On Condominium Governance: bylaws, declarations and sales agreements

I get disappointed about the thought process when I read, from managers and condo boards, that a policy is a certain way because of ” bylaws, declarations and sales agreement schedules which dictate” what the residents – the owners – can and cannot do. Managers sometimes give this line as a last resort justification, as if owners existed to serve the rulebook. To me, serving the book is a twisted, biblical way of thinking: it should be the other way round. That very verbage [“dictate”] conjures an unflattering image of the governance model.

Declarations and sales agreement schedules were informative and served a purpose for the builder and sales organization during the initial offering. But those documents were NOT were not written by the current owners; those original authors, if they are still involved at all, are now merely minor stakeholders. Rather, the authors of those documents had their own interests top-of-mind, and certainly were not thinking of the needs of purchasers five years after registration. The terms contained were accepted by the original purchasers on a take-it-or-leave it basis: arguably by adhesion. If you wanted to buy an East Lofts condo, you had no choice but to accept what was written. Moreover, the dictats of the original paperwork need not be forever binding on subsequent owners: circumstances change, and there are ways to changes these rules if the owners (collectively) desire.

As for the Bylaws, their purpose is to reflect the wishes of the owners about things like the use of common elements and common behaviours. They are a management tool. These too can be changed; boards commonly do make changes to the default bylaws (which were handed down from the goverment when the condo was registered).

I agree that change can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for those who volunteered for the corresponding administrative roles. But the effort is often worth it if it bring the rules more into agreement with the wishes of the owners. On the other hand, shying away from desireable and beneficial rule changes, however inconvenient, should make us each ask ourselves, “Who does make the rules here?” If we the owners, through our board of directors, are afraid or unwilling to change the rules for our own benefit, then the answer can only be, “No one here”.

Cruising on governance autopilot is certainly the route of least resistance, but it is no way to build a community. Why are we so reluctant to make rules that reinforce our our community vision?


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