Keep flags, election signs out of condo windows: Kleiner
By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
Condo dwellers who want to show their support of candidates in political elections should do it in a way that doesn’t involve posting signs in windows or common areas of the building, advises Toronto condominium lawyer Warren Kleiner.
“Most condominiums have rules that dictate what can be visible from the outside, and they invariably provide that only white or off-white window coverings may be visible from the exterior,” says Kleiner, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP.
“Uniformity is really important for market value,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “Buildings with a uniform white appearance look sleek and modern, but that will be marred if election posters suddenly start appearing in windows or on balconies.”
Kleiner says that condo corporations have the ability to pass reasonable rules that are intended to protect the value of the asset, adding that most people accept these limitations as being reasonable.
“If boards were to allow political advertising on exterior-facing areas, that will not only be aesthetically unpleasing, but it could reduce the value of all the units in the building,” he says.
At any time of the year, items such as flags and pop culture posters are typically banned from balconies and exterior windows in condos by the same rules that prohibit political advertising, he says.
“If someone is plastering exterior windows with Union Jacks and Pink Floyd posters, other people may not want to live there. These items belong on the wall in a teenager’s room, not on the exterior of the building.”
He says a lack uniformity affects the overall look of the structure and therefore the value of the units within it.
If an owner wants colourful curtains that is fine, Kleiner says, as long as the back of the curtain facing the street is white.
“If you are in a building where somebody is flying a British flag, and someone else is hanging bright red curtains, that will affect the look of the building from the exterior and will take away from its market value,” he says. “Condo boards do not care what you have facing into your unit.”
He says the Condominium Act does make one “interesting” allowance when it comes to elections, as condo boards must allow candidates or their authorized representatives onto the property during national, provincial, municipal or school board election campaigns.
“In a democracy, it is imperative that candidates be allowed to canvass and distribute their election material,” he says. “But that freedom does not extend to a unit owner being able to post signs on the common elements, nor are candidates allowed to post signs on the property.”
Some condos have internal message boards where owners typically advertise items for sale or parking spots for rent but don’t even think about putting a political poster there, Kleiner says.
“These boards aren’t meant to start political debates, or deal with something that is outside the building,” he says.
Kleiner says another interesting twist of this legislation is that it does not address the rights of those running for condo board elections.
“If you are a unit owner, but you don’t live in the building, your access could be limited if you want to distribute campaign material.”
He says policies regulating the process of running for a position on the condo board vary, with some condominiums allowing unit owners to randomly knock on doors and promote themselves, while others have rules preventing it.