Shawn Pulver, partner at Macdonald Sager Manis LLP in Toronto presents insights into legal issues relevant to owners, residents, Boards of Directors and property managers of condominiums in the province of Ontario.

In this article, I examine the issue of whether condominiums are permitted to impose actual monetary fines on its owners and residents. It is very common for condominium buildings to impose fines on its residents for certain conduct. I have seen buildings, for example, impose fines (some upwards of $500) against any owners whose dogs are not kept under control, or who are found to have urinated on the common elements. In most cases, these Board of Directors and property managers would never think twice about this arrangement.

I have long held the view that such fines (even if reasonable and imposed for legitimate reasons) are not legal. Under almost all condominium declarations, there is broad language that allows the condominium corporation to charge back actual costs to an owner for damage done to the common elements. This would mean that if an owner's dog damaged the carpet in the common elements, and it cost the condominium corporation exactly $342.50 to remedy the issue, the condominium corporation could charge $342.50 back to the owner. However, the condominium corporation can't also impose a random fine ($500 or $750) against the owner.

In my view, the only reasonable charges that can even be made against an owner are for actual costs that a condominium corporation has incurred to either repair the common elements or enforce the Rules or Declaration.

The Condominium Act is silent about the issue of imposing fines, and it is not a subject of much litigation.

In summary, condominium boards and property management have to be diligent to enforce their respective Rules and Regulations and Declaration. With that said, imposing random fines for problematic conduct is not, in my view, the proper way to ensure condominium compliance. This will only lead to more disputes in the future if buildings become increasingly aggressive in imposing fines against its owners. My hope is that this does not happen, and that condominiums rely on the remedies already provided for in their Declaration, Rules and Regulations and in the Ontario Condominium Act.

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This article is intended to be an overview and is for informational purposes only.