Concerns about unpleasant odours are a common condo issue. Living in a condo may mean sometimes encountering smells that can travel between units and the common elements.
Unwanted odours are usually caused by someone else’s behaviour, or the design/construction of the building.
Odours may be unavoidable, but they can become an issue, particularly if there is a pervasive scent that is unusual or offensive, and especially if it negatively impacts someone’s enjoyment of their unit or the common elements. Regardless if the odour is offensive or not, it is important to determine how it’s caused and how to eliminate it.
Examples of common odour issues include:
- Odours caused by neighbors or from neighbouring units, including unpleasant cooking smells, or smells from burning incense.
- Odours caused by certain activities, including smoke from cigarettes or cannabis.
- Odours caused by a lack of grooming, cleaning, and caregiving of pets.
- Odours related to the operation of common elements, including smells from the garbage chute or common elements.
If you think your odour issue may be caused by another owner’s or occupant’s pet, or by smoking tobacco or cannabis, you may be dealing with a Pets and Animals issue or a Smoke and Vapour issue.
If you think your odour issue may be caused by infestation, you may be dealing with an Infestation issue.
How do my condo corporation’s governing documents apply?
Because living in a condo often means living close to your neighbours, many condo corporations have provisions in their governing documents (i.e. their declaration, by-laws, and rules) to prevent unwanted odours. 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.
Also, condo corporations will often have rules that:
- Require owners or occupants to take reasonable steps to prevent or prohibit certain activities that are likely to cause odours (e.g. no smoking within the units or common elements).
- Require owners or occupants to take part in routine maintenance procedures (e.g. replacing air filters, or taking steps to prevent the growth of mould within the units or the common elements that they have exclusive use over).
If you are experiencing an odour issue, you may want to first review your condo corporation’s governing documents for any odour related requirements 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 odours, 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 an odour 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.
Certain smells may cause an allergic reaction and impact on an individual’s overall health or enjoyment of their unit. Therefore, it is important for you to notify your condo corporation immediately if you notice that an odour is an issue 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 odour 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 odour issue.
Other Legal Considerations
While condo corporations are required to ensure that everyone complies with the Condo Act and with the condo corporation’s governing documents, they may not be able to control what happens outside of the condo corporation’s property or physical boundaries.
For example, your condo corporation may not be able to address issues like:
- Odours coming from other buildings; or
- Odours from nearby streets or the environment.
Depending on the type of issue you’re experiencing, you may also wish to review your municipality’s by-laws, or contact the organization responsible for your municipality’s by-law enforcement. Municipalities may have by-laws regarding garbage or composting containment to prevent unwanted odours, for example.