I love this time of year. AGM season is almost over. It is hot and sunny; perfect weather for golfing, relaxing by the pool, or going to the beach. And Canada Day is just around the corner! With the 150-year celebrations planned across the country this year’s festivities should be spectacular. More flags. More fireworks. More friends. More family. More celebratory drinks. However you like to celebrate, this year should be a memorable one!
Unfortunately, large celebrations often mean more condo disputes. “My neighbour’s flag blocks my sunlight”. One of the tenants lights fireworks off his 12th-floor balcony. And of course, one of the most common complaints regardless of the time of year, noise and loud parties. No one wants to stop people from having fun, but it can be difficult for a board to balance the competing interests in a condo setting. Here are some suggestions to make this year’s festivities fabulous.
This time of year flags are more prominently displayed. Owners might want to display flags on their cars, office, or homes. The problem is that many condominiums have rules prohibiting owners from making changes to the common elements (i.e. installing a flag pole, affixing a pole to a fence) without the approval of the board. Others have rules prohibiting owners from hanging items from their balconies, or showing anything other than white or off-white curtains in the windows. The question is: can a condominium prohibit owners from displaying a flag?
The National Flag of Canada Act encourages condominiums to allow owners to display the flag; it does not prohibit condominiums from preventing the display of the flag. Accordingly, a condominium could adopt a rule prohibiting the owners from displaying the flag. That said, a rule prohibiting the flag could be found to be unreasonable by a court if an owner challenged the rule. For this reason, I usually recommend that condominiums allow the owners to display flags, but create rules on the permitted size, location, and method of display. This is a good way to balance the competing rights of owners (and prevent an owner from installing a flag so large that it blocks all of his neighbour’s light!).
Fireworks can be a great way to celebrate the holidays, but their associated risks are too high for condominiums to ignore. As a result, most condominiums prohibit owners from using them on the property, either directly with a rule that prohibits fireworks specifically or indirectly with rules that prohibit activities that are unsafe to others, likely to cause a nuisance, or likely to damage the property. A fireworks display is best left to the professionals.
Another issue that can arise with Canada Day is parties. We all want to celebrate and have a good time, but some people take it too far and cause a disturbance to their neighbours with loud music or yelling. Others leave beer bottles and garbage on the property. Some may even get so intoxicated that they pass out on the property (yes, this does happen!) or police are called to break up a fight.
Besides the likely rule violations associated with the behaviours described in the previous paragraph, there is another reason condominiums should be concerned about these behaviours: the condominium has a duty to ensure the property is safe for those using it and it could be found liable for any damages sustained because of its failure to do so. Dangerous behaviours cannot be ignored.
Before the holiday arrives, remind the owners to keep their neighbours in mind when celebrating. The reminder might be in the form of a newsletter, e-blast, update on the website, or poster in the lobby. Whatever the form, it is never a bad idea to remind people of the rules.
Once the day arrives, the most appropriate option to address the issue will depend upon the nature of the complaint. For noise issues, the owners may be able to call on-site security, if any, or municipal by-law officers (depending upon the jurisdiction they may or may not be very helpful). The manager can also be notified and the issue addressed after the holiday is over. If there is a dangerous condition (i.e. a fight breaks out amongst guests at a party) it should be reported to the police, and then the manager when it is safe to do so.
And don’t forget, one of the easiest ways to resolve disputes is to talk to your neighbour. If you approach the situation without judging and in a friendly manner, you should be able to resolve it without involving security, the manager, or police. If you scream, stomp, and swear at the other owner, be prepared for a similar response.
Happy Canada Day!