Because condos always include multiple levels of ownership that include private ownership of a unit and shared ownership of common elements, it can be confusing to understand what a buyer owns and what space is shared. And, because all of this space is connected, where are the lines between private ownership and shared ownership?

All of these will be outlined in the Governing Documents of the Condominium, and you should always review this document carefully and make sure you understand what the exact boundaries of your condo unit are. These boundaries will be different from condo to condo, but there will always be a definitive boundary outlined in the official Governing Documents.

There are three general levels of ownership to be aware of when purchasing a condo.

Unit

Anything defined as the "unit" is your private space and is owned exclusively by you. You will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of this space and everything within its boundaries. To determine what is considered part of your individual unit, you will have to read the Governing Documents: in some condo developments, the boundary will be the backside of the interior drywall of the unit's dividing wall, while in other buildings it may be considered the centre line of the dividing wall.

At the time of purchase, it is important to understanding where the exact boundaries of your condo are, especially if any alterations or renovations are being planned. For example, in multi-level condominium developments, it is common for the door connecting the unit to the hallway to be considered common property rather than unit property, making it impossible for the owner to switch out or reposition the door or its hardware.

Limited Common Elements

These are elements, systems or sections of the building shared by more than one, but fewer than all, of the owners in a condominium. These might include areas like balconies, storage areas, laundry facilities, and parking spaces. The Governing Documents will specify and define these limited common areas.

Limited Common Elements might also refer to specific heating systems, air conditioning units, chutes, flues, ducts, wires, bearing walls or other fixtures that are located outside the official boundaries of the unit, but that are allocated only for that unit's use. This might also include exterior features like porches, decks, window coverings, awnings, window boxes or other fixtures designed for a single unit's use. Depending on the element and the rules of the condo corporation, the maintenance of these ares may be up to the unit owner or the Board of Directors: check your Governing Document to find out.

Common Elements

The Common Elements of your condo are spaces, systems or elements that are shared and used by all owners. In a standard high or low rise condominium, for example, the land, foundation, perimeter walls, hallways, lobby, roofs, heating systems and water mains are all considered Common Elements and are shared by every unit.

The common spaces and elements of a condo are maintained by the Board of Directors of the Condo Corporation or the Homeowners Association, and are not the responsibilities of the individual unit owners. Each unit owner pays a monthly fee (commonly referred to as "condo fees") as established by the Board of Directors to cover the cost of upkeep and repairs for all common elements.

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