by many corporations to take care of daily operations — and ensure that person is licensed —  something they can check on the online public registry of the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO).

First-time buyers should also look at the declaration, bylaws, and rules of a prospective condo corporation. In addition, potential buyers should ensure they understand their options, regardless of whether they plan to live on the property. “If you’re thinking of buying a condo as an investment property with the intention to lease, you need to understand both the legal framework for condominiums as well as residential tenancy laws,” says Dafoe. The information provided by the CAO can help to clarify all of these areas before you buy.

Weighing your options — new vs. resale

First-time buyers should be aware of the different considerations when it comes to deciding between purchasing a new condo or a resale condo.

New condo units include those in the planning or construction stages and those that have been recently built. They can be less expensive than resale units and provide the buyer with choices when it comes to floor plans, finishes, and location in the building. The construction of the unit may take several years to complete and in some cases, the unit may not be built at all due to financing or other unanticipated issues. It’s important that buyers ask for as much information as possible from the developer and that they stay informed throughout the project.

With a resale condo, the unit is purchased from an existing owner. While resale units can be more expensive, buyers are able to see the unit before purchasing and can tour the condominium and its facilities to get a better sense of whether the community and building amenities meet their needs. Buyers can also review the condo corporation’s documents to view the budget and reserve fund and understand how it operates. Similar to new condo purchases, it’s important to obtain as much information as possible.

Either way, the CAO is a great support. To learn more about how the CAO can help you as a condo buyer, resident, or owner, check out their condo buyer’s guide at condoauthorityontario.ca.