Everything You Need to Know About Condo Status Certificates

A condo status certificate, also known as an estoppel certificate, certifies that certain things are true about a condominium you intend to buy. The last thing you want to do is buy into a condo building that’s on shaky legal or financial grounds. An estoppel certificate or status certificate helps prevent that problem.

 

These documents are sometimes hundreds of pages long. Usually your attorney reviews them for you and brings up any issues that need to be addressed, but it’s still important for you to understand these documents.

 

What is a condo status certificate?

 

A condo status certificate provides you with a wealth of information about the actual building you’ll be buying a unit into. This includes information about the corporation that owns the building.

 

This certificate should also contain:

 

  • Information about the board of directors and property management firm controlling the property.
  • Whether the unit is current with its financial obligations, including special assessments.
  • The legal boundaries of the units.
  • The duties and rights of the condo corporation and the owners.
  • The percentage ownership of the unit.
  • The percentage of renters in the building.
  • The current budget.
  • The previous year’s financial statements.
  • Certificates of insurance for the building.
  • All agreements that bind the building.
  • Requirements for owners inside the building to get insurance.
  • Any legal actions the condo is involved in, such as lawsuits or judgements.
  • The rules and bylaws of the condominium HOA.

 

This information is true both in the province of Alberta and in Canada.

 

Why do I need a condo status certificate?

 

If the condo has major legal, maintenance, or financial problems then you could be on the hook for increased fees later down the line. In addition, sometimes problems with the condominium can make you ineligible for certain mortgages, rebates, or programs. You want to know what you’re getting into.

 

Finally, it’s already a little harder to sell condos and legal or financial problems can make it even harder when the time does come to sell.

 

In other words, as the Appeal Court once wrote in a 2016 case: “The purpose of a status certificate is obvious: it is to bring the attention of a prospective purchaser or mortgagee matters which may be of concern to them when contemplating the purchase of a unit.”

 

In other words it is a massive disclosure and it is necessary because a condo is a single unit in a shared building. What others do in that building may impact you. What those who own the building do may impact you.

 

What does “estoppel” actually mean?

 

It’s a legal term that means someone can’t argue something in court that contradicts something they’ve already said or agreed to. That is, someone can’t argue that something is true if the condo status certificate contradicts that fact.

 

How do I get a condo status certificate?

 

You make a request of the condominium corporation in writing. They’ll have 10 days from the date of your request to provide you with a certificate. Your attorney will usually take care of this matter for you.

 

Usually you will have to pay a fee to receive a copy of this certificate. The fee is usually low, just $200 to $300. Your attorney will advise you on what you have to pay and who you will make the check out to.

 

Who provides a status certificate?

 

Usually the property management company prepares the status certificate.

 

Do new condos have status certificates?

 

Yes. While they may contain less information than a condo certificate for a place that’s been around for awhile, they’ll still have an owner, a property manager, a Board of Directors, and financial information to share. They’ll have insurance information you need to know as well.

 

How long are condo status certificates valid in Alberta?

 

A condo status certificate is valid for sixty days. After 60 days, the certificate has gone stale and will need to be replaced for the purposes of buying or selling your condo.

 

How do you check the condo building’s status certificate?

 

It’s best to let your attorney go through the entire certificate. The certificate will be making a great many legal claims and your real estate attorney may see things you don’t.

 

Do I need a status certificate when selling?

 

While the seller don’t necessarily need to pull the status certificate it’s not a bad idea to do so. This would tell you what steps you might need to take to account for new problems in the status certificate that did not exist when you bought the unit. You may have to build some incentives into your purchase agreement to account for special assessments, for example.

 

One way to do this would be by offering a reserve fund. This is a fund that might cover additional costs and fees attached to a potential pending special assessment. The fund would go back to you if the assessment does not happen. It’s a way you can move the condo a little faster by protecting the buyer’s interests. Few buyers want to know they’ll be on the hook for major maintenance problems right off the bat.

 

The last thing you want to do is be caught off-guard or watch a deal fall through because you didn’t know what the buyer would find when they pulled the certificate. Go over the certificate with your attorney and your realtor before putting your condo on the market. An informed seller is a seller who is in a strong negotiating position.

 

Can I sue a condo corporation for errors in the status certificate?

 

You can sue a condo corporation for losses sustained as a result of errors and omissions in the status certificate. Failing to disclose certain problems is a serious issue. Your real estate attorney can help you pursue this litigation. In addition, if the status certificate was wrong the condo association may not be able to charge you certain fees or take certain actions against you. These issues, however, can get very complex very quickly.

 

In truth these issues can result in a round robin of law suits: the buyers can sue the condo corporation, the condo corporation can sue the property management firm, and the litigation can grow exceptionally snarled. This is a good example of why anyone who gets involved in real estate in any way needs to have a regular real estate attorney by their sides!

 

If the condominium association won’t provide a status certificate at all your best bet may be to find a different unit to purchase. You can assume there is likely to be something seriously wrong with a condominium association that will not comply with the law that says they must provide these documents. While you could take further legal action it may not be worth it to do so.

 

Questions about purchasing or selling a condo?

 

Our legal team has decades of real estate experience. Make sure your interests are protected when you buy or sell your condominium. Status certificates aren’t the only issue you might have to tackle. Call (780) 488-4152 to set up an appointment today.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.