I’ve been renting quite a few new condos. For the most part everything is going really smoothly. Unfortunately I recently had a problem crop up that you should keep in mind. Everyone knows that new condos often have deficiencies that need to be addressed and that the builder takes a while to getting around to repairing the items. In effect the entire unit is under warrantee and the developer comes along at his or her own schedule to repair issues. I have found that generally they do a good job of prioritizing issues in condos and that they are really responsive. This is usually a trade off for the tenant – They get a brand new suite but have to deal with the hassles of hosting the repair people every once in a while.
Obligation To Maintain
The landlord always has the obligation to maintain an apartment and there is no such thing as an “AS-IS” rental. In one suite I had a problem with a brand new fridge being full of ice and in another unit I had a missing part on a washer dryer. Both problems were reported immediately to the proper authorities, in writing and the fridge with pictures. Both deficiencies took several weeks to resolve.
A more extended period of time to repair is not necessarily a breach of the Landlord’s obligations to maintain. In my opinion a breach of the obligation to maintain requires inattention and negligence both of which do not apply to these cases. In Landlord & Tenant Board cases where there is compensation or abatements, you will find that the obligation to maintain a property requires the following items.
- Knowledge - The resident must have reported an issue. In some cases people will not fill out a work order or bring a necessary repair to the landlord’s attention. Landlords are not expected to be psychic. This concept extends to issues that are thought to be repaired. Let’s say there is a roof leak and the landlord hires a roofer (and has proof) then the next time it rains the roof leaks again. The tenant is required to report further instances of leaking as well otherwise the landlord will assume the leak has been repaired and not be able to call the roofer back. Follow up is important.
- Negligence - If the landlord is informed and then does nothing within a reasonable time frame, at that point there is negligence. However, where I see compensation being involved, I have seen the city issue orders and then the landlord ignore them as well. I have seen the Electrical Standards Authority issue orders and they are also ignored by the landlord. At one point, if you’ve managed to ignore every single property standards agency that exists, you deserve it.
- Documentation - It doesn’t matter how much work you do, it matters how well you document your responses to the tenant request for service and your action and if those actions were prudent and reasonable. Take pictures.
- Damages - Generally the Landlord & Tenant Board is concerned with damages. You washer/dryer didn’t work therefore you had to do laundry elsewhere and that cost you money. It cost $20 per week so your abatement will be $80 per month until the washing machine is fixed.
In one case, I mediated an agreement with the tenant because the previous tenant lost the key to the storage locker and I asked for a copy and it took the building three months to produce a key, even though we paid for it to be duplicated months before. It should take a maximum of 2 weeks to get a duplicate to a storage locker, but condos generally exhibit a complete lack of urgency regarding your tenants and your obligations to them. Their slowness cost the owner $150, I made sure I faxed the Order to the building so they could see that their lack of response had real life consequences for the owner.
50% to 70% of apartments in certain buildings are rental or investor owned suites. There is discrimination going on in condos, tenants in the building are considered bad news and certain buildings do everything they can to block tenants, make it hard for owners to rent out their suites and generally respond in a half hearted, backwards manner to any requests for service. They seem to be more reticent with property managers and do everything they can not to talk to you. In one building I’ve had to fax over the power of attorney for the apartment 5 times. That’s just about every time I’ve had dealings with them.
Every condo will require a form 5 to be filled out by the property manager or the resident or the owner or all of them. This document basically states the resident’s name, any disabilities, telephone numbers, emails, pets and next of kin. You will also be asked for the rental amount and a copy of the lease for the building file.
In every condo, there is a requirement to book the elevator and give a deposit for damage. Before you are allowed to move your stuff into the elevator you must show proof of insurance. This protects the building, the suite owner and the tenant. The important part of the coverage is the liability coverage. People don’t know how easy it is to leave a cloth in their sink, walk away, and cause a flood that will penetrate 5-6 floors down and cause tens of thousands in damage to property. For $20 per month you’re protected from being sued personally in case it happens to you, you’re covered in the case of your stuff getting wrecked, and you’re even covered for your reasonable expenses if you had to leave your house because of damage.
Property Management Everywhere
I guess my point is that even if you buy a brand new condo doesn’t mean you won’t have issues. No matter what kind of property it is and how old it is, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.