One unit equals one vote, or does it?

J.T. writes:

Dear Paul:

My husband and I are new condo owners, and at our first AGM, we were told that only one of us was allowed to vote, but they could not explain why. I think this is unfair. Afterall we are two people, and we could be of different minds. Can you help?

Paul replies:

Dear J.T.:

I understand why you think it is unfair because there are two of you, and you could have different views about condo operations or who to elect to the board. This situation is often referred to as “one unit-one vote.” It is entirely dependent on the deed to the property, and how the agreement is written. Your lawyer must have explained this to you, and while you understood at the time, the excitement of moving to a new place probably overshadowed this detail.

While I am sure, there are many forms of ownership, the two that cover the majority of condominium purchases are called “joint tenant” and “tenant in common” in real estate jargon.

Usually, when a couple purchases a condo, they do so under a joint tenant agreement. This means that you and your spouse own 100% of the property together. You do not own 50% each. As such, if we apply the one unit-one vote concept, together you equal one vote. I know, this might be quite different when a division of assets happens during divorce proceedings, but that is way beyond my pay grade.

If the purchase agreement and deed proceeded as a tenancy in common, the one vote would be divided. In this type of arrangement, ownership is between two or more individuals who each purchase a share of the condo unit. For example, if my sister and I buy a unit as an investment and she puts up 60% of the cost, and I put up the other 40%, the legal documents are drawn up to reflect this deal. When it comes to voting at the AGM, my sister’s vote will count for 0.6%, and my vote will count for 0.4%  because this is our respective share of the unit ownership. In the end, it will still be one unit-one vote. I hope this brings a bit of clarity.

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