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The holiday season provides a unique opportunity for condo corporations to foster a sense of community. From recognizing hard working staff to throwing mixers for residents, there is ample opportunity to build morale and celebrate each other’s differences. Boards seize this opportunity, while being mindful of the slippery legal issues that can arise during the holidays.
There are a host of issues that typically only present themselves during the holiday season. We will dive into the four most common questions condo corporations grapple with during this festive time of year.
1. Holiday decorations
Well-drafted rules can help to ensure that decorations are safe and do not unduly interfere with others.
An important point to keep in mind is the diversity of festive events that are celebrated throughout Ontario. Older rules, which may have focussed on Christmas themed events and may even reference specific calendar dates in December and the New Year, should be replaced with more inclusive provisions.
Condos should also carefully consider what types of decorations will be permitted and the nature and character of the building should be considered carefully when deciding what decorations will and will not be permitted.
A classic example is door and balcony decorations. As most exterior entry doors and balconies will form part of the common elements, the corporation’s rules should ensure that no damage will be done to the door/balcony to hang a decoration. For example, the condo could require that only over the door hooks may be used.
Please also keep in mind that certain religious rituals must be accommodated up to the point of undue hardship. In this regard, the Ontario Human Rights Code has paramountcy if there is a conflict with the corporation’s rules. A great example of this is the affixing of a mezuzah to the door or door frame of the unit, which is a religious ritual for those of the Jewish faith. Installing a mezuzah conduct would be permitted notwithstanding any rule to the contrary.
2. Social host liability
While discussions of third party liability may not get a festive event going, the use of alcohol in party rooms or other amenities should be kept in mind throughout the holiday season. In very limited circumstances, the host of a social event can be held liable for injuries or damages caused by one of their guests to a third party after they leave the party.
While there has not been a case involving a condo’s potential social host liability, there are a few measures that can be put into place to reduce the risk of a claim against a corporation and help everyone to have a safe holiday season:
- Require owners to provide security at their event, if alcohol is to be served.
- Require events to either be bring and serve your own alcohol or, if the host is to provide alcohol, require that they hire a Smart Serve bartender. Events in which alcohol is to be sold should be strictly prohibited
- Prohibit drinking party games, such as beer pong, which are designed to increase consumption.
These requirements ideally would be set out in a separate “party room” or “amenities use” agreement that each resident would have to complete as part of the booking process. Finally, corporations should use this time of year to ask their insurance broker whether they have social host liability or if it is something that can be added to their policy.
3. Packages and deliveries
While most condos will have a security system in place for receiving and arranging for pick-up of packages, the growing volume of deliveries creates storage issues for buildings both large and small.
First, packages should not be received unless the resident has signed a waiver form. The waiver should stipulate that the corporation will not be liable for the packages that it accepts on behalf of the resident.
Second, stipulations on the size and/or weight of parcels that the concierge desk will accept can be put into place. The volume of deliveries can easily overwhelm the storage space available to most concierge desks and providing that the delivery of large items, such as flat screen TVs or furniture, will not be accepted can help to ensure that all residents can take equal advantage of parcel delivery services.
Finally, labelling procedures, such as writing the unit number on two sides of the parcel, should be instituted. This will help the concierge track down a parcel and can aid in tracking down the resident who tried to shove all that cardboard down the chute rather than take it down to the recycling room.
It is only natural that a board would want to reward the concierge who has a smile for each resident every morning or the superintendent who knows the building like the back of their hand with a bonus.
First, the corporation should be on firm financial ground before deciding to hand out bonuses. While no unit owner (hopefully) wants to be a Grinch, the optics of providing bonuses when the owners’ are faced with a large special assessment can create a response that is disproportionate to the amount of the bonus that is actually being given out.
Second, the bonuses should be properly documented and handled like any other expenditure. This process ranges from approval of the exact amount of the bonuses in the minutes of the board meeting at which they were approved to ensuring that the bonuses are a line item in the corporation’s audited financial statements.
We hope you have a safe and happy holiday season! If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to a member of Miller Thomson’s Condominium & Strata group.