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Shawn Pulver

Partner

Existing Renovations and COVID-19 - the Problems with Blanket Prohibitions

Hi there,

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Everyone is looking for guidance and support. Condominium Boards are constantly being presented with challenging questions. A recent issue that I have been dealing with is whether existing renovations to units should be completed. There is almost no scenario where future renovations should be proceeding until there is further direction from the government and health authorities. My focus on this post is on existing renovations which are required to complete units.

Condominium boards are to follow a “reasonableness” standard in their decision making. The complication is that there is very little direction on what exactly this means in the current COVID-19 environment. If a current owner wants to install new hardwood flooring in the middle of a pandemic (when there is nothing unsafe with the current flooring), then clearly it would be reasonable for a board to stop the work from taking place. But what if a new owner is renovating a unit so that he or she can move into the unit? If those owners comply with all safety requirements, and are prepared to work with the Board and property management, then I fail to see why he or she shouldn’t be given an opportunity to complete the work so that they can safely move into their unit.

Everyone needs somewhere to live, and I am not in favour of “one size fits all” approach to these kinds of issues. A blanket resolution or emergency rule that no work of any kind can be performed in a condominium (regardless of any precautions taken or the timing or necessity of the renovation) is not, in my view, reasonable. While there was a recent court decision where a condominium sought an injunction to stop renovation work, the case was not decided on its merits, and there was no indication that the work was necessary for the owner to move into or complete the unit, which is the scenario that I am discussing here. There is a big difference between not permitting a paint job in a unit (where the issue is only aesthetic) and not allowing an owner to complete work in order to make his or her unit inhabitable.

Condo boards need to act reasonably and look at issues such as these on a case-by-case basis. Such complicated health issues that can’t be resolved simply by making policies or Rules that treat every conceivable situation the exact same way. These are major health and financial decisions that need to be carefully considered in a fair and flexible manner. When this type of approaches is taken, there is a much greater chance that the issues will be resolved outside of court or mediation.

Stay safe everyone!