GUELPH -- Condo owners at a Guelph property have been hit with a surprise bill right before Christmas.

They've been charged an extra $1,000 for hydro. The company managing the building said the charges come from higher electricity bills as people work from home during the pandemic.

"There's no Christmas presents this year," said Shaena Pryce, a condo owner in the building.

She said she received the bill from management in late November, asking for more than $1,000 to cover increased hydro consumption.

"They say you can do it in instalments of about $352 and change, but again, it's still a lot to pay," Pryce said.

Pryce said she usually pays a flat fee for hydro every month.

"Taking an extra 300 and something out for the next three months, out of my pocket, is not going to be easy, because I don't know where the money is coming from," she said.

The letter from the management company said the reserve fund is down $49,000 and the board of directors is looking to balance the books.

"The shortfall has risen over the past 20 months that utility charges, electricity in units have gone up," said Robert Mullin, a partner at SV Law Firm.

"The pandemic restrictions that kept residents in their units more than usual, likely resulting in higher consumption," the letter from Wilson, Blanchard Management Inc. said in part.

The company added that the demand is allowed by law to recover funds for extraordinary expenditures.

Mullin, who is the corporation's legal counsel, said the deficit is divided between the 47 units.

"They're going to have a bigger problem with an underfunded reserve fund and that can lead to violation of the Condominium Act," he said.

Some residents said the bill is too big to pay, as many of them are single parents, unemployed or students.

"Slapping me with this is not fair, because I'm not home using the hydro whenever everybody else," Pryce said.

She also said they've known about the deficit for nearly two years and blaming it on the pandemic doesn't add up.

"Am I going to be on the street because of this $1,100 hike in the bill? I hope not," she said. "I can only do what I can."

Anyone who doesn't pay will have a lien registered against the title of their unit.

"If someone wants to look at this with full transparency, they're allowed to ask the corporation through the board," Mullin said.