An obstacle faced by many condominium corporations when attempting to enact a Standard Unit By-law is a lack of understanding by the unit owners of the purpose and operation of the Standard Unit By-law. This articles attempts to bring clarity to this topic.

The Standard Unit By-law establishes what constitutes a “standard unit”. Its inclusions are determined by the board of directors, with assistance from management and legal counsel. The purpose of establishing a “standard unit” definition is to ensure that everyone is aware of those parts of the unit that are covered under the condominium corporation’s insurance policy and those items for which each unit owner’s insurer will be responsible.

All items listed in the “standard unit” definition form part of an owner’s unit and are covered under the condominium corporation’s insurance policy. Items that are not included in the definition of “standard unit” are considered to be improvements or upgrades to the unit and are not covered under the condominium corporation’s insurance policy.

When a unit is damaged, and the damage is covered by the corporation’s insurance policy, the corporation or its insurance carrier will repair the damaged items that are listed as being part of the “standard unit”, subject to the insurance deductible, which may be, depending on what is included in the corporation’s governing documents, the owner’s responsibility. If damage occurs to items that are not included in the “standard unit” definition, those items will be considered improvements to the unit and therefore covered under the unit owner’s insurance policy. Each unit owner should ensure that all items in his/her unit that are not included in the Standard Unit By-law are covered by his/her insurance policy.

As much as possible, the “standard unit” definition should not include items that are often subject to owner change and upgrade over time, such as flooring, countertops, light fixtures, mirrors, and closet shelving. When such items are replaced by a unit owner, they are deemed to be an “improvement” to the unit. As a result, unit owners, whether they realize it or not, will continue to be responsible for insuring these replacements and upgrades. Appliances are not included because they are not considered part of the real property and do not form part of a unit. They are always the owner’s responsibility.

Corporations that have had numerous insurance claims are often faced with higher insurance premiums, or may even experience difficulty in obtaining insurance coverage. One way of addressing this is by not including items that are often associated with unit owner abuse or owner upgrade, such as flooring and countertops, in the “standard unit” definition. Not including such items in the “standard unit” definition will reduce the number of claims that may have in the past been the result of minor water damage and/or deliberate abuse by unit owners who wanted new countertops or flooring. In addition, the repair and/or replacement of these items are typically below the deductible and would often therefore be the owner’s responsibility. Unit owners should also be reminded that the Standard Unit By-law relates only to insurance and repair after damage obligations of the condominium corporation and the unit owners. The Standard Unit By-law does not shift maintenance responsibilities from the corporation to the owners or vice versa, nor does it affect liability for damage and/or insurance deductibles. The maintenance obligations of the condominium corporation and the unit owners will continue to be determined by the Condominium Act, 1998, and the corporation’s declaration. A well drafted standard unit by-law should coordinate effectively with insurance deductible provisions to maximize its effectiveness.

With better understanding, passing a Standard Unit By-law will be a shorter and smoother journey for condominium corporations. When enacting a Standard Unit By-law, it is also a good opportunity to remind owners of the importance of carrying unit owners insurance. Unit owners should be encouraged to carry insurance and, where possible, obtain coverage from the same company that insures the condominium corporation. Having the same insurer will reduce the likelihood of any gaps in coverage.

Newsletter tip

Under federal rules, telecommunication carriers are exempt from consulting with communities if they plan to erect towers that are less than 15 meters tall. Some carriers have deliberately built towers that are 14.9 meters tall to avoid public consultations. To stem the tide of citizen complaints over cell phone towers, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association has issued a new protocol that empowers communities to hold public consultations on all new wireless antenna systems regardless of size. The protocol’s key change is that municipalities will have the power to ensure that cell towers and antenna systems are subject to a full consultation prior to their construction.