Grab a sample of owners at any condo building, ask them about bylaws and chances are you’ll hear something along these lines…
“Man, I hate the bylaws in my building – what a royal pain in the ass! So many rules about so many stupid little things!”
Lets face it – no one likes rules. Actually let me rephrase that…no one likes getting reprimanded for breaking the rules. Quite often we may be OK about the “idea” of keeping the appearance of the condo neat and tidy so it doesn’t turn into a dive, but as the Board tells you to “Take that bike off your balcony”…well, them’s fightin’ words! Who are they to tell me what to do?
First off, stay tuned for our future article on “Is Condo Living for Me?” The central concept of this article is that you’ll have to give up certain freedoms and follow the rules of the collective group when you live in a condo. These rules are applicable and known to everyone and are what will permit you as an individual owner to co-exist with your neighbors in a reasonable peace, at least in theory. Don't like this concept? Consider a detached house, though I should warn you there are municipal bylaws if you're in a city...
But CondoSensei – shouldn’t we just follow common sense? Are we not all adults here? The sad truth is that common sense is not that common. You might think everyone would know not to raise farm yard animals at a condo, or to put their garbage into the clearly marked garbage bin, but in reality a good portion of the ownership base won’t. The sad reality is that bylaws are meant for the lowest common denominator in a building. You and nine others in your building might get it, but it’s all about making sure that 10th person keeps their arms inside the bus….
To Protect and Serve – You!
Ultimately, bylaws are meant to serve and protect the all the residents of the building, including you. Bylaws are not strictly about regulating the behavior of residents – it also sets out the expectations of what the Board and Property Manager do on your behalf. There should be a section in there titled “Duties of the Corporation” that clearly spell out what the marching orders of the Board and Property Manager are. If they are grossly negligent in performing these duties, legally this section can give rise to their removal.
Bylaws are ultimately what will give the Board teeth to deal with situations and residents that threaten the enjoyment and well being of other residents. Read my example of how bylaws saved a neighboring condo building of mine from the clutches of a crack dealing pimp!
Extraordinary Meetings for Extraordinary Circumstances
One important aspect of your bylaws not to forget about is the section where the requirements to force the Board to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting. If a certain percentage of unit factors petitions the Board to hold a meeting on a topic, the Board is obligated to hold a general meeting with owners. So if the Board has taken actions that don’t make sense, if the Board isn’t living up to its Duties and Obligations, or if you need additional information about a policy or decision (ie a Special Assessment), you need to remember this option exists. Your bylaws will spell out exactly what percentage of unit factors must sign your petition to force an Extraordinary General Meeting, though provincial Condo Acts specify these percentages.
Lets be clear here though – you can force an Extraordinary Meeting that’ll let you the petitioners talk to the Board. However the Board will still hold a vote amongst themselves. Getting an Extraordinary meeting to be held does *not* mean they have to listen to you! That said, XGM’s are often to for residents to get more information on an issue (ie a Special Assessment) or bring issues to the attention of the Board.
And finally, have a look at the Why Bylaws Matter to Board Members article. What’s the old saying about walking a mile in another man’s shoes? Seeing why bylaws matter from the Board’s perspective will hopefully help you understand the reason, and need for these “damn rules” from their perspective (and ultimately yours too).