The garage door closes and a resident’s motor vehicle is damaged. Who is responsible for the damage to the motor vehicle? Is it the resident or the condominium corporation? This question arises all too often in a condominium setting.
As a matter of law, it is important to state that a condominium corporation’s statutory obligations of repair and/or maintenance do not make it an insurer. The obligation of the condominium corporation is to do what is reasonable in carrying out its statutory duty of repair and maintenance. There is no standard of strict liability or absolute perfection on the part of the condominium corporation in carrying out this statutory duty. The same applies with respect to the fact that, as per section 26 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (Ontario), the condominium corporation is deemed to be the “occupier” of the common elements of the condominium property. Once again, the standard applied to an occupier is one of reasonableness, not perfection.
The law does not create a presumption of negligence and resultant liability for damage against an occupier by the mere fact that a person is injured, or property is damaged, on its premises. Before liability can be established, there must also be evidence of some act, or failure to act, on the part of the occupier, either direct or reasonably inferred, which caused the injury or damage complained of.
If there is no evidence of any defect with respect to the operation of the garage door or opening mechanism that would have in any way directed the condominium corporation to the need to inspect and/or repair the garage door or opening mechanism, then it is reasonable to conclude that the condominium corporation is not liable.
In addition, there are often obligations in condominium declarations which require unit owners to obtain insurance for personal property, including motor vehicles. These provisions may also include waivers of subrogation against the condominium corporation.
In short, unless a condominium corporation had knowledge that a garage door or opening mechanism needed maintenance or repair work to function properly, in most cases it will be the resident that is responsible for any damage to the motor vehicle.