Canada: Paying the toll: Hamilton’s Royal Connaught condo owners must pay fee to go through the lobby - PressFrom - Canada
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CanadaPaying the toll: Hamilton’s Royal Connaught condo owners must pay fee to go through the lobby

21:55  03 june  2019
21:55  03 june  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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Paying the toll: Hamilton’s Royal Connaught condo owners must pay fee to go through the lobby© John Rennison The Roayl Connaught lobby.

The rebirth of the historic Royal Connaught Hotel as a condominium was a major milestone on the road to downtown rejuvenation.

But who could have foreseen that folks who purchased a condo unit would have to pay a toll to use the restored Grand Lobby, the focal point of the 1916 architectural gem?

Certainly not Lynda Zugec, who moved into a one-bedroom unit at the Residences of Royal Connaught in the summer of 2017.

A year later she was shocked to discover that the lobby isn’t considered part of the condominium and she has to pay a fee to go through it to get to her home.

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Zugec feels she’s been misled. She says the luxurious lobby was front and centre in the purchasing sales pitch and continues to be featured prominently in material promoting the Connaught’s amenities.

“I just want what I was sold,” she says.

“The main lobby is obviously the centre of attention for the building and people were assuming that because this was part of the property … that the main lobby is part of the condo itself.”

But it isn’t. At least it’s not among the common elements such as the facade, hallways and rooftop that unit owners share.

According to a licensing agreement signed by developers Rudi Spallacci and Ted Valeri, residents have the right to use the lobby “for the purpose of ingress and egress” to get to their condo units.

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But they collectively have to pay about $69,000 a year for the privilege. That works out to roughly $40 a month per unit.

Zugec isn’t the only resident fuming over what she sees as a case of bait-and-switch, albeit legal.

Having seen the “beautiful” lobby splashed all over the Connaught’s marketing materials, Trevor Copp is amazed he has to pay just to walk through it.

“That’s like buying a house and then learning that the house is yours but they own the front door (and) you need to pay up every time you walk in,” Copp said by email.

The fact city council gave the first phase of the redevelopment project a $1.6 million grant only adds insult to injury for Copp.

What does Spallacci, president of Royal Connaught Inc., have to say about all this?

Who knows? Repeated calls to him and the Connaught’s communications firm were not returned.

Cameron Nolan, president of the board for Condo 1 — the first phase of the multi-tower redevelopment — says a number of residents in the 139 units are similarly upset.

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“People who walked into the Grand Lobby and were sold on the Grand Lobby, rightly or wrongly, interpreted that the lobby would be owned by them,” he says.

Nolan says his board is reaching out to Spallacci to try to resolve the issue. “We seem to be getting a positive response around the request for dialogue but no meeting has yet been scheduled.”

Still, progress of a kind has been made. Initially, residents weren’t allowed to use the lobby for social purposes such as visiting, reading or working on a laptop. Spallacci gave permission to do so last December.

Nonetheless, those privileges can be revoked at any time. On top of that, Spallacci has the right to let other parties use the lobby while residents have to use a different entrance for a specified period of time.

Even worse, the “ingress and egress” agreement expires after 20 years, which means the lobby feasibly could be sold right out from under the residents’ feet.

How did all this come about? Disclosure statements provided by Royal Connaught Inc. to buyers in 2014 and 2016 clearly state ownership of the lobby is not part of the condominium and that rent will be charged.

Zugec alleges the documents were either “downplayed” or some owners weren’t aware of their importance. For his part, Nolan says there was clearly some confusion about what it all meant. “It’s a very complicated matter.”

It is indeed. One which brings to mind the importance of reading the fine print, even if it isn’t so very fine.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. [email protected] @AndrewDreschel

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This is interesting!