Condo corporation has right to access every unit

A condo owner’s unit is not his or her castle, Toronto condominium and commercial litigator Megan Mackey tells

Mackey, partner with Shibley Righton LLP, says many new condo owners are shocked to discover that various sections of Ontario’s Condominium Act provide representatives of the corporation with the right to enter a unit under certain circumstances.

“It’s not like a freehold, where you might say that a person’s home is their castle,” she says. "Many owners don’t appreciate that condo management has rights of access to every unit, and it can be upsetting when they realize it for the first time.

“But when you buy in, you accept that fact. My message to someone who is extremely private is that condo living may not be for them,” says Mackey.

Typically, she says the reasons for entry relate to maintenance and repair.

“Most often, it’s to do with fire inspections or to make sure the balcony is safe,” Mackey explains. “Of course, they have to give written notice before they go in.”

The Act does provide for entry without notice in emergency situations, such as the report of a water leak, she says.

“They have to identify the source of the leak as soon as possible, and shut it off,” Mackey says. “There are many cases where written notice can’t be given in advance, and that can be troubling to some people.”

Other situations can prove more controversial and elicit greater objections from unit owners, such as serious cases of hoarding, which frequently involve large quantities of newspaper or other combustible material.

“The individual may not want the corporation to come in because they’re embarrassed about the state of their unit,” Mackey says. “But when there’s a significant fire hazard, it doesn’t just affect that owner, it also affects their neighbours and everyone else in the condo.”

In a recent matter, she obtained a court order on behalf of a condo board seeking to enter a hoarder’s unit in order to fulfil health and safety obligations.

“Owners get very upset and can suffer from serious anxiety, but the condo has a legal duty to protect the safety and security of its residents,” Mackey says. “You used to see more small claims court actions by unit owners alleging trespass and suing the corporation for damages, but I think they’re getting fewer and farther between as people start to accept the nature of condominium living.”

She says owners are likely becoming more familiar with the condominium's right to enter their units.

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