Condo Rules – Occupancy Restrictions Rant

September 16th, 2015 · 8 Comments · Property Management, Real Estate Lawyer, Rental Property

Human Rights Day commemoration, 21 Mar 2015Lets talk about the sneaky way that condos restrict occupation of their units and how that impacts investors and occupants alike.  I’ll even name then and shame them in this post because I’m a fed up by this blatant ignorance of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal’s clear rules and regulations. You may not discriminate based on family status. Some people are both dumb and discriminatory.

Unknown Client

Just last month I refused a client, she had a lovely 3 bedroom condo on Coxwell Ave.  We talked a while, I told her that it should be pretty easy to rent because it was on the second floor and a three bedroom. “We will be able to find a great family for your condo” I said. “No, I don’t want to rent to families” she told me. I asked her “Who exactly do you think will rent a three bedroom condo?”

According to this lady, there are a lot of seniors who want to pay for a three bedroom even if they only need one. I can’t wait until the rampaging horde of seniors finds me, because I keep renting to young professionals and families. The seniors are stuck to their large paid off houses and so far are not renting condos.

Sadly, I told her I don’t discriminate like that. First because I don’t want to. Second because it’s illegal and all I lost was the opportunity to make 20 trips downtown looking for a magical tenant.

3650 Kaneff Crescent, Mississauga

This condo is managed by Tridel and it used to be a seniors building. They’ve enjoyed a long history of discrimination and they continue to this day. It’s no surprise that a lot of units are for sale in that building. Last year we rented a one plus den that had been converted to a two bedroom unit to a family. We did not ask how many children the family had. It’s none of our business as long as the parents can pay rent. We had no legitimate reason to decline them. After the family (very nice and clean BTW) move in we find out that they have 4 small children when the management of 3650 Kaneff Crescent, Tridel sends the owner a letter stating that his maintenance fees will increase 50% because there are 2 more people then are allowed by the building by-laws.

The place is very clean and organized and well taken care of. The building wants to charge more for these 2 extra kids because of wear and tear on the building. That’s $400 more a month. It’s 1300 square feet, unlike the 3 bedroom I manage that’s 900. (coming up next)

So I sent a letter to the owner of the unit and he requested a meeting with the condo board.

Please forward this information onto the condo management. It is my position at this point that we were unable to discriminate based on the number of children that the tenants had because it is illegal. However the Ontario Human Rights Code does also prevail over the condo bylaw. Just as it would be disallowed to ask a resident to pay more based on their colour the condo board regulation is not complying with the requirements of the OHRC based on lack of discrimination based on family size.

Certainly a maintenance fee increase of 50% is unreasonable at best and illegal.

Condominium corporations may not contract out of the law, in this case the OHRC because of perceived increased utility cost. Do they give single people a discount because they are not using their allotment of utilities? I think not. This is a poorly veiled attempt to limit children in the building or provide a severe financial disincentive for landlords to allow families as tenants.

My suggestion at this point is that the Condo Board review the relevant legislation and possibly send it their lawyer for consideration before imposing any extra fees or penalties or increase in maintenance fees. The bylaws are created when the building becomes a corporate entity, usually a year or so after occupancy. However the rules for housing and specifically the addition of housing guidelines to the OHRC and subsequent enforcement of those laws have changed considerably in the last few years. It is only reasonable that our enforcement of these by-laws must change to reflect the updated status of the OHRC.

Many thanks,

Rachelle

That was in February and apparently no increase was sent to the owner. Now the lease is expired and the condo board and Tridel as their agent are pressuring my client to terminate the lease or they will impose the increase in maintenance fees.

Tridel, what are you doing? This condo board is a bunch of uninformed yokels, but you are supposed to be professionals and tell your clients when they are doing questionable and stupid acts that will wind up before the courts. Do you really want a OHRT suit that will cost tens of thousands or more to defend so you can illegally discriminate against families? Seriously, get your head out of the board’s ass and give your head a shake. I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of funds for a condo that already charges $734.11 per month in maintenance fees for one plus den. Just saying. (Now you know why I don’t work as a condo manager lol)

The Westlake 2220 Lakeshore Ave W

As mentioned previously, this building has sold a 3 bedroom, two bath condo to my client. It’s a whole 900 square feet so the rooms are a decent size but the common area is about the size of an eat in kitchen. Living room is combined with the kitchen. It’s small. The families who came to see it, rejected it because there is no living space to speak of. So we rented it to a few roommates that are all working, very polite and completely respectful.

So here is Onni the developer being stupid.

Hi (Wonderful Client),

So I just spoke to Tina from Westlake.  Our tenants have been having access issues as they only have 1 FOB between the three of them and as the building develops, they have implemented a system where in order to access your floor, you will need to swipe your FOB.  Each fob only accesses your floor (strangely enough.  Meaning if you live on the 6th floor, you will not be able to visit your friend on any other floor without them swiping their FOB in the elevator).   

Additionally, according to Tina, it has been determined by the Board that each unit is allowed a maximum of 2 FOBS… 1 garage and 1 general access.  This may change depending on Board decisions / outcome of voting I assume by unit owners (so make sure you attend those Board meetings!  😉

Our tenants currently have 1 FOB.  In order to secure another, they require an email from the Unit Owner indicating;

That you require an additional FOB
The name of the tenant it is required for (tenant)
The purpose for the FOB (for the tenant)
Who will be picking up the FOB (myself)
Personal cheque from the Unit owner of $75 payable to Onni Contracting Ontario

Tina, kindly confirm if there is anything further that you require or if I am missing any information.  

(Client), let me know when / where is best place for me to get the cheques from you.  I will collect deposit from tenants once I issue to them that will be exchanged for the FOB at the end of their tenancy.

Regards,

 
Dina Mulic

Then I replied to all including this manager…

Hi Dina,

Did you tell management that we have a three bedroom and that it’s completely possible to have 3 adult people living in a three bedroom?

Is it possible that we are seeing the same discriminatory policy we saw and complained about at Kaneff Crescent? Are management aware that policies discriminating like this are against Ontario Human Rights Commissions guidelines on housing?

I’m sure the Westlake wouldn’t want to be the brought in front of the OHRC for providing to provide proper access for our residents. Residents who are perfectly legally allowed to live in the building.

I’m sure that we can get 3 FOBs because that’s just reasonable.

Rachelle

Fortunately Onni saw the light and decided to issue us another FOB to access the building. It would not be illegal for 3 couples to share a 3 bedroom. It would be tight but possible. So without doing anything wrong we could need 6 FOBs per 3 bedroom. As a landlord you might only rent to three people but they might end up with a spouse/bedfriend.

Occupancy Thoughts

Some people’s response to these higher rents is to simply share accommodations. It’s unfortunate but people want to get ahead and even if that’s not our style, they figure out ways to make due in very small spaces. I had a lovely family at 225-235 Sherway Gardens Rd condominiums, they moved in pregnant, and had two children, then I became aware that every time I went to inspect the unit their parents were “visiting” so that was 6 people living in 500 square feet. They paid the rent every single month, the place was immaculate and neat and tidy. I didn’t even have to paint the unit after they left. The law is pretty clear that landlords do not have the right to limit occupancy other than according to the city bylaws. Even so, if the unit is being kept immaculately, I’m not going to call the city on an apartment I manage. Had they told me before they moved in that they were going to live 6 people in a one bedroom I would have said no but eventually they moved out and bought a nice house. They were saving up money for a long time.

Benefits of Management

As more and more condominiums are rental units, I see more and more of these conflicts between landlords trying to break even and condo managers. You can get some really bizarre boards who are completely unchecked by their management companies. (They are terrified of getting fired) Owners don’t generally know the rules that well and most people don’t have the chutzpah to set these boards and managers straight. I’ve had condo managers try and stick owners with repairs many times, extend the amount of time renovations on a suite over 6 months because of unnecessary bureaucratic approvals, general incompetence and more. I’m really looking forward to this new Condo Tribunal which will give condo owners reasonably priced access to justice.

Otherwise we will end up with a city’s worth of Panorama Courts in 30 years. One more article on that nightmare condo.

What have your experience been as a landlord of a condo?

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