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Declaration, By-laws, and Rules

In addition to the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Condo Act”), condominium corporations are governed by the declaration, by-laws, and rules. It is important to be familiar with these documents, often collectively referred to as the “governing documents”. When you buy a condo, regardless of whether you decide to live in it or lease it out, you become part of a larger community of owners who all have a collective interest in the condo corporation and its operations. These documents are instrumental in establishing how the condo corporation must conduct its business and manage its affairs.

The governing documents contain important information regarding the powers and responsibilities of the condo corporation, an owner’s rights and obligations, as well as what is permitted in the condo corporation and restrictions that must be observed.

Every condominium unit owner and occupant (e.g., tenants or guests) is required to comply with the Condo Act, and with the condo corporation’s governing documents. Condominium corporations are required to take steps to enforce their governing documents when non-compliance issues occur.

The Hierarchy

Taken together with the Condo Act, the declaration, by-laws, and rules are the main sources of condo governance and they exist in a hierarchy in the following order:

  1. The Condominium Act, 1998;
  2. The declaration;
  3. The by-laws; and
  4. The rules.

The Condo Act is at the top of the hierarchy and it applies to and regulates all condo corporations in the province of Ontario. The Condo Act lays out the requirements for each of the governing documents, how they are created and amended, and the requirement that they be consistent with the Condo Act. Not only do the governing documents need to be consistent and in compliance with the Condo Act, but also with any document higher in the hierarchy. For example, a condo rule cannot contradict the condo corporation’s by-laws, declaration, or the Condo Act.

Each governing document type has a different purpose and the requirements to amend each document also differ. Click on the link for each document for more information.

  • The Declaration
    The declaration is one of the two legal documents that create a condo corporation when registered with the Land Registry Office. The declaration is often considered the constitution of the condo corporation and contains many important provisions.
  • The By-laws
    The by-laws set out various key aspects of how the condo corporation will govern itself such as the number of directors on the board, board meeting procedures, and how the affairs of the condo corporation are generally conducted. The by-laws can be considered the administrative guide for the condo corporation.
  • The Rules 
    Condo rules are designed to promote the safety of owners and prevent unreasonable interference to the use and enjoyment of the units as well as common elements. The condo rules will dictate what individuals on the condo corporation property can and cannot do.

Enforcing the governing documents

Every condominium owner and occupant is required to comply with the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Condo Act”), and with the condominium corporation’s governing documents.

Under section 17 (3) of the Condo Act, condominium corporations are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that everyone in the condominium corporation complies with the Condo Act and the condominium corporation’s governing documents.

If a condominium corporation has an issue regarding compliance with the governing documents, the board must determine how to resolve the issue. In most cases, condo corporations will need to:

  1. Determine who is causing the issue
  2. Notify the unit owner and / or occupant causing the issue that they must comply with the governing documents; and
  3. Follow up with the individual(s) causing the issue to determine if the issue has been resolved.

If the issue continues, the board may need to take additional steps to enforce the governing documents. This can include:

  • Sending the unit owner and / or occupant causing the issue a letter from the condo corporation’s legal counsel.
  • If the issue falls within the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s (CAT) jurisdiction, condo corporations can file an application with the CAT to resolve the dispute.
  • If the issue is not within the CAT’s jurisdiction, condo corporations can resolve the dispute in private mediation and / or arbitration in accordance with section 132 (4) of the Condo Act; or in some cases, apply to the Superior Court of Justice for a compliance order in accordance with section 134 of the Condo Act.

For more information on the most common types of condo disputes, including how to resolve certain types of compliance issues, access the CAO’s Guided Steps to Common Issues webpage here.

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