Condominium Act Meets Construction Act in Ontario
Ontario’s Construction Act has been a prevalent topic throughout the last year, and with the second wave of amendments rolling out later this year, the conversation isn’t over! Let’s continue our Ontario conversation today with a quick review of the intersection of Ontario’s Condominium Act and its Construction Act.
In Condominium Construction in Ontario? Unique Challenges Ahead, authors Michael Swartz and Jeff Scorgie, explain how land is held under the Condominium Act and the difference between liening a single condominium unit versus a common area.
Ontario Has Condominium Corporations
Under Ontario’s Condominium Act, when a condominium corporation is registered, the property is comprised of two different types: units and common elements.
Units are typically the individual housing space, and according to authors may also include “…other non-residential types of “units” such as parking spaces or storage lockers. In either event, whether residential or non-residential, each “unit” is assigned its own distinct PIN and is owned or leased exclusively by an individual owner.”
Whereas common elements are any space except the individual units.
“…such as landscaped areas, parking lots, guest suites, recreational facilities, hallways, elevators and foyers… What is important to understand is that the “comment elements” of a condominium are “owned” by all of the units on an undivided share basis.”
Improving a Unit?
It’s imperative to only lien the property improved, therefore, if you furnished to the improvement of a unit, and you are unpaid for furnishings, your lien should be filed on the individual unit. Each unit is issued a parcel identification number (PIN), which identifies the parcel of land and its owner.
Improving a Common Element?
Unlike individual units, the common elements of a condominium do not have PINs. Let’s say you provide carpeting for the building hallways, outside of the individual units. If you are unpaid for the carpeting, your lien won’t be filed against one unit; rather it will be filed against all.
In fact, according to authors, “registering a lien against the common elements requires a lien claimant to list all of the units in the “Properties” section of the claim for lien—thereby liening each unit in the condominium for its proportionate share in the common elements.”
Who Will You Notify of the Lien?
When filing a lien against a single unit, you would notify the property owner. When filing a lien against a common element, you would notify the condominium corporation and ALL unit owners. In an example provided by authors, if the condominium has 200 units with 200 different owners, you must notify all 200 owners. This means you must identify the owners, which let’s face it, could be quite costly (massive title work!).
OK, so what happens if you lien the common elements and individuals want to pay you to have the lien removed from their units? I’ll defer to the experts:
“… under the new Construction Act, an individual unit owner (or an owner of a CEC) can make a motion to court to vacate the registration of the lien as against their unit…. it poses some interesting practical questions for the lien claimant and the other parties in the litigation. Specifically, if many unit owners vacate a portion of the lien from their individual unit, it could become difficult to track who has paid what amounts into court to clear title.”
If you are liening a common element, hire a construction-oriented attorney. You need a legal professional familiar with the law(s) and who can manage payments on your behalf. Don’t try to go it alone!