With the constantly rising prices of owning a home, it’s an established fact that condo living is here to stay.

But condominium owners have their own specific challenges when it comes to renovation projects.

And not surprisingly, they often hinge on who is responsible for funding the different types of projects: the homeowner or the condominium management.

Remember your bylaws and condominium plan are a good place to find who is responsible for a repair or replacement.

It is the same when it comes to window replacement projects.

Generally there are two scenarios in which windows get replaced in condos:
1. The condominium board decides to replace windows in multiple units at the same time. A board meeting is called and tenants are notified or are asked to vote on undertaking the project. If the board is in agreement with the tenants they go forward and begin selecting companies for quotes. In this scenario, the condo management may cover a part of the costs associated with ordering and installing new windows. The downside with this scenario is that tenants are often forced into getting new windows only because other units are doing it.

2. The board doesn’t have any involvement in the replacement process and the tenants are left to replace their own windows when they see fit. In this scenario, the tenants are responsible for finding their own replacement company, scheduling quotes, and paying for the order. Although you have a say in when you replace your windows, in this management scenario you are also responsible for the full costs associated with the project.

It is important to note that in both of these scenarios the condo management team will ask that the existing style, colour, window combination, and installation type get preserved.

Therefore, you may not have a lot of choices when it comes to getting exactly the custom windows that you want. Chances are the new units will have to be the same style and function as your existing windows. The bigger problem is that you may have to settle for a lesser quality installation. If your condo has retrofit insert windows installed, you may not be allowed to take advantage of the full-frame replacement.

Another hurdle to getting quality custom windows for condominium homeowners is in the type of condo they own.

Most window replacement companies in Western Canada that specialize in residential replacements don’t work on buildings higher than three floors. It may be a bit tricky, but if you are an owner in a high rise condo, you may want to look for companies that do both commercial and residential windows. Companies that work with commercial window replacements usually have the installers and equipment necessary to carry out replacements in higher buildings.

If you are one of those condo owners in a tall building, the list of companies available to you might be much smaller than for homeowners or townhome condominium warranty. High-rise buildings also have different standards for what is considered a quality replacement. The preferred window material for these buildings is aluminum, whereas vinyl windows are the best choice for residential homes.

High-rise buildings also have a different fire code requirement than residential homes. Make sure that you do your research when it comes to what kind of windows will qualify, and what rooms have to have fire code eligible windows.

Are there advantages to changing windows in the whole building?
If you are a condo owner in the first scenario, and the board has decided to change windows in multiple units, you may be quite frustrated as you now have to incur additional costs you didn’t want in the first place. On the upside though, when condos purchase in bulk they usually get a bigger discount on their order. Therefore, your window costs might be significantly lower for windows you would have to replace in a few years anyways.

Whether you’re a condo owner who’s considering a replacement or the management is switching out windows in multiple units, be sure that you are familiar with your building’s bylaws and condominium plan. That’s the best way to know your rights as a tenant homeowner, and avoid confusion when it comes to paying the window company.

If you’re in charge of your own replacement, make sure that the window style, functionality, and installation type are all approved by the board before signing the contract with the window company. That way you’ll ensure you’re getting the right product and aren’t wasting money on windows that the board doesn’t allow to be installed.

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