Condo maintenance fees: What do they cover?

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by Zoocasa May 27, 2020 / No Comments

Condo maintenance fees are a monthly expense which all condo unit owners pay. It’s a shared pool of money that helps the building pay for expenses throughout the year.

When you’re renting a condo, you don’t need to consider this monthly fee separately from, or in addition to, your monthly rent because your landlord is paying this condo fee. However, when you’re purchasing a condo, maintenance fees should be an essential part of your decision-making process. This recurring cost is in addition to your mortgage. It’s one of the factors that’ll determine how much home you can afford. Keep in mind that fees can also change each year, usually increasing as the building ages due to the additional upkeep needed to maintain the structure.

How much are condo maintenance fees?

While typically condo fees relate directly to the square footage of your unit, but the cost per square foot can range between buildings. Depending on the building’s amenities, age and other factors, the price per sq. foot could be as low as $0.30 per sq. ft. or as high as $1.00 per sq. ft. For example, the monthly maintenance fee for most Toronto condo apartments is generally in the range of $0.60 to $0.75 per sq. ft.; thus, for a 600-square foot condo, maintenance fees could range from $360 to $450 per month.

This mandatory monthly fee is for utilities (such as water and garbage collection), building insurance, maintenance of common areas (such as the gym, pool, front desk, hallways, landscaping) and the building’s reserve fund.

Here are further encompassing details for each category.

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Utilities

The type of utilities covered by the monthly condo fee varies from building to building. Most fees include water and trash; however, heat and electricity may also be covered in other buildings.

If, for instance, water is covered, this would mean that running a tap, having a shower, filling a glass, would all be “free” each month. However, don’t see this as a sign to run rampant with your water usage. You may not be getting a water bill every month, but your condo building is. If utility usage gets higher than expected, you may see a rise in condo fees to compensate.

Remember that the more utilities covered, the higher your condo fees will probably be. When buying a condo, always double-check with your real estate agent and the property listing to confirm what utilities are covered by your condo fees. Other utilities that may or may not be covered are hydro (electricity), heating, and cable TV. If you or your agent are ever unsure or want to validate a listing’s information, you can contact the condo board or property management company to be sure.

Building insurance

Condo maintenance fees also cover your building’s insurance. This protects the building’s unit owners from liability from events like slips and falls on the building property, fire damage to the building, and other unexpected events.

The insurance paid for through condo fees doesn’t cover your personal property. It only covers common areas of the building, such as hallways, lobby, surrounding landscaping, elevators, etc. You still need your own condo insurance to protect your unit and its contents, such as the fixtures and personal belongings.

Common elements maintenance

Common elements in condo buildings generally refer to areas that all residents have access to, such as hallways, elevators, stairs, lobbies and building grounds. Condo buildings often have additional amenities such as a gym, pool, sauna, movie room/games room, and courtyards. One of the perks of living in a condo complex is that a lot of the day-to-day maintenance requirements for these common areas is  by the condo board and/or the building’s property management.  It allows the condo resident to enjoy the amenities without directly performing the cleaning and repairs associated with these areas.

Reserve fund

The reserve fund is a pool of money that the condo building sets aside for, or in anticipation of, major expenses beyond regular maintenance. This reserve is like a savings account that can be accessed for major repairs or for other large unexpected bills. For example, roofing, structural updates, hallway and lobby flooring and redesign, and more.

When buying a condo, your real estate lawyer will review the building’s “status certificate,” which, among other things, will include details on the reserve fund. A healthy reserve fund can signify that you won’t be hit by unexpected bills down the road.

The status certificate also indicates if there are “special assessments,” which are considerable expenses outside of the regular budget parameters. Special assessments are capital expenditures collectively paid for by the condo unit owners.  They can range from a few hundred dollars per unit to many thousands. Special assessments are required payments, so understanding the reserve fund health is critical in your purchasing process.

Why pay condo maintenance fees?

You might be asking yourself, “Why would I pay condo fees?” or “Why not just go buy a house?” These are good questions, especially because maintenance fees for condo units can add hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to your monthly expenses. Also, maintenance fees are paid on top of your mortgage financing.

However, condo fees often cover many expenses that freehold house owners typically pay, either directly or indirectly. For example, depending on the condo corporation, home maintenance and repairs (such as roofing and windows), utilities (such as water and garbage pickup), and upkeep (such as lawn mowing and snow removal) may be covered.

Having an extra monthly expense costing hundreds of dollars may initially seem high, depending on your lifestyle preferences. But, paying a monthly fee to have access to building amenities and having maintenance managed for you could be a worthwhile trade-off. For additional resources on whether buying a condo is right for you, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a checklist of pros and cons of condominium ownership.

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