In the vast majority of instances, it is important for
condominium corporations to actively enforce their declarations,
by-laws and rules. In fact, section 17(3) of the Condominium
Act, 1998 (the "Act"), imposes an obligation on
condominium corporations to take all reasonable steps to ensure
compliance. However, there are certain instances when condominium
corporations should exercise discretion and obtain guidance from
legal counsel before seeking to enforce. An example of such a
predicament is the placement of a mezuzah on a unit's exterior
doorframe. This issue has previously received media coverage in the
United States and has recently resurfaced.
Common practice amongst most members of the Jewish faith is to
affix a small ritual item on their doorposts known as a mezuzah,
which contains biblical verses written on parchment. This ritual is
regarded as a religious obligation and canonized as such in the
Jewish Bible (the Torah). A potential problem can arise when a
condominium corporation has a rule prohibiting items placed or
affixed outside of units. On the one hand, section 58 of the Act
requires rules to be reasonable. Rationales for this rule can
include stylistic consistency and integrity, maintaining property
values, insurance requirements or safety concerns.
The mezuzah controversy rose to prominence in Chicago in 2001,
when the condominium association at the 378-unit Shoreline Towers
adopted a rule banning, "mats, boots, shoes, carts or objects
of any sort... outside unit entrance doors." The Board
determined that this rule must be enforced in an absolute manner,
and accordingly, Shoreline Towers management removed the hallway
Complaints by Shoreline Towers residents were filed with the
Chicago Commission on Human Relations, Illinois Attorney General,
and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging
housing discrimination on the basis of religion. In 2006, a federal
court judge determined that the condominium association's rule
did not violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, which was
upheld on appeal in 2008. However, in 2009, the US Court of Appeals
for the 7th Circuit in Chicago reversed the 2008 decision, and the
case proceeded. In 2011, after years of legal fees and aggravation
for all parties, a confidential settlement was achieved.
As a result of the Shoreline Towers controversy, Chicago's
Municipal Code was amended in 2005 to make it illegal to prohibit a
renter or owner of an apartment, house or condo from, "placing
or affixing a religious sign, symbol or relic on the door, door
post or entrance." Furthermore, in 2006 the Illinois
Condominium Property Act was amended to provide that the board
may not make a rule that prohibits any reasonable accommodation for
religious practices, including the attachment of religiously
mandated objects to the front door area of a condominium unit.
Mezuzah legal battles, similar to the Shoreline Towers
controversy, played out in other states as well. A Florida
condominium association was deemed to have discriminated against a
unit owner when it threatened her with a fine if she did not remove
her mezuzah from her exterior door. This case was part of the
impetus for the state legislature to amend the Florida
Condominium Act in 2008, modeling the Illinois amendment.
Similarly, a Houston condominium association was embroiled in a
legal proceeding with a unit owner who was violating association
rules by affixing a mezuzah. Although the US District Court judge
ruled in favour of the condominium association, Texas legislation
passed in 2011 effectively negated the decision.
Very recently, the media was abuzz with the news that a
Connecticut condominium association ordered an owner to immediately
remove her unit's mezuzah or face a daily fine of $50. The
condominium's lawyer advised the media that the declaration
prohibited unit owners from hanging or displaying items outside
windows or walls without the prior consent of the association's
board. The association allowed crosses and Christmas wreaths to be
displayed, but required the unit owner to remove her mezuzah. After
the unit owner retained legal counsel and media picked up the
story, the matter was resolved with the unit owner being permitted
to keep her mezuzah up and the association publicly apologizing.
The association president claimed that it was a misunderstanding
and the condominium was not aware of the significance of the
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The Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that courts will generally support and uphold decisions of condominium directors because they are better positioned than judges to make decisions pertaining to their buildings.
According to the city bylaws in Calgary, the grading of lots for new buildings must be done properly so that the water never flows toward the new building or any other nearby properties, but away from those buildings.
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