CONDO LIVING: WHEN LESS IS BEST
While condominium living offers numerous benefits with affordability, great value for location, and amenities at one's doorstep chief among them, it also demands that homeowners exercise a particularly high degree of consideration for those around them.
This, of course, is where condominium boards come in: it is imperative that they enact rules to provide for an enjoyable living experience for all owners, and most importantly, that they enforce them. Enforcement is in fact, vital not only to residents' enjoyment of their property, but also to their well-being.
Hoarding is one example of a scenario in which it is essential for a condominium board to act quickly and decisively despite the uncomfortable nature of such a situation. Based on estimates that hoarding occurs in five per cent of the population, hoarding may afflict up to 1.7 million people in Canada, and despite the rural stereotype, it is a problem that can affect urban properties, including condominiums, in equal measure.
In such cases, the condition has the potential to affect hundreds of residents in a building, posing a fire hazard and significant health risks to the entire property. Fortunately, in situations that present a threat to residents or the property, condominium corporations can apply to the courts to obtain an order under section 117 of the Condominium Act.
When hoarding is discovered, the fire department should be involved immediately and notice should be given to the owner to clean the unit. If they do not comply, section 92 of the Condominium Act allows the corporation to have the unit professionally cleaned, with charges applied to the unit owner.
A similar threat involves overcrowding, not of possessions, but of people in a condominium unit. When the number of people occupying a unit exceeds its intended usage, a multitude of issues including excessive common expenses, and noise and parking concerns can result.
As such, it is important for condominium boards to enact occupancy standards by-laws, limiting the number of persons who may live in a unit, regardless of whether they are relatives.
In establishing such by-laws, boards may choose to use as a guideline, municipal zoning by-laws, which set out the number of persons permitted per square foot, or the Ontario Building Code, which allows two persons per sleeping room. If the latter is chosen, it is important to define a sleeping room as illustrated in the as-built plans, architectural designs or the corporation's registered descriptions so that attempts to circumvent the issue through layout modifications are not made.
The by-law should also include provisions for ejecting persons from any unit in contravention, and levying a reasonable assessment against the unit for increased utility costs and common element maintenance.
Condominium boards may also choose to grandfather existing units in contravention with a requirement that occupants register with the corporation and agree not to allow additional occupants when residents vacate the unit.
Although broaching such sensitive subject matter may be challenging for condominium boards, doing so is essential in providing a safe and enjoyable community for all residents.