7 simple rules for condo living

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Buying a condo is a great way to improve your quality of life and enjoy the financial benefits of homeownership. If you're thinking about going down this path, it's important to be realistic about the limitations of condo living and how they may impact your lifestyle.

Unlike a detached family home, buying a condo means buying into a community.

While this is mostly a good thing, you will be responsible for abiding by the rules and regulations of that community at all times.

While rules for condo living differ considerably between buildings, there are some common rules and regulations put in place by most Homeowners Associations (HOAs). Despite their good intentions, these rules can present challenges for some people, so it's important to be aware of your obligations before you sign a contract.

Condo fees

When you purchase a condo, your biggest responsibility is to pay your condo fees on time. Generally due monthly to help pay for regular building maintenance and repairs. Non-payment can result in penalties, utility disconnection, and legal problems.

Noise restrictions

When you buy a condo, you're becoming part of a community. While modern building design is pretty good at isolating noise between apartments, most communities will have specific noise restrictions in place. Whether it's being aware of levels at the perimeter of your unit or a complete lack of noise during certain hours, it's important to keep the peace.

Pet restrictions

If you have a furry friend, or plan on getting one at some stage, it's important to check the HOA rules and regulations before you move in. Pet-friendly condos can be difficult to find in some markets, with some buildings having a strict no pet policy and others limiting pets to cats and dogs of a certain size.  

Guest restrictions

Limitations and restrictions on overnight guests are a contentious issue in some condo communities. While most buildings don't completely restrict overnight guests, there are often restrictions regarding the length of stay. Some HOAs also have a limitation on the number of unaccompanied guest visits during the year in order to avoid people setting up Airbnb and other short-term rental businesses.

Balconies and exteriors

What you do with the exterior of your unit is another contentious issue in some communities, with balconies and other exterior spaces literally creating a dividing line between what's yours and what's not. Exterior spaces are often considered common areas, which means there may be restrictions on things like clothes drying, barbecues, flags, or even the front door of your unit.

Subleasing

All HOAs will have rules and regulations in place regarding subleasing. Just because you own a unit, it doesn't mean you automatically have the right to let it out. Subleasing rules differ considerably between buildings and cities, with most boards allowing the practice if certain conditions are met. For example, a stringent interview and application process may be required before tenants will be accepted into the community.