Are You Considering Purchasing A Condominium Unit?

November 25, 2015

By Jonathon Clark

With our increasingly busy lives these days, the maintenance-free lifestyle of condominium units becomes more appealing. Over the last ten years, there has been a huge boom in condominium construction in cities like Toronto and even Thunder Bay. When purchasing a condo, the purchaser has to be aware that although it does own the individual unit, there are certain responsibilities that every condo unit owner must live by. The majority of the rules and regulations are found in the corporate documents of the condominium corporation and include the Declaration and the By-laws. Both of these documents will be on title of the condominium unit and the purchaser as such will have notice of the various rules found in these documents.

There is one final set of rules that is not necessarily found on the title of the unit and these are the condominium rules. Although in one sense these rules are rather informal as they do not have to be registered on title, not following these rules can sometimes leave the condominium unit owner subject to severe liability.

RULES

In order for a rule made by the board of directors to become effective, 30 days’ notice must be given to each unit owner of the condominium corporation. Notwithstanding the informal nature of the rules, they are arguably the most important aspect of day to day life of a condo owner.

Section 58(1) of the Condominium Act allows the board of directors to make rules respecting the use of the common elements of the units in order to promote the safety, security, or welfare of the unit owners and the property, or to prevent unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the common elements and other units. Once these rules have been passed and the requisite amount of notice is given to the unit owners, the rules become binding and can be enforced against unit owners, sometimes with severe consequences.

Take for example the recent case of Simcoe Condominium Corporation No. 89 v Dominelli, (2015) ONSC 3661 (CanLII) where a guest of a unit owner was held to be not in compliance with one of the rules of the condominium corporation. In this case the condominium corporation passed a rule that required all dogs on the property must weigh less than 25 pounds. The unit owner and his partner began cohabitating, and during their cohabitation the partner decided to bring her dog to live within the unit. The dog in question was a “Minitature” Golden Retriever/Australian Shepherd mix that weighed above the regulated 25 pound limit. When the unit owner failed in his application for a change in the rules, the partner decided to have a doctor declare the dog in question a service animal for the relief of stress and depression.

The condominium corporation then proceeded to Court for a declaration that the dog was not a service dog and that the rules were valid and not in breach of the Human Rights Code. When this case was finally heard the Judge took issue with the nature of the complainant’s disability, as stress was not recognized as a disability for the purposes of the Human Rights Code. In order to come under the important protection of human rights legislation there must be a diagnosis of some specificity and substance. The references that the complainant was making as to stress and psychological problems by themselves did not meet this standard and as a result the condominium corporation had no duty to accommodate the complainant’s alleged disability.

The Court eventually held that the dog was to be removed from the condominium unit and held that the rule restricting dogs over 25 pounds was valid and in compliance with the Condominium Act.

The end result of a very time consuming and expensive litigation process was that the condominium corporation, as the winning party, was entitled to the costs of the action in the amount of $ 47,000.00 to be secured as a lien against the delinquent owner’s condominium unit.

GOING FORWARD

The moral of the story is that if you are intrigued by the low maintenance condominium living and are prepared to live in a condominium unit, you must also be prepared to live by the various rules and regulations found in the corporate governance documents of the condominium corporation. Getting into a legal battle with the condominium corporation can be extremely risky and in most cases an expensive proposition. If you do lose be prepared to pay the costs of the enforcement action against you.