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Government Gazette

Condominiums: Solution for tsunami housing management 

HOUSING: Many housing projects have already been completed to house Tsunami affected families with the funding of local and foreign organizations.

Now it is important to set up a management system for these schemes to prevent a repeat of problems arisen in many government sponsored housing schemes.

It is not practical for the Government or the donor organizations to manage these schemes on a long-term basis.

HOME OWNERSHIP: Most people think of a condominium as either a high-rise or low rise apartment building. It is a home ownership method and not the shape or size of a building.

Constructing unauthorised structures, encroaching into common areas, operating businesses in the complex, no proper garbage collections and disposal system, renting units without approval, overcrowding and unauthorised parking are the problems which will escalate into major issues in the long run.

Unless a proper management system is introduced and implemented, these problems can escalate and become out of control. Criminal activities, intimidation of residents by individuals within the scheme are also some of the problems in these complexes.

Condominium management style is the best concept which should be introduced and implemented in these housing schemes.

Condominium is a private home ownership method. Therefore, it should have minimum Government control and interference. They should be managed by the Residents Association.

Most people think of a condominium as either a high-rise or low rise apartment building. It is a home ownership method and not the shape or size of a building. Condominiums can also be townhouses, semi-detached houses, or even fully detached houses.

Condominium housing is successfully implemented for low, middle and high income groups. The units are individually owned and the land and other amenities are jointly owned with the rest of the unit owners.

An awareness programme of the condominium concept should be conducted to educate the residents of their rights and responsibilities. It has to be closely monitored and implemented by professionals with in-depth knowledge of the condominium concept.

Rights and responsibilities of residents

When buying an apartment in a condominium, the buyer must be aware of his/her rights and responsibilities.

The condominium concept has the advantages of financial benefits from multiple ownership and also the disadvantages of multiple relationships.

Therefore, the Condominium Corporation has an important role to play in the smooth running of the condominium complex. If you plan to buy a condominium, it is often said that buying the condominium is buying a life style.

There are many advantages to condominium ownership. It may be less expensive than other types of homeownership. When you buy a single family detached home with all the benefits and facilities available in condominiums it can be expensive. Condominiums provide an “instant sense of community”.

* What is a condominium property?

A condominium property is one where units of a building are sold to different buyers, while the areas and elements common to all, remain within the common ownership of all the unit owners.

The buyers own their units exclusively, but the land, roadways, playgrounds, corridors, sewers etc., which serve all the units, are jointly owned by all the buyers.

* What would you acquire when you buy an apartment?

You get the exclusive ownership of your apartment as defined in the Condominium Plan. You are also a part owner of the common areas and services and the undivided land on which the property stands.

* How much of the common areas do you own?

In a condominium property you own the apartment exclusively and a share of the undivided land, common areas and services, based on the floor area of your apartment.

This share is also filed with the Condominium Plan and determines the share owned by you for as long as the condominium property is intact. If you sell your apartment you also sell your share.

The allocation of shares is usually based on giving one share per apartment, but can also be done in more complex ways.

Therefore, if a condominium has 50 apartments and all are given one share each, you would own one fiftieth (1/50) of the land, common areas, and services. Another way of allocating of shares is based on the floor area of the individual units.

* Who maintains your apartment?

You are responsible for the maintenance of your apartment, within the boundaries marked in the Condominium Plan.

* Can you make structural changes to your apartment?

You cannot make structural changes in your apartment since it alters the Condominium Plan, and since it will affect other property owners in the condominium.

If you want to make a change, you will have to get prior approval from the Condominium Management Corporation.

Approval may not be granted if the Management Corporation is of the opinion that it may be detrimental to the structure of the building.

* Can you make changes to the finishes of your apartment?

You can make changes to the finishes of your apartment, provided you do not in any way affect other owners within the condominium. You can do colour washing, re-tiling and change fittings of the kitchen and bathrooms.

* What is a management corporation?

Upon registration of the condominium in the Land Registry, the Management Corporation which is a legal body is formed to manage the condominium property and administer the common elements and corporate assets. It is mandatory that all unit owners become members of the Corporation.

The members appoint a Council to run the day to day affairs of the Condominium. The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Apartment Ownership Act.

All voting is on the basis of one vote per residential unit. There will be a constitution for the Corporation and all unit owners should have a copy.

* What are the functions of a Management Corporation?

The Management Corporation is the owner of all common areas, common services, and the land on which the condominium stands.

It is responsible for insuring the entire condominium and it is also responsible for the maintenance of all common areas and services.

The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Act, the by-laws and the rules. It is their responsibility to demolish all unauthorised structures built, which are not in the original Condominium Plan.

This law will be strictly enforced with the help of the newly formed Condominium Management Authority.

* Who provides funds to the Management Corporation?

Funding for the Management Corporation should come strictly from the condominium unit owners.

The amount payable by each unit owner is based on his undivided share he owns of the condominium complex. The Management Corporation will compute the amount payable by each unit owner and collect it from them each month.

* Who pays for the water and power consumed by an apartment owner?

The owner or tenant will pay for power, water and other services like telephone etc.

* Who pays for common area lighting?

The Management Corporation will pay for common area lighting, and also for the maintenance of the lighting.

* Who pays local authority rates and taxes?

It is the responsibility of the unit owners.

* Who clears the garbage?

A garbage bin is provided which will be cleared by the Local Authority. The Management Corporation will give instructions with regard to garbage clearing.

* Who looks after roads, drains, and street lighting?

The Local Authority will take over this unless otherwise specified by the Management Corporation.

* Who will look after the water tower and main supply line to your condominium?

If a service line within the condominium needs repairs, it is the duty of the Management Corporation to look after this aspect.

* What happens if a condominium is destroyed completely by fire?

The Management Corporation will receive compensation if the condominium is insured. At that point the share holders may decide to rebuild the condominium using the money or they may decide to sell the land.

In which case the compensation received and profits from the sale of land will be divided among the shareholders in proportion to the shares they hold.

* Landscaping the Common Areas. Who should do it?

It is the duty of the Management Corporation and the unit owners can make suggestions to the Corporation.

* Who should decide the overall policy for managing the condominium?

It is the shareholders (unit owners) who prepare the by-laws, rules and regulations to be followed by the Corporation. They must be approved by not less than 51% of the unit owners. As an alternative, the owners as a Corporation decide to hand over the total management to an outside organisation.

(The writer is a Condominium Specialist and an award winning realtor in Canada with wide experience in all aspects of real estate. Held membership in Canadian Real Estate Association and member of the Realtor Political Action Committee.) kirtih@sltnet.lk


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