Rules are made to be broken!
Just see the photo below…
But whether or not you are a rule-breaker, you have to acknowledge and accept that dozens of your condominiums rules and by-laws are being broken, all day, every day, and even as we speak.
Some people break the rules because they don’t know any better, and some people just plain don’t care.
Here are, in my experience, the five most-broken rules in downtown Toronto condominiums…
Let’s face it: this list is just a start!
I’m sure you can come up with another dozen rules and regulations that are broken in your building on a regular basis.
And who, if any of you, will admit to breaking the rules on this list?
I’ll be honest – this list is comprised of the most commonly broken rules as I see them from the perspective of a Realtor, but also through my own experiences.
And by “my own experiences,” I mean that I’m guilty…
Anyways, let’s get to the list.
#5) Anything And Everything Regarding The Garbage Chute…
This list could go on, and on, and on.
And depending on exactly which rules apply to your building, I could even be missing a few.
Garbage left on the floor. Are we children? Do we really need a notice that says, “Please do not leave garbage on the floor”? Yeah, we do! This rule is constantly broken because human beings lack common courtesy, and respect for other people.
Using the chute after 10pm. This is a hard-and-fast rule in most condos, but again, most people don’t care. Just because property management puts up a sign that says, “The garbage chute is open for service from 9am to 10pm,” doesn’t mean people are going to listen. If you threw a massive party, and wanted to clean up at 2am, would you bag up all your garbage and bottles and leave them in your front hallway? or Would you toss them down the chute and wake up to a clean condo? This is why man condos have chutes that lock at 10:00pm.
Not using the tri-sorter. I’ll be honest: I don’t use organics. I just don’t! Please don’t hate me, and for the record, I don’t know what a “carbon footprint” really refers to. I recycle, but I don’t keep a separate bin for rotting food, which likely represents about 3% of all the items I put down the chute. But that aside, I know a LOT of people throw ALL their items down the chute at once, or throw garbage down chute when the “Recycling” button is lit, or vice versa. Is it really true that the entire load of recycling is “tainted” if there’s garbage among it?
Throwing large items down the chute. Again, you can’t stop people from being stupid. Remember when my client sent me a photo of the ironing board that somebody jammed down the chute in his condo? Who throws a goddam ironing board down a garbage chute!?!?!?
#4) Abusing “Visitor” Parking
You might not realize it, but a LOT of condominium residents park in visitor parking.
This one really bothers me.
I had a friend in my old building that used to encourage his friends and family to use our visitor parking. I remember seeing his cousin in the underground parking one day, and I said, “Oh hey, (name), are you going up to see (name)?” She said, “No, we’re just heading over to the Jays game!”
The goddam Jays game? As in – the building that’s a couple blocks away from here?
How cheap is that? She’s trying to save $15 for parking downtown by parking in a building she doesn’t live in?
My friend did this all the time, and it bothered me.
Even worse, are the people that live in the building, and don’t have a parking space but own a car – and insist on parking in visitor parking every night. Currently in my building, there are no less than five parking spaces for lease, ranging from $120 to $150 per month, and I’m sure you could get one for a hundred bucks. I know that’s $1,200 per year, and people aren’t made of money, but isn’t “visitor parking” for visitors?
I was on the board of a condo once where a guy living in the building insisted that his girlfriend have exclusive use of one of the mere seven visitor parking spaces that were in the building. Even though she lived with him (he had a car, and his own space), he argued that she was a visitor, and thus should be able to park there every day, and night.
The abuse of visitor parking in Toronto condos is absolutely rampant.
#3) Disabling The Fire Alarm
If you’ve never lived in a condo, allow me to explain how life works…
On Tuesday morning at 112-116 George Street, they are doing the monthly fire alarm testing. That’s right – monthly. At 8:00am, they will sound the alarm, and then a voice will come through the loudspeaker (oh yeah that’s right – each and every condo has at least one loudspeaker where a person can basically yell into your bedroom):
“Attention, attention. This is a test of the fire alarm. In the event of a real emergency, we will notify you as such. Feel free to take part in this drill, and exit the building through the stairs, to meet in the lobby. Thank you.”
Then, it REPEATS! In case we didn’t hear it the first time!
And those words are spoken slowly, as though the person saying them only has a minute left on earth, and wants to savour it.
In my mind, there’s very little difference between the situation above, and, say, a person coming into your bedroom as you sleep, standing over your head, and yelling “Attention, attention…..”
Now imagine a 4am fire alarm goes off because somebody burnt a pizza in the oven? And you don’t want to wait 40 minutes for the Fire Marshal to get there, inspect the building, and give the go-ahead to silence the alarm?
Well, I suppose that’s when you get out your ladder, take screw driver, open up the speaker, and cut the wires.
I know about……oh……..a hundred million people who have done this. Give or take…
#2) All Renovations Require Permission
A client asked me on Sunday night, “Some condo by-laws say things like, ‘At least 65% of the gross floor area must be carpeted,’ so what if the whole unit is hardwood?”
A dozen lawyers will have a dozen different answers to this question, and personally, I’ve witnessed some ridiculous by-laws regarding renovation, most of which are not enforced.
I tell my clients that a reasonable rule of thumb is that you can change what you can see – your flooring, your kitchen counters, your backsplash, etc. Once you want to change something you can’t see, like plumbing, electrical, etc., you need the condo’s permission, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it.
However, many you will be quick to point out that changing flooring might need the permission of the condo board. Sure, it might. But it’s also illegal to jaywalk at Bay & Adelaide, even though there is an actual footpath on the asphalt from so many feet shuffling through the street.
Some property managers will say, “Just drop off a sample of the flooring, and you’re good to go.” Other condominiums have to wait until their monthly board meeting to “approve” the renovation.
So if the condo board is meeting on April 8th, but I want to have somebody install new hardwood flooring on March 5th, I have to wait? Is that reasonable?
Again, some people are sticklers for the rules, and others aren’t. Some people don’t get permission at all.
My condominium put up a notice last week that said, “Renovation forms can be picked up at concierge or through property management,” and then added at the bottom, “NOTE: painting does not require a permission form.”
Well holy $#@%&. Thank God I can paint my own walls without getting the permission of the board…
#1) No Barbecues On Outdoor Space
Guys, I know you feel me on this one.
You just can’t get between a man and his barbecue, especially in Canada.
Many men are born with a small plastic hockey stick in one hand, and a stainless steel spatula for the barbecue in the other.
So when it comes to downtown condominiums, try telling a man, “Sorry, you can’t have a barbecue on your balcony.”
In actual fact, barbecues are ALL illegal on balconies, terraces, or any outdoor space, unless there is a gas-line built into the exterior wall of the condo, or the condominium’s Declaration specifically notes that barbecues ARE permitted.
So yeah, about 90% of all the barbecues you see on condo balconies are illegal.
But do the owners care?
I have always lived in condos where barbecues ARE permitted, but I’ll be perfectly honest here and admit that if they weren’t, I’d probably still make an attempt to have one.
And I’m not in the minority here either.
How you get the propane tank through the lobby, and past the concierge, is another story. I recommend using a baby carriage, and just covering the propane tank with a blanket. If somebody asks, “How old is she,” just pretend you don’t speak English…
My buyer-clients always ask me about the legality of barbecues, and there’s only one answer I can give them:
“As your Realtor, I’ll tell you that you have to do whatever the rules and regulations and by-laws of the condominium provide for. You must strictly adhere to those guidelines, otherwise you could be liable. As a condo-owner, and avid barbecue-enthusiast, I can tell you that there’s a very good chance you can have a barbecue and nobody will ever know, and usually the worst thing that happens is you get a letter from the property manager, which may or may not ever be followed up on.”
What more can I say?
People come to me for honesty, and that’s about as honest as I can be. I know that there are thousands of illegal barbecues in downtown Toronto condos, so I’m not going to pretend as though it doesn’t happen.
I’m not encouraging the use of illegal barbecues, but I am going to explain to people that you won’t go to jail for having one.
So what did I miss?
What other rules do you think are most-commonly broken?
And who wants to admit to breaking any of the rules above?
at 8:57 am
To sneak a propane tank into your condo I recommend the same method we used in university to sneak kegs into or dormitory: a mini-fridge box.
at 9:29 am
People who throw cigarette butts off their balcony drive me crazy.
at 9:51 am
The cutting of the speaker wire does happen but it won’t last long. It creates a trouble on the panel that will be investigated and found pretty quickly. No doubt with a bill for the owner of that unit to go with it.
at 11:26 am
My dad designed a “dampening” panel that he affixes over the loud speaker in his condo. He takes it down once a year for inspection. Works like a charm. 🙂
at 6:39 pm
Amelia what does you’re dad use?? I’ve tried some stuff but it didn’t dampen nearly enough! I’d be very grateful !!
at 11:00 pm
Use your JBL with zen music. It works.
at 8:57 pm
Our previous condo forbade bicycles in the elevators – a rule which I broke all the time. Our building provided secure bicycle storage in a cage in the parking garage. But it had not been expanded since it was first build in the mid-1990s and it was full (by the amount of dust on the bikes, it was obvious that the previous owners had abandoned them.)
Notices were posted in the elevators and I was reprimanded a couple of times by a few busy bodies, but nothing came of it. The issue was raised at a meeting of the condo board, but I told them that until they either removed the abandoned bikes, expanded the bike cage or let me park by bicycle in the parking spot I paid for (I didn’t have a car at the time), I would continue to use the elevators. My partner and I moved to a house a few months later so I don’t have to worry about these types of silly rules anymore
at 5:31 pm
Omg yes! We have a cage for bikes too and I am always afraid to take my bike out because I may come back to my space taken. It’s full of bikes with flat tires and dust. They should make rules about that. They don’t allow bikes in the unit we own because they don’t want bikes going in the elevator or down the halls.
at 9:22 pm
Disabling a fire alarm system sounds like an absolutely crazy thing to do (deliberately defeating a fire safety system to avoid, what, 40 seconds’ worth of annoyance on a weekday morning, once a month?)
at 12:16 am
Its more the 12am or 4am false alarms that the fire department has to come and investigate that is the nuisance. they speak for 40 seconds. every 10 minutes
at 9:49 am
Hmm, illegal bbqs on balconies and permanently disabling the fire alarm. They go together like peas and carrots. … Or not.
Aside from the obvious risk to human life, I can see another issue.
Who’s liable when a fire breaks out on your balcony, damages your unit, the one above, below and next to you? Who’s insurance is going to cover the damage? Yours? Don’t think so. Your insurance coverage is based on not having an illegal bbq. Hell, a lit cigarette butt could have landed on your balcony. It doesn’t even have to be a fire caused by your bbq. If you have anything on your balcony that’s prohibited and it catches fire from that cig-butt, you are liable.
How about the condo corp’s insurance? Will it pay for your wilful ignorance? Wouldn’t count on it.
at 2:25 pm
If you’re looking for a composite, wood or grass tile for your condo balcony which are completely condo board okay. Visit designerdeck.com. We’re currently running another 10% discount on all products.
at 2:23 pm
You can buy a magnetic pad sold in hardware stores to block air vents, simply cut a shape from the rectangular piece (circle), cover speaker which can easily be removed before inspector arrives, guess who told me this trick, mum’s the word! It can only muffle so use duck tape to thicken.
at 10:40 am
BBQ on balconies are NOT illegal in Toronto. See city disclosure at
at 11:54 pm
Propane tanks are illegal to be transported in elevators. I’d like to see somebody haul a propane tank up 20 flights!
at 3:31 pm
Not true either. Transportation of a propane tank is permissible in an elevator provided the only person in the elevator is the one carrying the tank.
at 4:22 pm
That’s correct, and you should use the service elevator, if there is only one elevator then contact the manager and have it placed temporarily on service for you use.
Form follows function
at 8:41 pm
Reba’s comment on BBQ… “BBQ on balconies are NOT illegal in Toronto.” is correct.
As for propane tanks the fire marshall requirement is that they be transported on a service elevator OR IF THERE IS NO SERVICE ELEVATOR can be transported on regular elevator but the only person allowed in the elevator is the person transporting the propane tank – no other passengers.
The real question is whether condo bylaws or rules prohibit BBQs or do not allow storage of propane (or specific classes of combustibles} in ALL common areas which – in most condos – includes balconies/terraces.
at 1:42 pm
Hauling a propane tank up 20 flights of stairs? This is not difficult for anyone who is even slightly above average strength/fitness. Your average gym ape should be able to manage this, no problem. Unless those guns are just for show…
at 9:37 am
Though the city laws may not deem them illegal, your condo rules may not permit them. That is then a matter between the residents and their board to sort out – to change the rules if they want them changed by petition or otherwise as prescribed by the condo act.
Many buildings have all manner of rediculous rules that no one contests.
at 4:57 am
From someone who’s upstairs neighbours installed hard surface flooring I can tell you it’s a nightmare. Wood framed buildings and laminate flooring on anything but the ground floor don’t play well together. Since the new flooring went in, every step my upstairs neighbours take is amplified right through my ceiling. It’s like having elephants living upstairs! What was once the ambient sound of life in a community setting is now like living in a non-stop artillery
barrage and now there is a difficult problem between residents of two units that is going to be difficult to solve. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree most strenuously with your advice to go ahead and install that hardwood floor without the boards permission. As “The Book of Laws” states – “Once you open a can of worms it’s a lot harder to re-can them.”
at 9:25 pm
I am disgusted to see dog shit on one of the floors in my building.
Today I saw smeared dog shit on the sidewalk right outside the front door!!
Clean up people!!!!!!!
at 5:49 pm
Is there a toronto bylaw regarding condo owner ‘s who install engineer flooring without any underlayment. No cork no sound barrier. The owner glued his engineer boards down. I live at 51 Trolley Crescent. The management company is brookfield management. I made a complaint. Nothing came of it. I made a complaint to the board. Nothing. What are my options.
at 3:59 pm
I live in a strata building in BC. My new upstairs neighbors are a nightmare, they are very heavy footed and items are being dropped or dragged across the hardwood floor almost daily. They got approval for some renos in June,2016. They only needed to replace flooring but now, after informing the Property Managers that they would be completing this in Oct. they have decided to wait until return from Texas in April of 2017. I feel that once they had approval they should have completed the flooring work, instead he does a bit of work, here and there. He has table saw on his balcony, he has been told he cannot leave it there when they leave for the winter. He thinks it is his own little workshop, right above my head! I feel that once you have been given approval for a reno, you should get it done, it will be ten months from approval to finish! I am so tired of this and I will be glad when they leave for the winter! They have no idea about strata living and still think they have a house! Surely there should be time limit on renos.
at 6:15 pm
In my building, owners have to seek approval for certain renos. Hardwood flooring is one of them. We require a certain underlay and we require the flooring to be done by qualified tradespeople. Personally, I think that only certain floors in a building should have laminate floors. If your floor is someone’s ceiling, you should be required to have carpet. Even with the correct underlay, if you have heavy footed people living above you, people who drop items on the floor and drag furniture around, it is a nightmare! I know, I have those kind of people living above me. Good luck.
at 3:13 pm
I have a upstairs neighbours who are the same. heavy footed, drop things a lot and then drag them along the floor. I suspect they have a small child as I can hear lighter footsteps running to the bathroom every so often. I wrote to management and all they said to do was to contact security to come to my unit to listen before an incident report can be submitted and a warning letter issued. As this isn’t a constant noise and more of a random annoyance, it’s difficult to time it so that I can get security up to my unit and still be able to hear the thumping.
I’m tempted to just write the unit a letter asking them nicely to be conscious that I can hear every footstep and let them know if I have security hear them making these noises 3 times and after the 3rd nuisance letter (clear non-compliance), the corporation could seek legal counsel on my behalf.
at 3:12 pm
Our building is forcing us to take our lights down on our terrace stating a regulation hat only the declarant can install lights. Currently there are no light install anywhere on the terrace and it is very dark, hard to see and does fetch rain and snow/ice which is dangerous. I would like to follow the condo regulations but also don’t want to slip and fall when I use my terrace and I use it mostly in the dark early morning hours by myself as I work nights. What should I do?
at 6:38 pm
what can I do about a tenant in the basement of our 3 story building, who keeps propping the fire door so her kid can run around in the common aread
at 8:59 am
Hello , I am a building manager in a condo complex . We have two doors in our underground that have pins on them that allow you to open the door , and drop the pin so the door can be left open to carry materials in . But this was getting abused and as these are fire separation doors we talked to our fire dept and to resolve this as our fire dept wanted these pins removed . we posted a sign on each door with the fire code reference number and also this sign says if door left open for more than 15 minutes . The offender leaving this door open can be charged through the fire code act . We do have cameras watching both doors so we can monitor this so it is something you have to have proof of if you call your fire dept. in to charge someone . The fine for this is $290 plus court costs , and it is the fire dept. rep who will issue the offense . This did solve our issue of doors being left open for the most part , and the pins got to stay on the doors for proper use .
at 1:44 pm
Hi. Our rule for the pick up/ drop off area is not e forced. I have vehicles park at my balcony and living room window ( 1st floor above ground) that m”wait” for their passengers. I’m constantly hearing doors, hatches and trunks close not to mention the fumes from idling exhaust. And this is a clearly marked fire route with no parking signs. I approached the board as well as the PM but they are not willing to have dedicated enforcement. This is infringing on my privacy and health. What can I do to have this properly managed? The rules are not enforced and I’m told security has other priorities. I’m retired and on a limited income. Thanks everyone for your feedback.
at 1:42 pm
Although the person doesn’t use her two charcoal grills, is it still illegal for her to her them on her balcony? The building requires people to use gas propane grills. I would like to know.
at 10:15 am
Jay walking is an American charge. In Canada there is NO Jay walking charge.
at 8:09 pm
I’m on the board in my condo building and one serious issue we are having with one resident is that he is parking his mobility scooter in the hallway in front of his door. He was on the board before and his excuse is that he has had the scooter parked outside for many years and no one complained before and now it’s an issue. He already filled with the human rights about this. Now his scooter can easily fit inside his hallway. This is against fire regulations and he knows that nothing can be placed outside in the corridors. My question to you is does he have a chance with this. Thanks
at 10:00 am
How about a male in a Speedo on the second floor hanging by the railing
at 9:13 pm
I am paying condo fees(maintenance) per sq. foot of residence, including my balcony, should not the corporation pay for decorating the balcony after all it is a common area, or perhaps I should continue living in jail like building, which is the ugliest building on Bathurst street.
at 5:48 pm
I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you
at 9:57 pm
My condo just told us we can’t keep combustible items in our storage lockers in the parking garage. No cardboard, plastic, cloth, paper, or wood allowed. Only what is stored in metal fireproof boxes and bikes can stay.
at 3:22 pm
Are all fire doors supposed to be automatically lit with an alarm in case of a fire or incase they are being used for an excess door? 2 of our fire doors are marked but not used as fire access but as ordinary excess doors.
James Burton Boughs
at 1:08 pm
fire code for condo lobbies
at 7:08 am
This is an informative article. I’ve seen the comments about noise and would like to ask for the blog writer to post something about noise and recourse. In my building, as with many, there is a set of rules regarding noise. Basically that people are not permitted to allow noise to emanate from their units when it is disruptive/disturbing to others. I have a problem similar to what’s been described by others in the comments with this article. The pattern in this building is: submit noise complaint to board – office responds that they’ve written to the people – submit a follow up and additional complaint – same response from the office – submit another and the office holds an in person meeting with the people, who claim having just moved in and have been setting up – meanwhile they’ve not bothered to take the first 2 letters seriously or respond to those AND after the in person meeting, they carry on – things appear to die down for a little while and then ramp up some more. Another thing that I’ve been doing is leaving voice mails with security and the office about the noise when it happens, as well as emailing parts of the noise log that I keep to the office. By the time the in person meeting has occurred and the people continue with the noise, that’s when the office stops responding to emails and reports. However, rights are being violated (to peaceful and quiet enjoyment, for one) and both the building and the noisemakers are contravening the rules as well as at least two pieces of legislation. Its not enough that the noise makers include an elderly stroke survivor … that’s a situation that needs help to coach and work with the person to help them learn how to move and etc so as to not produce quite so much noise. The requirement for carpetting on the floors is one of the rules here. The noisemakers alleged they have area rugs. Not possible, especially that they can’t be large area rugs and certainly don’t have thick noise absorbing underlay. And so the noise goes on and so I continue with my contacting security, the office by telephone and by email. There’s a Board meeting coming up and they might well get another letter blasting them for the right violations and for contravening the rules and the legislation, and for allowing the situation to continue instead of actually enforcing it. So the question also is whether anyone out there knows if an owner can bring charges of any description at the cost of the building and the noisemakers…is there anything that speaks to that in the Condo Act or in Human Rights legislation???? This is an old building and the so called noise abatement is either not there or is substandard, or it is material that happily conducts noise all over from places in the building that are quite far from where the noise can be heard. At the risk of going to huge expense with a potential special assessment to fix insulation problems, which probably can’t be done with concrete ceilings/floors, what else can be done. An article exploring this issue and providing possible avenues of recourse for owners, pros, cons, legalities, who pays, would be good.
at 7:30 am
Further to my (sorry, rather lengthy) post about noise, there’s a rule in my building that any change in flooring must be approved by management and there’s a requirement regarding the noise absorbing underlay. They give you the number that has to be adhered to and you have to provide the details for approval before installation. Whether this is followed or not remains to be seen, as most of us know that people do whatever they want. While its nice to have laminate or hardwood flooring, the impact in terms of noise carrying through to and disrupting/disturbing others is often significantly negative. Being an owner and paying fees does afford a number of rights besides peaceful and quiet enjoyment and it comes with certain expectations that the right balances be found, established and the building will be effectively managed (in the case of this building, effective management is questionable, especially when rights are being violated and privacy interfered with). Again, an article exploring the noise issue, how to remedy and find the right balance without noisemakers and “victims” paying a high cost either in terms of their health and wellbeing, rights violations, or financially, would be good.
at 11:27 am
The part about BBQs is factually false.
This idea comes from a misunderstanding about a nuance of the Fire Code. The code does not prohibit BBQs or the use of propane, it prohibits the STORAGE of combustible gasses like propane. If you disconnect the propane tank and bring it into the unit once you’re done cooking, that is permissible as the code allows up to 10lbs to be stored within the unit itself.
at 6:32 pm
Those speakers are brutal!!
But can’t the Concierge see if you un-hook the speaker wires?? Not saying I’d do it anyway!
at 2:09 am
I’d like to attach turn buckles to my wall at the balcony and put the sails type of awning. I had a patio umbrella had a little more wind than expected.the arms broke. My unit gets sun all day gets very hot and everything is hydro. I would think the sun sail would be safer and hydro economical. I love my unit. After moving in I noticed patio stones and 2 layers of plastic interlock. I asked they said it was up to me. Well I would like Aggregate stone. I’m on the second floor no one around me. I wonder how that will go.
at 2:51 am
No smoking anything on your balcony
Okay I understand some people can just throw their cigarettes off the balcony and start a fire but I’m my condo your supposed to smoke in the suite or away from the building so someone on my floor smokes weed and it smells terrible
As far as I am concerned you should be able to smoke it on the balcony. There is a camera on the balcony so if you throw it off your balcony and the security goes thru all the videos and catches you get an automatic ticket. Eventually they will learn to put it out in a jar or an ash tray.
at 10:40 am
Our condo corporation has a rule against pick up trucks, or motorcycles in the complex.
Question #1: is this legal?
Question #2: Would this also apply to visitors?
at 1:02 pm
To the Realtor who wrote this article:
You are not only listing the rules that get broken, you are voicing your opinion and also your advise, some of which are wrong and plain dangerous. I wish you would stick to the facts and stay away from posting dangerous advise.
Disabling the fire alarm could put yours and others’ lives in jeopardy.
Barbeques are not ALL illegal on balconies, many condos allow the electric ones. The gas tank ones are indeed illegal, for 100% good reasons. I witness myself a huge balcony fire caused by one.
For you to recommend “using a baby carriage, and just covering the propane tank with a blanket” might just say a lot about you.
For this post to be actually published, might just say a lot about this blog 🙁
at 2:05 am
ASSHOLE NEIGHBORS WHO SIT IN FRONT OF BLDG. ENTRANCES SO OTHER TENANTS HAVE TO CLIMB OVER THEM TO GET TO THEIR OWN APARTMENTS
at 8:55 pm
We have neighbor accross the hall from us ;
I) she will leave it open and go shopping for the after noon, which breaches fire code. Plus I hear her if something goes missing.
2) she will leave open all day and we don’t know if she home or not. Our building is pretty secure, but some could wonder in and take her by surprise. I have expressed my concerns, the building has expressed there concerns and she laugh’s about. What do you.