Buying a Condo? The Difference Between Bylaws & Rules

By: Dana Gain

Buying a Condo? The Difference Between Bylaws & Rules

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If you have ever been confused about the difference between condo bylaws and rules, stick around.

If you are getting ready to purchase a new or resale condominium, you will want to understand the significance of condo bylaws and rules. The terms are often used interchangeably, however there are important differences between them.
Let’s take a look at the distinction between bylaws and rules so you can go into your purchase with a clear understanding of your responsibilities as a condo owner.

Before you can understand what bylaws are, you need to know how a condo corporation works.
When a new condominium is created it is registered as a special type of corporation. The corporation is usually comprised of individual units as well as common elements. The main exception is in the case of a common element condominium, where there are only common elements but no units.

For example, in a high rise building downtown the apartments are the individual units while the elevators, hallways, rooftop patio, gym and pool are part of the common elements. Together, these components make up the condo corporation.
When you purchase a condominium, you become a member of the condo corporation. The decisions made by the board of directors of the condo corporation has the potential to affect what happens in the building in which you live, which is why owners should be aware of how it all works.
Now we circle back to the definition of bylaws.
Bylaws are essentially the rulebook that sets out how the condo corporation should be operated. For example, the number of directors that are on the board, board meeting procedures, how voting should be conducted, and so on.

This is important for unit owners to understand because the board of directors is responsible for making decisions like when to repair the faulty elevator and when the fitness centre should receive new equipment. All these decisions have the potential to impact unit owners to some extent.
When you purchase a new or resale condo, the decisions made by the board of directors – who are making these decisions based on the condo bylaws – can impact your ability to enjoy the amenities and other common areas of the building.

Similar to the way bylaws set out how the condo corporation should be managed, condo rules outline how the units or common elements of the property can be used.
In effect, rules set out what owners and occupants can and cannot do.

For example, condo rules may limit your ability to use your condo a short-term rental, or impact whether or not you can have pets in the building. Rules may also prevent things like smoking in the units or common areas, or both.
It may provide some comfort to know that a board of directors cannot simply implement rules on a whim. There is a detailed process involved to ensure that condo owners can register disagreement about a new rule, and potentially prevent new rules from being implemented.
For more information on this process you can visit the CAO website.***

Reference: Condominium Authority of Ontario (2021). Declaration, bylaws and rules.

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