The Yukon government is fast-tracking new condominium laws for the territory.
The Condominium Act was enacted in 1976 and no longer meets the requirements of today’s developers, owners and boards.
And with condo development and sales ballooning in the Yukon, that has led to some problems.
Helen Booth is the president of Whitehorse Condominium Board 95, which represents condo owners in Falcon Ridge.
The lack of clear rules has left that board embroiled in more than one legal fight with the developer.
“As the president there, I’ve been uniquely positioned to see how the act has been misinterpreted by a number of people in the Yukon, and how those misinterpretations have led to significant problems for owners over the years,” said Booth.
Updating the act is a great first step, but educating people about how to interpret the new rules will also be crucial, she said.
“So far the documents that have come out have been really plain language and straightforward and easy for people to understand, but that’s going to need to continue so that we don’t have people kind of just making different interpretations about how to deal with certain issues on their own.”
Sonny Gray is a property manager and condo owner in Whitehorse. He also leads the Whitehorse Condo Association, which represents condo owners.
The lack of appropriate rules for reserve funds and condo fee studies can be a big problem for owners, he said.
Older condos in particular tend to set condo fees based on day-to-day operating costs, he said. That becomes a problem when a big capital investment is required, like a roof replacement.
“Most developers are pricing units, in terms of condo fees, to sell. So they’ll lowball the condo fee. They don’t do a study. And that’s something that’s a big deal. It should be mandatory to do a condo fee study prior to selling units.
“That should be the basis of your condo fee. Not a number you just pulled out of a hat that will sell.”
As a property manager, he’s often coming into developments and breaking the bad news that condo fees will have to go up to cover long-term costs, he said.
“I’d say 95 per cent of the time when we take on a new contract as a property manager, we’re the bad guys. Because we come through the door and we go, ‘OK, well you guys are going to have to increase your condo fees.’ And they go, ‘Oh, well if we hadn’t hired you guys, we wouldn’t have had to increase them.’ Well, no, you would have, one way or another. You had to.”
The government has done a great job engaging with stakeholders on updating the act, he said.
“So far, we’ve been involved with every step of the process, which is excellent. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The government has begun drafting the new legislation, and hopes to have it ready for the fall of 2014, according to a news release.
That’s great news, said Gray.
“We got it bumped, really, because they were shooting for 2015. So the fact is that 2014 is months away, we’re on track. It would be nice to have it for the fall of next year.”
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