A Recent Case About Fire Code Compliance

In the case of YCC 221 v. Mazur, there were numerous violations of the Fire Code inside a unit. 

Following an inspection of the unit, the Toronto Fire Services issued an order stating that the owners/occupants were:

 “Collecting combustible material within [their] dwelling unit in a quantity and manner which constitutes a fire hazard…”

The excessive combustibles created risks in the following areas:

  • The need to maintain adequate clearance between combustibles and the stove and other cooking elements.
  • The need to maintain proper routes for egress from different rooms during an emergency.
  • The need to maintain proper clearance for smoke alarm operation.

The order from the Fire Services directed the owners to remove combustibles from the dwelling as necessary to address these risks.

When the owners failed to comply with the Fire Services order (and after a number of delays), the condominium corporation applied to Court, seeking a Court order directing the owners to comply and also authorizing the condominium corporation to subsequently inspect the unit (to confirm the compliance). The Court granted these orders and also ordered the owner to pay 100% of the condominium corporation’s costs. The Court said: “To allow the unit to be in continued violation of a fire inspection order creates a serious hazard to the property and individual safety of other occupants of the Condominium Corporation.”

The Court also noted the potential liability of the condominium corporation when it comes to matters of Fire Code compliance. On this point, the Court said:

“The Condominium Corporation itself is potentially liable for many of those hazards if it does not take steps to remediate them. Section 26 of the Condominium Act deems the corporation to be the occupier of common elements for liability purposes. Section of the Ontario Fire Code obligates the ‘Owner’ of a property to carry out the provisions of the fire code. The term ‘Owner’ is defined in s. as ‘any firm, person or corporation having control over any portion of the building or property under consideration and includes the persons in the building or the property.’ The Condominium Corporation falls within the definition of ‘Owner’ and is therefore obligated to ensure that the respondents comply with the Ontario Fire Code and the Fire Protection and Prevention Act.”

We’ve seen this responsibility of condominium corporations in relation to other Fire Code compliance matters, such as requirements respecting in-suite smoke alarms. By way of summary, the Courts have said that condominium corporations have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that owners fulfill their obligations under the Fire Code. What will be considered “reasonable” will depend upon the particular circumstances.

That said, this case also confirms the “ultimate responsibility” of the owner – including responsibility for all of the related costs. The Court said:

The underlying principle supporting full indemnity costs to condominium corporations is that if they are not entitled to full indemnity costs, it is the other unit holders who effectively bear the legal costs that have been incurred by an offending unit holder’s conduct. That has been deemed to be inappropriate.

I have one last point that I’d like to mention: In such cases (where an owner fails to properly maintain or repair the unit), the condominium corporation may also have the right (or sometimes the obligation) to attend to the required work under Section 92 of the Condominium Act, and then to charge back the owner. However, this option may be impractical if the owner blocks the condominium corporation’s efforts (by steadfastly or forcibly blocking the corporation’s entry to the unit). If that happens, it may be necessary to resort to the Courts (as occurred in this case).

As always, stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!