What Do My Maintenance Fees Pay For?


4 minute read

February 27, 2008

Bills, Bills, Bills!

There will never be a day when the bills magically stop arriving in your mailbox, but condominium maintenance fees mean less paperwork and writing of cheques.

I had somebody tell me the other day that “maintenance fees are a waste of money.”

Let me explain how that statement makes absolutely no sense at all…


Somebody once said, “Paying maintenance fees at a condo is like paying rent on a house you own.  What’s the point?”

Who was this poor, uninformed soul?

Me.  A half-decade ago before I got into the real estate business.

I surmised that paying a fee simply for the right to live in a building is similar to what we laymen call “rent.”  But I didn’t know the whole truth, or perhaps I did but just wanted to argue for the sake of arguing…

But there are still people out there today that try to argue with me about how maintenance fees are a “rip off” or how you are forced to “overpay.”

When you look on an MLS listing for a condominium, you’ll know what is included in the monthly maintenance fees by the Y’s and N’s next to the utilities, amenities, and features of the building.

Here is a link to a sample MLS listing with attention drawn to the centre column:


Your utilities are Water, Heat (gas bill), Hydro (electric bill), Central Air (included in electricity bill for condos), and Cable TV.

Your other features are your Building Insurance, Common Elements, Parking, and Property Taxes.

Most every condo in the city will include the Water bill in the monthly maintenance fees, and I would estimate that 30-50% of condos include the Heat.

But probably only 25% of condos include the Hydro and Central Air.  Fortunately, my condo does, and it’s one less bill (and one less fee!) that I have to worry about.  But new condominium developments do NOT include these in the maintenance fees, and I’ve heard rumblings that Toronto Hydro is looking to phase out the inclusion of the Hydro-Electric costs in Toronto condos.

Cable TV is almost never included in the maintenance fees, unless you live at Palace Pier, which is tantamount to living in a hotel.

All condominiums include the Common Elements, or that would kind of defeat the purpose in living in a condo.  Building Insurance is also included, which pertains to your individual unit as well.

Parking is included 95% of the time, assuming you own a parking space, however at Merchandise Lofts on Dalhousie, owners pay $51.62/month in additional parking fees even though they own their spots!

Property Taxes are never included, and I don’t know why they even include that option on the MLS listings.


There you have your monthly maintenance fees, and what they pay for.

If you own a house, surely you pay your Heat, Hydro, and Water Bills, and you have House Insurance as well.  So if those things are included in your monthly maintenance fees for your condo, what are you complaining about?

Well, people argue that, for example, those fees might add up to $200, but your condo fees are $275.88/month.

“What else am I paying for?”

“Condo fees are a total rip-off!”

This is where people fail to think outside the box.

Think of things you might do around your house, if you owned one, and then think about how those things are done for you at a condo.

When it snows, who do you think shovels the walkway outside your condo?  Who salts the icy pavement?

If you have a rooftop patio at your condo, who do you think waters the plants, or puts them there in the first place?  Who maintans the BBQ’s or BBQ pits outside?

And how about Mike, Bob, and Fred—those guys that work security downstairs.  Do you think they work for free?

When the elevator breaks, does the repair company come and fix it because they like helping people?  Where do those costs come from?

And I guess the Toronto Fire Department doesn’t charge a fee when they come to the building a few times a month for false fire alarms, do they?

There are so many expenses that every condominium corporation has, and most people fail to realize it!

Think about the 30th of every month, when people move in and out of the building.  Imagine this conversation between Taylor & Tyler, or two other young hipsters: “Okay…turn….yeah…okay…now pivot…..yeah….move your end up a bit….and….(CRASH).  Oh dude, I totally just smashed your sofa into the wall.”  “Oh don’t worry bro, it’s the friggin’ hallway.  Just don’t do that inside my condo!”

Who do you think does all the touch-up painting in the elevators, lobbies, and hallways of your building?

Who vaccuums the carpets in those hallways as well, or mops the lobby every single night?

Do Anna & Sally clean the building for free as well?

How is the mail distributed into the mailboxes?

How about each spring when the pavement in the underground parking garage is power-washed to remove an entire winter’s worth of salt and dirt?

Then there’s the garbage!  How often is the chute clogged by lazy people throwing out large cardboard boxes? (guilty!)  What about the garbage removal itself?

Think about the world’s most dangerous job: window cleaner.  When that guy is hanging from the roof by a pulley and some rope, surely he is being well compensated by your condo corporation!

I could go on and on…..and on, but I’m actually beginning to annoy myself!

Ideally, you do pay MORE than just your utilities each month so the condominium corporation can save up a large amount of money in the Reserve Fund.

If you haven’t heard of a “Reserve Fund,” you’ve been living in a cave on Mars for the past little while.

A “healthy” condominum corporation will have ample money in the reserve fund, and I know of many, many conditional real estate transactions that have been lost because a thorough analysis of a the reserve fund revealed a severe lack of funding.

The whole idea behind the reserve fund is trying to avoid the dreaded “Special Assessment.”

When the roof caves in, and it’s going to cost $400,000 to fix, if the condominium corporation doesn’t have ample money in the reserve fund, you might receive a bill for $1739.13.

Trust me, there is nothing “special” about a Special Assessment.

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Your a dumbass

    at 4:47 am

    My reserve fund went to pay for a new building that was built right next door. Reserve fund is just a number. They move money around and invest in other things hoping nothing will happen before they can replace it. maintenance fees are unregulated allowing for gross discrepencies between different properties. They may maintain the property but they don’t have to use money effectively cause its not theirs. Condos resembling apartment buildings are charing ridiculous amounts of maintenance.

    1. Judy

      at 11:52 am

      Happened to us and our building went bankrupt

  2. noi that nha dan dung

    at 11:15 pm

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give something back and aid others such as you helped me.

  3. Alla

    at 5:38 pm

    Where are you pulling these numbers?

  4. Judy

    at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for this info. I’ve been trying to decide if I should buy a condo. This helps.
    One thing you said I do disagree with. Listing the property tax on the MLS listing.
    I find it very frustrating looking at listing where there is no property tax listed. It varys so much in different areas of Ontario. It would be nice to know if I can afford a place without having to call the agent to find the property tax.

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  6. Anne

    at 10:42 am

    I live in a condo in Edmonton heat is included in my condo fees which are $490 .00 Per month.Since Dec 29 2015 I have been having problems with not having any heat on many occasions.I am being told that they are working on it.It is now Jan 15 2016 and from 7 pm last night Jan 14 I have had no heat in my unit it is now 8.30 am and still not even a call from the resident manager who told me last name night that I should call her at 8 am which I did and have had no reply.I also contacted Magnum York the property management company.i do not know what to do I am a 78 year old senior and all this is really taking a tole on my heaith.

    1. Helen

      at 5:27 pm

      Seems like Magnum York have problems in calling you when you leave a message for them. I have the same management company and every time I left a message for them to call me I never did. They certainly know how to pocket the fees they earn yearly (for not managing property)….I am disgusted. Never buy a condo or a townhouse it’s nothing but a big ripoff. Legalized theft that’s all it is. In 6 l/2 years I’ve paid approx. $17,000 in condo fees….for what? . To cut a bit of grass in the front and shovel the sidewalk in front of my place when it snows? It would have been cheaper to hire a young guy to do that for $20.00. Or even $40.00. Not to mention all the hassles I’ve had with the Board of Directors who are just in it for themselves. Never again…..have to sell and get out of here.

    2. Jennifer

      at 6:08 pm

      Hello Helen, if your issue consists, go to your local city office and ask to speak with city inspector ..your heat will promptly be looked at and repaired! They don’t mess around and they have the athority over property managements/Owners etc. Keep their number handy. ????

  7. Mike

    at 6:30 pm

    This post is hilarious, let me explain why. I used to live in a condo in Mississauga and my condo fees were 475 a month, I never thought twice. It included water and heat, and the obvious things like snow removal and lawn maintenance. Then I bought my first house, and within 4 months was amazed at the 3years I was ripped off by condo fees. My house is nearly 4 times the square footage of the condo, yet in water, gas and electricity I don’t come close to paying 475 in utilities. I’m a contractor, snow removal and lawn maintained on a building with even 20-30 units would result in less than $30 per unit. As for ‘all those things’ maintained by the building. Those are common areas, never in your own unit. If I fixture or switch breaks, you fix it. If your faucet leaks, you fix it. Some paint in the hallways and a maintained person to mop the floors again doesn’t amount to very much a month when divided over numerous units. Fact is that a small amount of research shows that most buildings and townhouses profit anywhere from 10-35%off your condo fees. Plain and simple. Give me the separate bills any day. If you believe that this ‘makes your life easier’ your simply too lazy. Bills are paid online and take 5 seconds via online banking.

    1. Neil

      at 5:17 pm

      and when you find out you have a problem with your roof? Foundation? Plumbing? What type of bill will that be compared to if you’re in a condo.

      1. Ammar Salman

        at 11:08 pm

        I believe that is taken out of the reserve fund. Isn’t that separate from the monthly fees? If it is, then the monthly fees do not cover that and are still ripoff.

        1. dave

          at 4:45 pm

          Ammar, your idiocy astounds me.
          By purchasing a condo you are entering into an agreement with the condo corporation. The fees go into maintenance for the building as a whole. Windows, roof, plumbing, parking, lighting, garbage removal, cleaning, general upkeep. As an owner you don’t have to deal with any structural element of the condo. Should you wish to participate you can join the condo board and have these rules changed. No one is forcing services on you. If you don’t like it do not purchase.
          “What I do in my house, I do it when I want to, and when I need to. Not when someone else decides it.”
          Really? When there’s a leak in your house or a cracked window no one tells you what to do? You don’t have to fix it? You just leave it broken. these things come up. You HAVE to deal with them. Your grasp of condo fees and home maintenance leads me to believe you do not own a home at all.

      2. ExperiencedCondoOwner

        at 3:43 pm

        When your hot water tank breaks, it’s a $1500 replacement that lasts you at least 10 years (a repair cost of $13/month). Same idea with your roof $10K over 15 years (cost of $55/month). Still infinitely cheaper than condo fees. And if you have an issue with the foundation… well that’s something you probably should investigate when buying… not to mention a foundation issue in a condo building is going to incur an insane special assessment (I’ve seen upwards of $50K) – no reserve fund covers that kind of damage – doesn’t matter if it’s a condo or home… at least your home probably has insurance to cover it. Condo insurance is not going to pay out the $30million to repair a highrise.

  8. Helen

    at 5:30 pm

    Mike you hit the nail on the head with your comment. They are nothing but a bunch of thieves.

  9. priya nugara

    at 11:00 am

    Hi there, I am in a two bedroom attached condominium townhouse and i pay maintenance fee of $250 a month for two of us but there are 3-7 people living in other houses and they pay the same amount and its not fair. Any advice on this? thank you

    1. priya nugara

      at 11:03 am

      Also they only cut the grass, clean the parking lot, clear the garbage in common areas but not water or % of heat is paid.

    2. Jia

      at 11:26 pm

      Our building maintenance fees is 740$ for 1400 sq feet. When sq foot of your home increases, maintenance fees also increases. Why is that? You won’t be spending that much for your independent house every month.

    3. troll

      at 9:43 pm

      the fee is not based on how many persons are occupying a space, but how large that space is in relation to the building.

    4. Eileen

      at 4:54 pm

      Yes I agree. I’m alone and have to pay same amt for water garbage ect as unit with 4 5 or 6 in it. Not right no way do I use that much water!!

  10. David

    at 7:50 am

    What a schill attempt this is. Condo fees are a scam.

    Real estate agents are like car salesmen. All crooked.

  11. Paul

    at 10:03 am

    What a great article. I write tomorrow final exam. One question. Heat hydro hot water, water charges, central air, and insurance. Common elements? Or can they be common elements

  12. Tomasz dabrowski

    at 10:45 pm

    Why would I want to pay for security ! That’s the point ! I don’t ! And plants ? I don’t want any ! And elevators ? I don’t want any ! Sally mops the floors and cleans carpets ? On who’s floor ? Only mine ? Why am I paying for everyone else’s garbage and fire drills . This article is a joke .

  13. Ammar Salman

    at 10:40 pm

    What I do in my house, I do it when I want to, and when I need to. Not when someone else decides it.

    This article is mainly saying the fees are for everything that is done for you. Yes, I know there is a lot done but when you add up how many people are paying those fees and how much is actually done, you’ll find part of the ripoff.

    The other part is forcing people into paying for services they simply do not want or need. I don’t want someone to shovel the snow, or water the flowers, …, etc. etc…. I can do it on my own. Forcing services on people and charging them for it is just absurd.

    1. Dani O

      at 2:43 pm

      I agree. I guarantee the $550 I pay in condo fees, does not justify the shoddy garden work. the lacklustre cleaners, the annoying security who do NOTHING, the window cleaners who don’t actually clean the windows properly. I could go on and on and on top of it you still have to buy your parking spot to boot. smdh

    2. troll

      at 9:42 pm

      then live in an apartment you troll

  14. Jenna Mac

    at 3:44 pm

    Will elevator damage included in this? For example, I scratchesd the elevator, will they take the bill out of my maintenance fees?

    1. Dani O

      at 2:41 pm

      Nope they will not. You will be fined and expected to pay either out of your damage deposit or via cheque if the damage exceeds the deposit.

  15. Lana

    at 4:22 pm

    Is heathing pump for individuals appartment include in maintennace fee or that is owners rensposibility?

  16. Tony Burris

    at 9:05 am

    I really enjoyed this post. You describe this topic very well. I really enjoy reading your blog and I will definitely bookmark it! Keep up the interesting posts!


  17. ExperiencedCondoOwner

    at 3:36 pm

    This is such a bad argument… Most condo buildings don’t include unit utilities anymore.
    I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a condo were electricity was included in condo fees (and certainly never phone or cable). In Toronto, almost all buildings exclude heating, and new ones are now excluding water as well. You’re paying $500/month for an elevator, lights that are always on in the hallway for no reason (get motion sensors), and overpriced common area cleaning/maintenance/concierge. I’m sorry but for a budget of over $1million/year in condo fees… it’s a damn waste. Owning a house I get better appreciation and I control when I do repairs/cleaning and how much it costs (condo board just hires whoever PM recommends… and they get kickbacks and “secret profits” so it’s never a cheap provider). When you have to pay all your own taxes, insurance and utilities anyways… You’re coming out WAY ahead even paying a maid to clean your actual unit (not just a hallway) and the kid next door to shovel your driveway/mow the lawn. Condo fees in Toronto at least are 100% rip off!!! And PM’s totally mismange the funds.

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