What should be understood about parking when buying a condominium?

What should be understood about parking when buying a condominium?

Unlike many places in the world, Alberta has land and a lot of it. I would suggest that by default, over the past century, it has been the practice of builders and developers to build out instead of up.

Known as “urban sprawl,” this outward development has created a culture of car-dependent living. Although that seems to have changed slightly in recent years, we are far from ditching our vehicles altogether. For single-family home dwellers, it is an assumption that there will be somewhere to park that car if only on the street, but for condominium owners, it is a bit more complicated.

Let’s take some time to consider the things you should know about parking and condos.

Various Options

In the world of apartment style or similar condominiums, you have several options available for your parking situation, and understanding them will be beneficial to buyers in their decision process. The three main types of parking options in condominium complexes in Alberta are owned, leased, and assigned. It should also be noted that ‘no parking’ is also possible in some condominium complexes, and it should never be assumed that parking arrangements will be possible. When in doubt, check it out!

Owned Parking

This parking option is the most stable because, as the stall owner (s), they cannot be moved or re-assigned. When parking stalls are owned, the seller will have a separate title for the stall and a separate tax bill, and the condominium survey plan registered at land titles will show the stalls on the parking plan outlined in solid lines. As an owned parking stall, it will have a plan and unit number, just like the living space in the condominium complex. Still, that number does not necessarily correspond to the parking stall number indicated on the physical space. The best practice for owned parking stalls is to follow these four steps:

  1. Pull the land title for the stall itself using the tax information provided by the seller
  2. Verify the owner’s name matches the title for that stall
  3. Pull the condominium survey plan from land titles using the parking plan number from the title
  4. Go with the client to the physical parking space and confirm the stall location by using the survey plan as a map to the unit number of the parking stall from the title

It is not impossible to find out that the stall the seller has been using is not the stall they own, and taking the extra step to confirm the right stall is being sold is important. It is also possible in some condominium corporations for the seller to sell their living space unit and not the parking stall, so careful attention must be paid to the purchase contract to ensure the parking is included in the contract as an additional legal description if the buyer expects to buy the stall as well.

Assigned Parking

Assigned parking means the condominium corporation owns the entire parking space in one big indivisible chunk. On the survey plan, this will appear as a large white space with no lines at all, even though the physical parking lot or garage will have lines and stall numbers. In such situations, the condominium corporation will create its own stall map and assign stalls for individual unit owners. How they manage this is outlined in the corporation’s bylaws or additional rules/regulations they establish as a condominium board. Close to the door, or far away, above ground, covered, or underground are all options that could be important to a buyer but with assigned parking, the buyer will not generally get to choose, but the board will assign a stall to them.

Assigned stalls may be reassigned to different owners based on seniority on each sale of a condo unit, so the stall the owner currently is assigned may differ from the one the buyer gets when they move in. If this is a deal breaker for the buyer, it can be made a condition of the contract that the buyer will seek and obtain written confirmation from the board that they will be assigned a particular stall. Then if they can’t secure the stall, they can decide not to waive the condition. Without such confirmation, the buyer should understand that the stall assignments are at the discretion of the board, the bylaws, and their rules.

Leased Parking

As a middle ground between assigned and owned parking, leased parking stalls will normally be delineated on the survey plan as dashed lines instead of solid ones, but only sometimes. Leased parking is where the board enters into a lease agreement with the living unit owner to secure a certain stall for a fixed time. The lease’s cost, length, and ability to renew, cancel, or sell the lease may all be important to the buyer. Although rare, leased parking can sneak up on a buyer when assumptions about the parking situation are made and not confirmed.

Best Practices

When working with buyers or sellers in the condominium space, the best practice is to actively confirm the information about the unit and the parking without relying on assumptions. This can be done quite easily by ordering a land title, survey plan, Additional plan sheet, and bylaws from the land titles system for each interaction you have with a condominium property. These documents and a quick physical confirmation of the stall used against the survey plan can save many complications.

Although reviewing restrictions in the bylaws is important, a REALTOR® is not qualified to review condominium documents for any client, so clients should be directed to a Condominium Document review company.

The condominium is not a property style but a form of property ownership, and the many complexities of transacting in condominiums, like parking variations, should be navigated with the help of a REALTOR® who is familiar with condominiums. Professionals like document reviewers, lawyers, and inspectors can take the fear out of the process and ensure that what the buyer thought they were buying is indeed what they ended up with.

Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.