Manitoba’s new Condominium Act comes into effect February 1, 2015

A long time in coming but it has finally arrived. Manitoba’s new Condominium Act comes into effect February 1, 2015. The legislation was passed back in June 2011 so it is more than evident there has been extensive work and months of consultation prior to making it a fait accompli.  

Consumer protection is a major plank in this new legislation and all the regulations that support it. Transparency and information you need to know is central to all that went into this new condominium act.

At a presentation this week in front of a packed audience of REALTORS®, keen to learn every aspect of this new Act, condominium lawyer Douglas Forbes had a special way of saying it has arrived. “I predict the Seattle Seahawks will win the Super Bowl on Sunday. While I cannot say for certain whether that will happen I can say with 100% confidence the new Condominium Act will be in force.” As he stated, all aspects of condominium development, purchase and sale, ownership, governance, property management are covered in this major piece of legislation.

Ken Clark, a director of WinnipegREALTORS® who has specialized in condominium properties for years, was in attendance at the session. 

“No question, this is a different ball game,” said Clark. “There is additional paperwork and documentation required and in general it is a lot more encompassing in what is expected of everyone to make sure the transaction is as seamless as possible.”

If there is one consolation for everyone concerned, Forbes said Ontario has had this far more consumer-oriented legislation in effect there and condominium sales seem to be moving along just fine. He may have been making passing reference to the fact Toronto has become a global leader in condominium construction activity. Condominium sales there make up a far greater proportion of overall property sale activity than they do in Winnipeg.

Having said that, there are some key changes that the public needs to understand when giving serious consideration to condominium living. 

One of the most important changes is the requirement for far more comprehensive disclosure requirements so that a buyer can make a more informed decision. As a result, the cooling off period, or time a buyer has to decide whether they will go through with their purchase after reviewing all documentation has increased from 48 hours to 7 days. The new extended period includes weekends and holidays with the exception of Remembrance Day, if it falls on the 7th day.

There are also additional provisions in the act such as the buyers’s right to cancel if a material change is uncovered (e.g. far higher repair estimate for parkade that forms part of the common elements) prior to them taking possession, which allows them to not follow through on the purchase.

“There was nothing similar to this in the old act so this is uncharted territory for Manitoba,” said condominium lawyer Douglas Forbes.

Another big change is the requirement for all condominium corporations to complete a reserve study within 3 years. The whole intent here is to give the buyer a much better idea of whether the reserve is sufficient enough to handle ongoing and future maintenance requirements such as a roof, boiler or even an underground parkade which exist in many of the complexes. Some condominium owners have been saddled with unexpected special assessments which can amount to thousands of dollars.

It would be an understatement to say all condominium corporations and their boards, unit owners, developers, property managers, lawyers and REALTORS® will need to adjust to the new Condominium Act. Expect far more references and inquiries on how Ontario handled a particular situation in the weeks to come.