Toronto Condo far can they go?
April 23, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

We rent a condo that my parents bought under my name last October (and pay rent to my parents), and have gradually realized that there are several bylaws that seems unreasonable. One of them is the complete prohibition of bicycles in the building. The board claims that there is a "bike room," but it's actually just a mobile bike rack in the garage where most of the bikes on the rack are missing tires, saddles, parts (so we know it's not secure, and there are thefts around). The garage also has been inaccessible for the last 8 months due to construction. The other unreasonable rule is that there is a fixed laundry room schedule that was determined before we moved in. I want to know to what extent can a condo board enforce these bylaws? What can they do? Do they actually have legal rights to tell me when I am and am not allowed to wash my clothes? What can we do to change the bylaws?

A few important pieces of information...
1) The building residents used to be exclusively rich, old and middle-aged, Euro-Canadians with a stay-at-home wife. Now there's a lot more diversity, and I think the condo board wants young people like us in the building. The bylaws, nonetheless, are designed around the lifestyles of the original residents-- who drives and for some reasons have time to do laundry in the middle of a weekday.

2) The explanation the board gave for prohibiting bikes in the building is that bikes WILL damage the buildings. Bu baby strollers, rolling suitcases, and granny carts are all permitted. To us this seems like a really big inconsistency.

3) The garage is poorly lit, damp, and the "security camera" has numerous blind spots as it targets only the parked cars. As young, small, women of color (one of us is visibly queer; both severely allergic to mold), we feel unsafe in that space. For that matter, we also don't particularly want to deal with the board of completely grey hair-ed straight white men. We could and have parked the bikes outside, but the bikes keep getting damaged from the construction, traffic, and just by being outside.

4) As for laundry, both of us work long, intense, and irregular hours, and we don't make much money. We can't reliably always have the same time of the week to do laundry. Some residents buys their own machines, but we can't afford that and anyway don't particularly want to have to deal with the condo board at all.

5) We could move, in theory. But as the landlords are my parents, and the property is under my name (long story), that would be an absolute last resort.
posted by redwaterman to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If the property's in your name, then maybe what you should be looking at is organizing your neighbors, getting onto the board yourself, and making some changes?
posted by Sequence at 4:15 PM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Probably they can? Become politically active within the community and change the rules.

My understanding is that the restrictions are contracts that you're consenting to when you buy into the community. Your resource is to sell and move, or operate within the framework provided by the contract to ammend the rules.
posted by jsturgill at 4:16 PM on April 23, 2014

Where are the laundry machines? Are they over or under someone else's condo? Does the laundry room share a wall with someone's home? That's very likely a reason for the laundry hours - washers and dryers can sometimes make a lot of noise, so the laundry hours are kind of like noise ordinances.
posted by raztaj at 4:18 PM on April 23, 2014

On the laundry schedule, I'm not clear from your comment whether you personally are given a specific window (i.e. Apt. 15 gets Wednesday afternoon from 12-3) or whether there are general limitations on when anyone can do laundry (i.e. no laundry after 9pm). Our apartment building has the latter sort of restriction, because the laundry machine is right above/next to people's apartments, and the noise would be likely to keep people up at night. It can be aggravating in weeks when my fiance and I are working weird hours, but it's understandable given that it would seriously impact my neighbor's ability to sleep if we broke the rules. We usually do laundry on the weekend for this reason.

If it's set hours for each apartment, that seems more reasonable to attempt to change, or at least lobby to get your hours at a more convenient time for you. I realize it may feel annoying to have to deal with this board, but I think that's your way to a more reasonable policy. Perhaps join up with some neighbors who feel the same way and present complaints as a group.

On the bike issue -- is someone seriously monitoring you and doing something if you break the rules? I would honestly just discretely carry my bike up the stairs and stash it in my apartment. I'm not sure what they would realistically do to you (if they even found out)? Obviously, if you do in fact cause damage, you should be responsible for that, so, you know, try not to damage stuff! But, I'm not an expert in Toronto law so maybe wait for more answers on this one.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:24 PM on April 23, 2014

The laundry machines might be under someone's home, and that I understand. By "laundry schedule," I meant that each unit is assigned a 2-hour slot through out the week. All the weekday evenings and weekends are taken, and we are supposed to only do laundry on Thursdays from 12-2.

My understanding is that most residents don't completely follow these rules-- I've seen other residents using our laundry hours; and I've had to do laundry outside of my laundry hours. There are enough machines anyway.

I have also seen other younger residents bringing their bikes in and out of the building. Whether the older residents give the bylaw transgressors a hard time or not, for the most part, seems to depend on whether they are friends.
posted by redwaterman at 4:24 PM on April 23, 2014

On update, it seems like no one else is really following these rules, so I would do the same and ignore them. Agreed that it is completely unreasonable to ask a working individual to do all of their laundry during business hours! And so, if you are ever challenged, I would cheerfully but firmly say things like: "Oh yes, what a funny rule! Of course I work so there's no way I can possibly do my laundry during business hours." Or, "Yeah, that garage gives me the heebie jeebies, don't you think! There's been so much theft that I just feel much safer keeping it locked up in my apartment." Key is a smile and acting like there's no way that a reasonable person could possible disagree, doesn't everyone think those outdated rules are a bit silly, etc. etc.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:31 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

rainbowbrite, I was writing the last comment at the same time as yours. The bottom line is that we've discretely been bringing bikes in, and always very, very carefully. We've seen one of the older residents rolling out a super expensive Cervelo one time and the board member who was around didn't say anything. On the other hand, we've gotten one or two lectures for bringing our -- clean, carefully maneuvered, super careful not to hit anything or damage anything -- commuter bikes in when we got caught one time.

I don't think anyone is super closely monitoring, and for the most part ok with operating under the radar, but the lectures are pretty unpleasant and the rules are on their side.
posted by redwaterman at 4:31 PM on April 23, 2014

I live in condo with rules i don't love, but your laundry rules seem particularly ridiculous.

I would do three things, if i were you:
1) See if you can trade laundry slots with someone who has a slot you'd prefer
2) Continue to ignore the rules while being otherwise very polite and respectful
3) Run for the condo board, or volunteer for a condo board committee (if your building has those), or introduce a motion at your annual condo board meeting to try and get changes made.

FYI, 'no bikes inside' is a pretty common rule, so you'll probably have better luck trying to get improved security in the garage than in getting that rule removed.
posted by Kololo at 4:45 PM on April 23, 2014

Yes, your condo can enforce these rules. Your parents (and you) should have read through the bylaw and approved them when you bought. It's usually part of the offer process and you would have had to remove that subject. Check the bylaws to see what they say. As part of your due diligence, you may have needed to check the laundry hours, if it said your hours would be assigned.

You can get on the condo board and try to change the rules. No bikes inside is pretty common. But maybe you can do something about the laundry slots - install another machine?

Buy a cover for your bike and park it outside. Or carry it up the stairs very discreetly. But note that most condos do not allow bikes inside and you may get fined if you are caught.

See if you can trade laundry slots.

Ask your parents for a loan to purchase and install a 2-in-1 washer dryer. You can probably have it installed in the washroom, the kitchen or a room that has direct access to plumbing and electrical. It is not perfect, but I have used them in an apartment here as well as in Japan and Europe. Installing it would add to your condo's resale value and rental options. If your parents own the condo and do not plan to give it to you at some point, you should consider asking them about this as an option. Perhaps you could pay a portion.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

First off, check your attitude: something like doing laundry has nothing to do if someone is 'rich old straight and white'. You may be hip young and cool, but these are the rules that existed before you came --- it's not their fault you didn't check the bylaws before buying, and apparently the majority of the residents are okay with these rules.

I too live in a condo building; we have rules on bikes and the laundry room too --- the reasoning is, laundry rooms make noise, so limit the hours they're open (in our case, free to anyone, no 'assigned' hours, 7:30am-10pm); bikes, unlike baby strollers or shopping carts, pick up road dirt that gets on the hall carpets and creates extra wear & tear, and that costs money.

Okay, that said, your best bet is to attend condo association meetings and try to get the rules adjusted; try to get rid of the assigned hours in the laundry room (but the place shouldn't be open 24/7, keep the total hours limited). As for the bikes, is there a back entrance? Maybe make a rule that bikes can use that back door --- not the main lobby --- as long as they're rolled NOT ridden in the hallways.
posted by easily confused at 4:59 PM on April 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Gerry Hyman is the Toronto Star's condo expert and can probably point you to relevant laws and precedents.

In my experience, taking photos of poor conditions (in my case, mold on the walls in the laundry room) can help you get results. The board members may not have seen the evidence of bike damage and theft, and photos mean they don't need to go into the garage themselves.
posted by heatherann at 5:18 PM on April 23, 2014

At the very least, you could petition the board to be able to bring your bikes in while the garage is inaccessible, since they've already been damaged when you leave them outside. While talking about the garage, you might mention that the security seemed very lax and you find it quite unsafe, and will the repairs being done change that?

Conversely, is there a way to keep your bikes safe that doesn't involve bringing them in? Could a shed be put outside in an unobtrusive location or something? Is there a freight elevator or any way to bring them in that minimizes possible wall/carpet damage? Do you have a ground-floor back door or balcony that you could lift them over/into instead of coming through the hall?

You do have to go to the board if you don't want to just sneak around; but it helps if you go with a potential solution in your pocket, rather than just a complaint.

Per the laundry hours, even if you had evening hours, it's still always a hassle to use a laundry room; I think you should definitely ask your folks to install a small stackable set in your place, then the issue is moot.
posted by emjaybee at 5:20 PM on April 23, 2014

I've lived in areas with covenants, so I understand your frustration with seemingly ridiculous rules. But I also think you need to choose your battles.

The laundry room rules? I would definitely try to get those changed. Designated time slots? Ridiculous. While they certainly don't have to keep the laundry room open 24/7 (and they shouldn't - laundry rooms are loud!), they could simply have open hours from 9 am until 9 pm (for example) - allowing anyone the ability to do their laundry during those time periods. It sounds like there's enough machines so it shouldn't be a problem.

The garage? I would try to get this entire area improved. Broken bikes should be removed from the rack. Lighting should be improved (which will also help with security) and some reflective mirrors (the kind you see in drug stores to deter theft) could be placed in blind spots.

Remember, the condo is in YOUR name. YOU own it. You're going to have to be assertive about this. Try to get your neighbors behind your cause - even if you can't change any actual rules, perhaps things can be reasoned out amongst the residents.

Good luck!
posted by stubbehtail at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Because they are basically set by a group of owners who agree to them (you agreed to them when you bought the unit), condo bylaws have a great deal of latitude, including for things that wouldn't be permitted in rental buildings like no pet clauses. They do have to be 'reasonable' but that's not a very high bar to meet.

That said, actually enforcing rules and by-laws is kind of iffy in Ontario condos because condo boards can't fine residents for infractions. The likelihood is that you can do your laundry when you like and nobody will do anything about it because actually doing anything about it will be a giant pain in the ass. They can send strongly worded letters, and eventually take you to court or mediation (at which point they can recover costs/fees) but there's nothing really in between those two steps, so it's rare for minor infractions to go that far.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:59 PM on April 23, 2014

First, please remember that you are part of this community. If you want some flexibility with the rules then maybe you need to reflect a bit on how you relate to some of the other owners. You have expressed disdain here for "gray-haired, straight, white men", which is really off-putting and not cool at all. Unless they have specifically harmed you in some way, they don't deserve that attitude from you. And if you also give off that same vibe IRL with these people then that may reduce your chances of getting some flexibility from them. So check the attitude as "easily confused" has suggested. It is in your interest to do so. I say this as the President of my condo board so I am very familiar with how a condo community functions as a political entity.

All that said, personally, I would casually and respectfully "break those rules". They do seem unreasonable to me, but of course that is irrelevant. You agreed to the by-laws when you became an owner. But every condo association has a culture. Some are real sticklers for rules. Some are not. So just test those waters. If bringing your bike in and out of the building is a problem, you will be informed. And then that will be the opportunity to talk about some potential changes to the by-laws. Ditto for the laundry issue. Good luck.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:29 PM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

A few important pieces of information...

Sorry, absolutely NONE of those pieces of information from the standpoint of your question "can they enforce these rules?" is important or relevant.

The answer is unequivocally "yes" - the articles of the condominium corporation (to which the property owner agreed upon purchase) invariably create a set of by-laws to which each owner must abide, and to which they must also ensure that any subletter/tenant of their apartment follow. The fact that the rules are stupid doesn't mean they are not enforceable by the board.

As others have suggested, your options are 1) breach the rules and suffer the consequences or 2) organize other members of your building to change the rules. The bylaws of a condominium corporation are not fixed for all eternity, and can be amended according to the terms of the incorporation document (which I encourage you to read, since the property is in your name but it sounds like you still haven't). The relevant documents will also outline the consequences for breach of the condo bylaws.
posted by modernnomad at 6:34 PM on April 23, 2014

To minimize the “time slot” problem with the laundry hours, get together with other Thursdays and agree to some more reasonable accommodation. Having to deal with 4 or 6 others rather than the entire building may be more manageable.
posted by yclipse at 6:48 PM on April 23, 2014

Hi there, I'm a president of a POA here in the US and do a lot of work with other POA's as part of my job. The one thing that has been made crystal clear to me by USA/SC (South Carolina) law is that if rules/bylaws/restrictive covenants are enforced unequally, any legal challenge will likely render the rule/bylaw/covenant void.

This is problematic for you b/c Canada! (I have no knowledge) and you have to take your association to court (pro se or with attorney). It's not the easiest, but it would get you results in this locale.
posted by Kronur at 6:52 PM on April 23, 2014

Does it make a difference if these are by-laws or rules? ByLaws are pretty hardwired into the fondational documents of the condo association, but rules-set by a vote of the board or by the management company-might be more easily changed.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:57 PM on April 23, 2014

If you want to get the rules changed, I think I would pass out a survey to your neighbors. Find out how they feel about these rules. If enough of them agree, you could take your findings to the association and have a better case to get the rules changed.
posted by catatethebird at 7:33 PM on April 23, 2014

thanks to all for your very helpful input. Easily confused and Seymour, thanks for calling me out on the attitude- you are both right, and I should double check if I was giving out that kind of a vibe. I have had mostly pleasant experiences with neighbors in this building and am on friendly terms with most, but have also had a couple of rather unpleasant experiences with one of the older residents, so I was unnecessarily defensive and lumped all of them together. My apologies.

I think what we'll do is to survey the neighbors and get involved in lobbying for a better lit bike storage solution.
posted by redwaterman at 8:35 PM on April 23, 2014

And, not that it really matters in the questions I have asked, but FWIW, the unpleasant experiences I have had involves someone saying "they are letting your kind of people in the building now," which made me really aware of all the ways in which I could have been a different kind from him, and made me extremely uncomfortable.
posted by redwaterman at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2014

Go to a board meeting and ask if they're going to take liability for damaged/stolen bikes. Because I guarantee the guy with the Cervelo is not going to lock it up anywhere but his own apartment. And once you have those two points I think you're in a pretty strong position to float a motion to allow bikes in units. It seems like a pretty straightforward thing to bring to the board. It's not like bikes are somehow dirtier than boots, especially in Toronto winters.
posted by GuyZero at 8:48 PM on April 23, 2014

My understanding is that most residents don't completely follow these rules-- I've seen other residents using our laundry hours; and I've had to do laundry outside of my laundry hours. There are enough machines anyway.

Good. Then it sounds like you would have a lot of support in getting the Bylaws changed. Just don't do anything silly like breaking the law and hoping you don't get caught.

The bottom line is that we've discretely been bringing bikes in, and always very, very carefully. We've seen one of the older residents rolling out a super expensive Cervelo one time and the board member who was around didn't say anything. On the other hand, we've gotten one or two lectures for bringing our -- clean, carefully maneuvered, super careful not to hit anything or damage anything -- commuter bikes in when we got caught one time.

Yeah, this gives them the advantage of being able to call you out on this. Dumb move on your part. Don't break the rules in this tiny environment as you will inevitably get caught. Change them.

Have you even looked into organizing the residents and changing these things, or are you just looking for tricks that will let you sneak around for pretty basic stuff? What would you rather do? Serious question.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:24 AM on April 24, 2014

OH also....document everything. Use your phone for pics...especially when you see the the five star stunna on his cervelo.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:28 AM on April 24, 2014

As others have mentioned, the bike rule is common. I own a townhouse instead of a high rise condo specifically because of the bike rule that a lot of my Cervelo owning friends ran into. You can get covers for the bike that make them into large sporting goods objects instead of a bike. That works ok for once a week long training rides, it isn't as nice for a daily commute.

Taking pictures of the bike area is a good idea. As is drawing the biard's attention to the safety issues.
posted by TORunner at 2:00 AM on April 24, 2014

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