The Home Renovation Tax Credit (“HRTC”) generated considerable buzz after being introduced as part of the Federal Budget this year. The HRTC provides a tax credit of up to $1,350 for homeowners to perform renovations on houses, cottages and residential condominium units.

Click here to see Bob Gardiner’s summary of how the HRTC might apply to both condo corporations and unit owners.

With so many condominiums reaching 15-20 years of age, the HRTC will likely cause a small surge of renovation work in condominium units this year, which might help the economy in a small way and add value to condo units and complexes alike. But with this good news comes the possibility of a corresponding surge in disputes between condominium corporations and their unit owners.

The most common disputes that might arise over unit renovations include disturbances to neighbours during the renovations and damage to or improper use of the common elements by contractors. After the work is complete, typical disputes relate to nuisances from sound transmission or water escape, often the result of substandard soundproofing or faulty plumbing. Such disputes and problems might be avoided if the condo corporation is proactive at the outset. Here are a few ideas to consider, but remember to get legal advice before implementing them.

Condo corporations should ensure that their renovation policies and information and approval requirements are comprehensive and clearly defined. Make sure that the owners can easily understand precisely what is required of them. A soundproof flooring rule prescribing a specific type or quality of insulation to be laid is a good example of how the corporation can ensure that the installation of a hardwood floor will not cause disturbances to downstairs neighbours in the future.

If your corporation’s declaration requires Board approval for unit renovations, insist that requests for approvals be submitted using a clearly-worded standardized form that requires all necessary information to be included. Once you have devised a suitable request form and approval procedure, do not accept incomplete or informal renovation requests or requests made by email message or over the phone.

Once appropriate renovation rules, guidelines and procedures are in place, make sure that the relevant information and forms are easily accessible. Have copies available in the office and post a set on your website. Consider creating a special renovation package containing relevant excerpts of the declaration, by-laws and rules, specification of the unit boundaries and an explanation of the approval process as well as all necessary forms. Prepare a hand-out for owners to give to their contractors, listing any special requirements that contractors must observe, including:

  • day and time restrictions on when work can be performed
  • parking rules
  • procedures for use of loading docks / elevators
  • policy for water/hydro shut-offs
  • avoiding damage to common elements
  • how to report damage or safety issues
  • security and identification protocols

If unauthorized work or violation of the condo documents is observed or reported to management, the Board or manager should give a prompt written demand that the offending unit owner halt work immediately. It may become more difficult to pursue an owner for damages or costs arising from unauthorized work if action is not taken promptly after detecting the work in progress. Get legal advice as soon as possible in such circumstances.

By establishing and effectively communicating clear rules, procedures and explanatory materials, your unit owners can make quality renovations to their homes, add value to your condominium complex and give our ailing economy a much-needed boost.