Ignore The Rules!

One of the biggest differences between living in a condo and living in a house: the rules and regulations.

I find a direct correlation between the age of the condo board president and the number of ridiculous rules, but I digress…

You know what they say: rules are meant to be broken…

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I heard a rumor the other day that the new property manager at my condominium was going to outlaw all BBQ’s in the building.

Something about propane tanks in the elevator….I dunno, I wasn’t paying attention as I was too busy grilling crown rack of lamb on my terrace…

But then a colleague of mine said, “Hey Fleming, looks like your BBQ days are coming to an end!  Did you get that notice?”  Apparently, this issue is more than just a rumor and it really seems like the building is going to crack down on BBQ usage.

Nevertheless, I shrugged, and said, “Over my dead body.”

Hopefully my dead body won’t be charred from an accidental propane explosion…

Every time a condominium corporation is formed, a “declaration” is drawn up along with rules & regulations, and about two hundred pages of stuff that nobody wants to read.

Within those pages, however, are details on how you are going to live your life if you want to be part of this particular condo tribe.

But that doesn’t mean that people always follow the rules…

Here are my top-five broken rules in Toronto condominiums:

1) BBQ’s
How many condominium owners in Toronto have a BBQ?  And how many of them are actually allowed?  Almost 99% of condos in Toronto do not allow BBQ’s, but that somehow infringes on every Torontonian’s God-given right to barbecue to their heart’s content after enduring such long, harsh winters.  Next time you’re standing on the 28th floor patio of any CityPlace building (hopefully owned by a friend, and not you…) look at an adjacent building and count all the BBQ’s!  Same goes for the glut of condos at Yonge/Sheppard.

People just don’t care.  They own BBQ’s and have the attitude, “If I get caught, I get caught.”  I for one subscribe to that motto.

My brother has a gorgeous 330 square foot patio, and I keep telling him to get the most expensive Weber barbecue he can find.  He asked me how he would get the propane tanks past the concierge, and I told him to get a baby stroller, put the propane in, and wrap it up with blanket.

Two words: Pure Genius!

I’m willing to endure the nuisance of having several kindly-worded letters sent to me by the property manager in order to keep my BBQ.  They will have to sue me in a court of law, and then physically remove my BBQ before I give up.  And consider that I have a 440 square foot, open-air terrace where BBQ’s were formally allowed when I purchased the unit.

Just think about all those illegal BBQ’s on the 60 square foot balconies across the city…

2) Pets
I was at Aqua down at 410 Queen’s Quay on Saturday, and at the front door they have posted “Building Rules” which judging by the list of only four must be a summary of the most important rules.

Rule number-one is regarding pets, and it reads: “Pets are allowed, but only pets upwards of 30 lbs.  Please ensure when you purchase your puppy that it will not grow past 30 lbs.”

They say we are in a recession, but I’m pretty sure the industry of pet-weight-forecasting is simply BOOMING what with the rules and regs down at Aqua!  And how many staffers are on hand to conduct weekly pet weigh-ins?

I’ve seen countless buildings that post rules about pets not pissing in elevators, on carpets, in stairwells, or on their owners’ feet, but that doesn’t stop these “cute” friends of ours from acting unruly.

If you happen to be on the second floor of 230 King Street, if it smells like a kennel, that’s because it basically is

3) Storage In Parking Spaces
Space comes at a huge premium in condominiums, and on the weekend, I met two guys who downsized from an 1800 square foot townhouse into an 825 square foot loft.  I asked them how they managed to miniaturize their lives, and they said, “We wanted to have less stuff.”

Most condo owners store their possessions in every nook and cranny, and the parking space presents an excellent, yet controversial location.

Straight from the horses mouth: “Please be reminded that parking spaces are intended only for motor vehicle parking and any personal items are subject to removal.”

The most common item “stored” here are winter tires, but I’ve seen bicycles, camping gear, boxes upon boxes, and countless bicycles.

The idea is to keep the condo’s integrity by not giving carte blanche for people to act as if their parking space is a storage locker reminiscent of grandma’s yard sale.  We want clean, tidy, orderly common elements, and owners are constantly notified by management to remove any personal items.

When I first moved into my condo, I put up one of those signs that reads “Parking For Leafs Fans Only.”  My property manager made me remove it.  I guess she’s a Habs fan…

4) Renovations
This one should probably top the list, but it’s seldom thought of.  As per the property manager in my building, “Although you can paint or decorate your suite as you wish, the Board of Directors must first approve any other changes to your suite (ie. flooring, etc.)  Please detail all of the work that you wish to undertake in writing for the Board’s consideration.”

Ummmm……”consideration?”

Consider that I own my unit, and I’ll do with it what I please, thank you very much…

I find it comically ironic that they cited “flooring” in the paragraph above, since I happen to have Djuro Babic and the Serbian crew coming to install white oak in my condo on Friday.

I can’t imagine submitting an application or request to the Board so they can fumble around and take their sweet time approving something that would never get turned down anyways.

If I wanted to knock down some walls or rearrange some plumbing, then perhaps it’s worth a talk.  But for them to say “although you can paint or decorate your suite as you wish” is an insult.  The mere mention of “decorating” as if they are doing US a favor is a joke.

This isn’t an apartment building; we own our condos.  I urge people (as a condo owner, not as a Realtor) to do as they please in their own units.

5) Garbage
Stop me if I’ve already told this story!  Last year, I brought a heavy bag full of garbage downstairs and asked the evil Jawad if he could open the garbage room door.  If Sebastien was there, I wouldn’t have had a problem.  But overzealous Jawad asked me, “What type of garbage is this?”  I returned, “Is there more than one type of garbage?”

He began to look through my bag and he pulled out a large piece of 2×4 and some plywood.  He told me, “You can’t throw this out here.  This is not the right type of garbage.”

I asked him what he proposed I do with it, and he said, “You call the garbage man, guy.  You know, the guy who come and take it away.”

I guess he meant that I should pay a company like 1-800-GOT-JUNK to take away my garbage, even though I pay maintenance fees to the building and property taxes to the city for privileges like garbage removal.

Long story short, I told Jawad if he didn’t open the door, I would saw up the wood into small enough pieces for the garbage chute.  He told me I couldn’t, I told him I would, and in the end, I slept well knowing that from now on, I didn’t have to physically take my garbage down to the garbage room so long as I could hack it into small enough pieces to fit down the chute.

Some rules can be bent, and some can be twisted.

But why not skip the formality and just break them altogether?

16 Comments

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  1. condo president says:

    LOL, typical response from unruly people that make Condo living a pain in the a$$ and cost the Corporation 10’s of thousands in legal fees that everyone shares a percentage of. No one bothers to read the rules and declaration of the building they are moving into and then B&C when they get a letter. #1. BBQ’s are not allowed because it is illegal to transport propane in any elevator and all people who do so are compromising the Insurance coverage for the Condo corporation. Also Balconies are usually common elements for use of owners thus they do not own them. #2. Some Condominiums allow pets and the rules are specific on size and type. But there are always those think they are above the rules. #3 Fire codes do not allow storage in Parking Garages, simple. #4. Modification requests are required to protect owners. Most Condo’s have padding requirements under flooring to eliminate noise to units below. So many people cut corners when remodelling that infringe on the peaceful enjoyment of others down the road. People have chiselled out the concrete slabs and walls to run illegal wiring #5. AHHH garbage, you would be shocked at what I have seen jammed into garbage Chutes, out of sight out of mind for people.
    All the above are the reasons our 13 story High rise has 48 Cameras on recorders. Not just for security but to find the people who do all the stupid stuff around the building and hold them accountable to the rules.

  2. Nina says:

    I just moved in ( june 1st ) and the condo sent a notice on june 13th , saying that my dog must to be removed because the building doesn’t allow large dogs, this is making me sick for days

  3. Christiane says:

    I am considering buying a town home co op. my son is in a wheelchair could I get the approval to install a private elevator

  4. Jane says:

    Sounds like you should be living in a house – where you can make your own rules and regulations.

  5. Just browsing says:

    Wow!!! so much lack of knowledge on this post…. it would be funny but it seems a lot people are just as misinformed.
    Let me straighten you out:
    1) BBQ’s, specifically propane, is not allowed in elevators or corridors because of the dangers of an explosion/fire. In fact you shouldn’t even transport propane in your trunk, put it in the backseat with seat belt on and all the windows down. Notice the static electricity buildup as you walk in your carpeted corridors? Just one spark at the wrong moment and the propane will turn into fireworks. Also, condos restrict BBQ’s to keep insurance costs down.
    2) nothing to say
    3) This is to keep the parking garage clean and tidy. Personally I wouldn’t want my condo garage to start looking like a shanty town. Also it’s to reduce risk of fire, theft, etc. If it’s a private garage – that’s a different story.
    4) Board wants to ensure that the flooring you installed doesn’t increase the sound transmission to the surrounding units. The building as it was delivered during construction is designed with to meet certain STC ratings. Changing flooring, for example going from carpet to tile can decrease this raring – the board or property manager will review changes to ensure that proper sound insulation is adopted. At least this is what they are supposed to do.
    5) Construction waste is not supposed to go to landfills – it is not considered household waste. The garbage trucks that pickup garbage from condos will not take it away – they charge extra for this. This is why you were told no to place it in the garbage room. I think the assumption if the is construction going on in your unit your own trades will take away the garbage. Try leaving construction waste the curb of a house – if scavengers won’t take it you’ll eventually get the city tagging and fining your property.

  6. WB says:

    Sorry. Don’t agree. Barbecues are a fire hazard (and illegal for good reason) — and I’d love to live in a building without pets. It’s co-operative living if you haven’t noticed. You strike me as a selfish person.

  7. John says:

    Love the Blog Dave

  8. David Fleming says:

    @ Jay – There are very few condos in Toronto with two legal parking spaces, unless you’re into a much higher price bracket or luxury status. You can’t expect to park in the visitor parking 24/7 as a viable option. Street parking is your best bet, or renting a space in the underground in your building. The city is promoting less reliance on cars, and thus developers are creating fewer and fewer underground parking spaces in their new condominum projects.

    1. Mark says:

      Just park in the visitors. Its a stupid rule. What good are rules anyway. (The foregoing is saracsm).

  9. Jay says:

    I am wondering if anyone can clairfy something for me regarding parking in a tonwhouse/condo lot. My girl and I are considering a purchase of a townhouse in the bloor west village area. This space comes with 1 parking spot; we are both professionals and keep different working hours and therefore have 2 cars. While I was viewing a potential home I asked some of the tennants what they do in the case of a second car. I was told that the ‘Visitor Parking’ at the complex was not legally allowed to charge for parking and or ticket/tow a vehicle of an owner. Can anyone here shed some light on this??

  10. Annu says:

    You can’t “take your real estate hat off” when you please, especially not in a public forum. I wouldn’t want a real estate agent that spoke out of both sides of his mouth.

    Your “rant” urging people to do as they please in their own units has the potential to mislead condo owners and potentially land them in financial/legal hot water if any of their unapproved renovations cause problems with common elements or even worse, other owners units.

    Annu

  11. Shanni says:

    Excellent posting. I loved reading it.

  12. David Fleming says:

    Dan – sometimes you’ve just gotta have a little fun, no?

    Can’t I take my Realtor hat off for a moment and rant like a condo owner?

    I rather enjoyed your comment “assuming you own.” I own three condos at the moment, thank you.

    I serve on the Board of one as well.

    Sure, blogs can be educational, but they are also for ranting and raving, as well as having fun. They’re great at opening discussions, much like the one we are having right now.

    Loosen that tie, buddy!

  13. Dan says:

    David –

    Usually your blog is refreshing and brings some good insights.

    In this case, though, I’m surprised at your lack of maturity on this topic – especially since you’re a real estate professional and run a public blog. You should have a higher standard than just to rant, especially if you’re in a position to educate your buyers.

    First, rules are generally reviewed or recommended by the condominium lawyers – they aren’t arbitrary. Secondly, while the blame can be assigned to the board or management for not educating owners as to why a particular rule exists, YOU can’t use that excuse here since you’re a real estate professional.

    How about spending some time to educate yourself before you miseducate your clients? Or how about taking charge of your complaints and get on your condo’s board of directors (assuming you own) and get to understanding things from their perspective. Or if you don’t own, volunteer to serve on a committee (maybe a rules review committee). I’ve been on the board of two big downtown condos for the past 10 years since I was in my late 20’s. While I can patiently explain to you why the rules you don’t like exists, that’s not my job. As a real estate professional, that’s YOUR job.

    Here’s another constructive suggestion. Why don’t you speak to a knowable real estate lawyer (you must know one or two.. if not, try Denise Lash, Gerry Hyman, etc.) and ask them for their take on the rules you think are so ridicious. And, as a real estate and professional and “condo expert” – report back on this blog.

    Dan.

    1. Mark says:

      What he said. This post is extremely unprofessional for someone who claims to be a real estate professional. As a Property Manager, I can attest that owners like David Fleming are a pain in the butt for Managers. The rules are not arbitrary, they are there for the safety and comfort of ALL owners.

  14. fidel says:

    atta boy Dave, stick it to da man

    I never understood those “No pets over 30ld” rules. How would they enforce it? Installing scales at the door? Silly

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