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Apologies if this is a dumb question.

I was recently advised by a real estate professional that I should look into getting myself a condo townhouse because they are way more affordable than buying comparable freehold units.

I'm hesitant about them because I've heard of stories where the owners get stuck with a surprise $10k bill when something unexpected comes up, and there's no guarantee that the monthly fees are being spent well. Plus, after a few years it could well end up that the condo is more expensive to live in, once you add up those fees.

So, is it possible to buy a condo (row townhouse, so I'd only be sharing at most 2 walls with a neighbor) and then get out of the condo association, and if so, how would I go about doing that? I realize I'd have to foot the bill if anything happened to the roof, but I'd rather budget for that myself.

  • What country are you in? – dpassage Mar 12 '15 at 0:09
  • Ah sorry, Canada. – GoldenBunny Mar 12 '15 at 0:26
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    Those fees also pay for common amenities like landscaping, parking lot maintenance, swimming pools, legal fees, etc. I doubt you will be able to get out of them. – JohnFx Mar 12 '15 at 0:37
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    In a word no. Any sort of structure with shared ownership of common elements but no arrangement for shared maintenance is an unending series of law suits waiting to happen. You can imagine how you'd react if your neighbor's plumbing starts leaking into your unit through the shared wall and the neighbor tells you that they hope to fix it when their budget allows -- next year. – Charles E. Grant Mar 12 '15 at 1:20
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    @CharlesE.Grant why not an answer? – littleadv Mar 12 '15 at 2:43
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(all this is in context of United States HOA, Condo associations) Charles E. Grant's comment show why you wouldn't want to dissolve or remove yourself from the association. However, I have never seen an association bylaws that don't include the mechanism whereby the association itself can be dissolved. So it is possible in almost all cases to dissolved an association but it isn't easy, likely to happen, and in most cases a good idea; especially not to just avoid the communal cost.

  • Interesting. So for an association to dissolve you'd need to get the association itself to vote to close? – GoldenBunny Mar 13 '15 at 12:34
  • Basically. A high enough percent of the members, homeowners for instance, would have to vote for dissolution. At that point, in most cases the dissolution isn't immediate and there is some period of time, like a few years, before the dissolution actually occurs. During that time period there are generally more votes required to confirm the dissolution. If any of those fail, typically the whole process starts over. Again, each Association has its own bylaws. – Raze Mar 13 '15 at 13:17
  • I can see how a dissolution might be legally feasible, but then what? You've got a condo complex which altogether doesn't belong to anybody. Maintenance doesn't get done. Nobody cares about replacing the roof or repainting or landscaping or policing to make sure strangers don't occupy the parking lot. The complex gradually falls into disrepair, everyone loses. Maintenance of shared property is an 'externality' of individual use, which without regulation becomes impossible to control..shared structure is necessary for it to work. Better, join the HOA board and be proactive in decision-making! – A.S Mar 13 '15 at 17:21
  • The rationale for that provision is to provide for an orderly shut down of the association if the underlying structure is destroyed or sold. For example, if the building burns down, the owners face the question of whether to rebuild or not. It may make more sense just to sell the land, split the proceeds, and dissolve the association. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't definitively say that this clause could never be used to simply let every owner go their own way, but I've never heard of it being used that way. – Charles E. Grant Mar 13 '15 at 17:59
  • I've never seen a clause that provides for individual property owners to leave the Association, only for the dissolution of the entire Association. – Raze Mar 13 '15 at 18:17
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If your primary concern is whether the HOA is financially well managed, you may be able to ask to review its finances during the purchase process. A "share" of the HOA is part of what you're buying when you buy a condo.

In the US, I have friends who have made their offers to buy a condo contingent on seeing a copy of the HOA's financial statements and knowing who the management company is. The seller is of course free to reject that offer and accept an offer from someone who isn't asking for that, and some HOAs can be annoyingly secretive. It sounds like that's the sort of HOA you wouldn't want to do business with. I don't know what the rules in Canada are governing this sort of thing, but a good real estate professional or lawyer should be able to help you sort it out.

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    In the US if the property has a home owners association, the buyer must be given an opportunity to review the documents and budget. They have three days to review and can cancel the deal. The documents must be sent from the HOA, and can't be an old copy that the seller has. Of course they can decide not to read them, but the seller has no role in the process. – mhoran_psprep Mar 12 '15 at 18:33

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