Volume 26, Issue Number 1, Fall 2021
Purchasing/Living in a Condominium


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Reserve Fund Study Report Cards

Basic Planning Guidelines For Common Element Changes

By Sophia Simeone, Sally Thompson | Other articles by Sophia Simeone, Sally Thompson

Be Sure About Sharing - GRADE C

Site Description
The site consists of two townhouse corporations, each with several blocks, constructed in the early 2000s. There are over 200 units between the two corporations. The site is constructed over a single level underground parking garage.

The two corporations share facilities, such as incoming site services (water, hydro, gas, etc.), shared service rooms, site features, etc.

Reserve Fund Assumptions
According to management, and previous reserve fund studies, the entire underground garage and all site landscaping were shared facilities. This meant that the entire garage roof deck was shared, including the stairs and handrails leading to the units, retaining walls, and all other site features located over the garage. The reciprocal agreement definition for shared facilities referred to parts on a reference plan, however neither corporation had records of this document.

The Reality
Condo plans (aka the description) and reference plans were sourced and the assumptions about sharing were found to be incorrect. Based on the drawings, only a small portion of the roof deck is shared, which includes a driveway used to access the site, and a garbage loading area. Furthermore, within the parking garage, only one drive aisle is shared, as it used to access shared service rooms. Other portions of the garage which were previously interpreted as shared, belong to the individual corporations, based on the boundaries in the condo plans. Shared landscaping is limited to the areas within the shared driveway and garbage loading area.

This impacted the costs included in each reserve fund study and the decision-making authority regarding repairs to the garage and site. Major repairs were needed on one side of the roof deck and not the other, impacting one corporation more than the other.

Lessons Learned for Reserve Fund Planners
Although a site has been run a certain way for a number of years, and previous reserve fund studies reflected these assumptions, the condo plans, and reference plans should always be checked to confirm these assumptions. The reference plans and condo plans can be downloaded for a nominal fee from ONLAND.

Takeaways for Board of Directors and Property Managers
The condo plans and reference plans form part of the core documents of the corporation. You should ask your lawyer or reserve fund study provider to assist you with obtaining copies of these documents. These should be provided to all reserve fund study providers.

Operating on the basis of "that's how it has always been handled" often causes no problems until the site is about 20 years old and major capital expenditures arise.

In some instances, the reserve fund study provider may need support from the corporation's legal counsel in interpreting the documents.

Beware Stacked Townhouse Garage Roofs - GRADE B

Site Description
The corporation consists of three blocks of stacked townhouse units, constructed in the 1990s. The site is constructed over a single level underground garage. There are central walkways between blocks, with stairs down to lower units and stairs up to upper units.

Reserve Fund Assumptions
The budget for the garage roof deck waterproofing in the previous reserve fund study used a "standard" unit rate, which only applies to an overburden depth of about 0.5m, on a site where the fill can be stored on site during the project.

The Reality
The garage roof overburden is 1.5m deep in many areas including extensive retaining walls, geogrid and fill. The stairs exiting the units end at grade (1.5m above the roof deck), meaning that safe exit from the units during garage roof deck waterproofing will require the construction of temporary bridges/platforms to connect the stairs, or will require the units to be vacated for several months during the project. The site is small and congested, so there is nowhere to store the fill during the rewaterproofing project, meaning that the fill will need to be trucked away from the site and then replaced after waterproofing. All these factors mean that a standard unit rate for garage roof deck waterproofing does not apply. A more realistic budget for the roof deck waterproofing was about 500% higher than predicted in the previous study with only about eight to ten years before the work must be completed. This caused a significant increase in the required reserve fund contribution.

Lessons Learned for Reserve Fund Planners
Avoid applying a "one size fits all" unit rate to budgets and consider individual project complexities and challenges that might impact project budgets. Be particularly careful with stacked townhouse sites and check the drawings. At some stacked townhouses, the structural roof deck steps up and down, so that the depth of fill is "normal" but in others, the slab runs flat and there is extensive fill to make up the finished elevations. These sites with extensive fill are extremely expensive to rewaterproof and at the time of local waterproofing repairs.

Takeaways for Board of Directors and Property Managers
Ask questions about how reserve fund study budgets are developed. You want to hear that the budgets consider the site conditions specific to your corporation.

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Fall 2021
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