What legislation and regulations govern condominiums in Nova Scotia?
Do provincial legislation and/or regulations require that developers of new condominiums provide a new home warranty to buyers?
No, but some builders may offer a home warranty or provide one through a third-party home warranty program.
Taxes & Additional Costs
What provincial and federal taxes do condominium buyers pay on their units?
Buyers pay Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on new units but not on previously owned units.
If you are purchasing a resale condo, the federal portion of the HST will apply to your purchase if:
- You are buying the unit from someone who acquired and used the unit primarily (more than 50 percent) for business purposes (unless this was to earn long-term rental income);
- You are buying the unit from someone who has claimed input tax credits for improvements to the unit; or
- The unit has been substantially renovated. (To find out what qualifies as a substantial renovation, see Substantial Renovations and the GST/HST New Housing Rebate.)
Are there any GST/HST rebate programs for condominium buyers?
Yes. Buyers may be eligible to receive a First-Time Home Buyers Rebate on newly built condominiums that will serve as their primary residence. The rebate is equivalent to 18.75 percent of the provincial portion of the HST to a maximum of $3,000. (For more information, see First-Time Home Buyers Rebate.)
Like other homebuyers, purchasers of condominiums can apply for a GST/HST New Housing Rebate. This rebate reduces the GST and the federalpart of the HST on a declining scale, depending on the purchase price of your new home. (For eligibility information, see GST/HST New Housing Rebate.)
Are buyers of new and re-sale condominiums responsible for any charges levied by the Province?
Most municipalities charge the Municipal Deed Transfer Tax under the Municipal Government Act (a provincial statute). Municipalities set their own rates, which can go as high as 1.5 percent of the value of the property.
There is also a fee to record the deed.
Reserve Fund Requirements
Do provincial legislation/regulations require that all condominiums in Nova Scotia have a reserve fund?
Yes. For condominiums with fewer than 10 units, the amount in the reserve fund must equal 100 percent of the amount assessed annually to owners for common expenses. The reserve fund must be fully funded within five years of the date the condominium corporation was created.
For condominiums with 10 or more units, contributions to the reserve fund are determined by a reserve fund study. The reserve fund study projects the cost of major repairs to the common elements and assets of the corporation (or the cost of their replacement) for a minimum of 20 years. Reserve fund studies must be updated in each five-year period after completion and entirely redone every 10 years by a professional engineer who meets specific requirements.
For converted condominiums, the developer must complete a reserve fund study before registration, regardless of the number of units created.
How is a new condominium corporation registered?
The developer submits the following documents to the Registrar of Condominiums:
- A declaration;
- A description of the property, including a plan of survey; and the
- Proposed bylaws of the corporation.
The declaration describes how the condominium will be organized and operated. It also provides details such as each owner’s proportionate interest in the common elements and their percentage share of the overall common expenses. The description includes information about the boundaries, shape, dimensions and location of each unit.
When the Registrar of Condominiums registers the declaration and description, the condominium corporation is created, which is a legal entity. The developer — who is the owner of all of the units in the condominium corporation — is now able to issue deeds or transfer documents to purchasers.
Sale of Units
What rules does the developer have to follow when selling units?
The developer must provide certain documents to a purchaser.
What documents is the developer obliged to provide to the buyer?
A developer must provide a purchaser with:
- A purchase and sale agreement;
- A copy of the proposed or approved survey or design plans of the condominium;
- The proposed or approved declaration, bylaws and common element rules and regulations; and
- A copy of the budget for the corporation’s first year of operation.
Purchase and sale agreements must inform buyers about the following:
- They have 10 days to review all of the documents associated with the agreement of purchase and sale. If they change their mind, they can cancel the agreement and retrieve their deposit by notifying the developer in writing no more than 10 days after signing.
- The developer has a duty to complete the common elements.
- Amenities not yet completed and the date by which they will be completed.
- Amount of occupancy fees that can be charged and when they are payable.
- Services that are not contained within the boundaries of the property or are not owned by the condominium corporation (such as water or sewage), and any agreements respecting the terms and conditions associated with those services.
Purchase and sale agreements for both converted and phased-development condominiums must include additional information from the developer. See Agreements of Purchase and Sale in the Condominium Regulations for details.
What documents must a condominium corporation provide a purchaser of a re-sale condominium?
A condominium corporation must provide an estoppel certificate, with copies of the corporation’s declaration and bylaws attached.
The estoppel certificate certifies:
- Whether or not the owner owes money to the corporation and, if so, the amount owing and how the assessment/account is to be paid;
- The unit identified by a unit number and level number, condominium corporation number and any applicable civic and suite numbers;
- The name, address and telephone number of the condominium management company or manager;
- The names and addresses of the officers of the corporation;
- The current amount of common expenses for that particular unit, and whether they are prepaid or collected in default;
- How the reserve fund is collected and, if collected as a percentage of common expenses, what that percentage is for the particular unit being purchased;
- The balance in the reserve fund;
- Any special assessments that are forthcoming or contemplated by the corporation within 12 months of the date of the estoppel certificate;
- Minutes of all meetings of the board of directors and meetings of the corporation’s members held in the last 24 months;
- Any major capital expenditures planned by the corporation;
- Any lawsuits that have been instituted or are pending by the corporation or against the corporation;
- The debt carried by the corporation from previous expenditures;
- Fire insurance, public liability and directors' liability insurance coverage and the amount or value of each policy;
- The content of any proposed bylaws, proposed amendments to existing bylaws or proposed amendments to the declaration; and
- The name of each person who owns 10 percent or more of the common elements.
For phased-development condominiums, the condominium corporation must attach to the estoppel certificate a copy of any information that the developer has provided to owners about the phases.
Estimating Operating Costs
Are there legislation/regulations that stipulate(s) what happens if a developer has inaccurately estimated the operational costs of a condominium?
Yes. If a condominium corporation’s expenses in the 12 months following registration exceed the developer’s budgeted amount by more than 10 percent, the corporation may make a claim against the developer for the amount that exceeds the 10 percent.
To ensure that the corporation will have access to these funds, the developer’s lawyer holds in trust money equal to 10 percent of the budget from the proceeds of the sale of the first unit in the condominium corporation.
Rules for Initial Reserve Fund Savings
Is the developer of a new condominium obligated to put aside reserves as soon as the condominium is registered?
Does the Province require a condominium to impose any bylaws and rules?
No, the Condominium Act does not require a condominium corporation to make bylaws or rules. However, a condominium may make bylaws if there is a vote to do so by members who own at least 60 percent of the common elements.
A condominium’s bylaws may allow for the making of rules respecting the use of the common elements.
Does condominium legislation authorize the condominium corporation to borrow money?
Yes, a corporation may borrow money as long as at least 66 2/3rds percent of the owners of the common elements agree to it.
Can a condominium corporation place a lien on an individual unit?
Yes, a condominium corporation may do so if an owner has failed to pay his or her share of the common expenses or other assessments.
The lien has priority over all other liens, charges and mortgages except, for example, property tax liens. The lien may be enforced in the same manner as a mortgage, allowing the condominium corporation to foreclose on the unit.
If the unit owner has a mortgage, the mortgagee (such as a bank) can pay to the corporation what is owing under the lien and add that amount to the owner’s mortgage.
The lien allows the corporation to collect any interest and reasonable legal costs and expenses it has incurred while collecting or attempting to collect the unpaid amount.
Elections & Meetings
What are the requirements for electing the board of directors and for its meetings?
Members of the condominium corporation must elect at least three people to sit on the board of directors. (If the condominium corporation has only two units, two directors are elected.) Directors must be at least 19 years old and own a unit in the condominium corporation. Their term lasts no more than three years.
There are special provisions for choosing the board of directors when the developer still owns units.
Directors must act honestly and in good faith, and exercise care, diligence and skill. They must also act in the best interest of the corporation when discharging their duties.
A corporation’s declaration may specify how meetings of the board of directors are to be carried out.
Changing the Governing Documents
How does a condominium corporation change its governing documents?
To change its declaration or description, a condominium corporation must have the consent of owners of at least 80 percent of the common elements. To change a bylaw, it must have the consent of owners of at least 60 percent of the common elements.
Amendments to the declaration, description and bylaws become effective once they are accepted for registration by the Registrar of Condominiums.
Can an owner stop paying condominium fees if he/she is unhappy with the condominium’s board of directors and/or property management?
Rules About Special Assessments
Do provincial legislation/regulations have rules regarding special assessments? If so, what are they?
Yes, a condominium corporation may levy a special assessment for extraordinary common element expenses with the consent of owners of at least 66 2/3 percent of the common elements.
Expanding the Scope of the Condominium's Assets and Services
What about additional recreational facilities/services? Could a condominium corporation buy a golf course, for example? Could it change the services an owner expects to receive?
Yes, a condominium corporation can make substantial changes to its common elements and assets. Substantial changes include adding to, altering, improving or renovating the common elements.
These changes must be approved by members who own at least 80 percent of the common elements. The cost of these changes is considered to be a common expense and is paid out of the annual budget. A corporation may have to borrow funds or levy a special assessment to cover their cost. (See Does condominium legislation authorize the condominium corporation to borrow money? and Do provincial legislation/regulations have rules regarding special assessments? If so, what are they?)
Other Important Things About Buying a Condominium in Nova Scotia
Do provincial legislation/regulations govern renting or leasing a condominium unit?
While the Condominium Act does not directly address the rental of units, it does require that rental restrictions be included in the declaration.
When a tenant does not comply with a condominium corporation’s declaration, bylaws or rules, it is the unit owner’s responsibility to take action against the tenant. If the owner fails to do so effectively, the corporation can request that the tenant be evicted under the Residential Tenancies Act (PDF).
For information on landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities in Nova Scotia, see Your Guide to Renting a Home, Provincial Fact Sheet — Nova Scotia.
What other constraints do provincial legislation/regulations put on condominium corporations, their boards of directors, bylaws and management?
A condominium corporation may not enter into a management agreement with a term that exceeds two consecutive years unless owners representing at least 66 2/3 percent of the common elements agree to this.
Condominiums registered on or after September 1, 2011 must include a standard unit description in their declaration. This description helps buyers identify upgrades to a unit’s fixtures and fittings, which can affect the unit’s value and insurance coverage.
When a unit owner objects in writing within 10 days of a new rule being proposed by the board of directors, the rule cannot take effect unless it is ratified by a majority of the members at the next general meeting with the requisite quorum.
Is there a process for handling disputes or complaints?
Unit owners and condominium corporations can try to resolve their differences with the help of a provincial condominium dispute officer. See Condominium Disputes — Applying for Dispute Resolution for details.
Other avenues for dispute resolution include binding, mandatory arbitration under the Condominium Act and going to court.
Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI), Nova Scotia Chapter
An independent organization that deals exclusively with condominium issues and represents all participants in the condominium community.
Access Nova Scotia
Provides information on provincial government programs and initiatives, including online information about buying a condominium, including a condominium primer and glossary: Condominiums.
Public Enquiries — Service Nova Scotia
PO Box 2734
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Toll-Free: (within North America) 1-800-670-4357
TTY: (toll-free within North America): 1-877-404-0867