Condominium communities can sometimes play host to unwanted pests, mould or other organisms that can cause harm to both individuals and property. These issues are collectively referred to as “infestations.” Infestation issues can be very serious in condo communities because of the close proximity of units, which increases the risk of an infestation moving or spreading into other units or the common elements.
The different types of infestations include:
- Animals, such as mice, rats, or birds;
- Invertebrates, such as ants, bedbugs, termites, or cockroaches;
- Fungus/mould; and
- Bacteria, viruses, or any other organisms that can contaminate a home.
Examples of common infestation issues include:
- Rats or mice infesting the condo’s parking garage, garbage disposal areas or individual units.
- Bedbugs and other insects infesting the condo’s common elements, causing damage to the property.
- Mould growing behind the walls of several units, causing illnesses and other health problems for owners/ occupants.
If you think that your infestation issue may be caused by another owner’s/ occupant’s pet, you may be dealing with a Pets and Animals issue.
Because living in a condo often means living close to your neighbours, there is a risk of infestations spreading between units, therefore, many condo corporations have provisions in their governing documents (i.e. their declaration, by-laws, and rules) that relate to infestation. These provisions would most likely be found in the corporation’s declaration or rules, though they may also be found in the by-laws.
Under section 58 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the Condo Act), condo corporations can adopt rules to:
- Promote the safety, security, or welfare of the owners and of the property;
- Prevent unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the units or common elements of the corporation.
Accordingly, condo corporations will often have rules that:
- Require owners or occupants to take reasonable steps to prevent infestations in their unit and the common elements (e.g. garbage bins must be secured and locked after use).
- Require owners or occupants to take immediate action to address an infestation (e.g. unit owners must immediately contact the condo corporation upon discovery of black mould in a unit).
- Prohibit certain activities that are likely to cause infestations (e.g. restrictions on keeping insects in the condo).
If you are experiencing an infestation issue, you may want to review your condo’s governing documents to understand if your condo has any infestation related provisions or obligations.
A condo corporation’s governing documents are required to be consistent with the Condo Act. In addition, a condo corporation’s by-laws and rules must be consistent with the declaration and must be reasonable.
Don’t have a copy of your condo corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules?
Owners can request a copy from your condo corporation using the mandatory Request for Records form, available on the CAO website.
How does the Condo Act apply?
Under subsection 119 (1) of the Condo Act, if your condo corporation’s governing documents deal with infestation, everyone is required to follow them.
Under the Condo Act, owners and condo corporations are also required to maintain and repair their respective portions of the condo. Most commonly, condo corporations are responsible for the common elements of the condo, while owners are responsible for their units and the common elements that they have exclusive use over.
If you have the obligation to maintain or repair an area of a condo, you may be responsible for:
- Preventing the start or growth of any infestation;
- Containing and removing an infestation from an infested area; and
- Repairing any damage that an infestation has caused.
If an infestation issue does occur, it may need to be addressed immediately. Section 117 of the Condo Act prohibits anyone from allowing or causing any condition to exist, or carry on with any activity in a unit or in the common elements, that are likely to damage the property, or to injure someone.
As some types of infestations are known to cause property damage or illnesses, these infestations will need to be contained and removed quickly. Therefore, it is important for you to notify your condo corporation if you notice an infestation in the unit or the common elements.
Furthermore, under section 17 (3) of the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that everyone complies with the Condo Act and the condo corporation’s governing documents.
Therefore, if your condo corporation is aware of an infestation issue that violates the corporation’s governing documents, they are legally required to take action to address it. For this reason, it is important for you to notify your condo corporation if you have an infestation issue.
Other Legal Considerations
As uncontained infestations can spread and cause injury or illness to other people in the condo, a condo corporation may need to enter, repair or maintain a unit to contain the issue. Section 92 of the Condo Act allows a condo corporation to:
- Repair a unit if the owner does not do so within a reasonable time;
- Maintain a unit if the owner does not do so within a reasonable time, or if the lack of maintenance threatens to:
- Damage the common elements; or
- Injure others in the condo.
Subsection 92 (4) of the Condo Act specifies that the cost of the work done by the condo corporation on behalf of an owner will be added to the unit owner’s common expenses. Because of these costs, it is important for condo corporations to contact a unit owner about:
- an alleged infestation;
- the condo’s intention to enter the unit to inspect or address the infestation; and
- the costs of addressing an infestation on the owner’s behalf.