Pest Infestations and the Duty to Maintain and Repair

Condominium owners and condominium corporations alike have obligations to fulfill in their unique relationship with one another. The Condominium Act, as well as the Declaration, By-Laws, and Rules of a condominium itself, set out these obligations in detail. But what happens when one side does not hold up their end of the bargain?

In the recent decision Carleton Condominium Corp. No. 25 v Eagan, which was a Court Application (at the first instance) to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Court exercised its authority to order an owner to comply with his responsibilities to repair and maintain his unit. The unit was excessively cluttered with debris and personal items, and was infested by bed bugs. In an effort to avoid Court involvement, and in an attempt to assist a member of its own community, the Board worked very hard over the course of a year and a half to secure the cooperation of the unit owner in order to address the condition of his unit. Although some progress was made, ultimately the Board was not successful, and as a result was required to commence a Court Application to have the condition of the unit addressed.

The Court found that the unit owner had breached his duties to repair and maintain his unit. The Court gave the unit owner 30 days to clean his unit and prepare it for pest control treatment, failing which the condominium corporation would be granted immediate and ongoing access to the unit for the purposes of cleaning and treating. The Court further gave the condominium corporation the specific authority to decide which unit contents will be removed, discarded and/or placed in storage.

This case is a reminder of the fact that all unit owners have a duty to comply with their obligations to repair and maintain their units – and when they don’t, there are significant consequences, not the least of which is financial. However, it is also an excellent reminder that condominiums are communities, and each member of the community has an obligation to everyone else in that community.

The decisions and activities undertaken by each member of the condominium community may have a direct impact on the other members of that community. As a result, each unit owner must be held accountable for the decisions that he or she makes with respect to his or her unit. Conversely, condominium corporations have a duty to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to address the unique circumstances that will inevitable arise any time it deals with issues of non-compliance.

In the case of Carleton Condominium Corp. No. 25 v Patrick Eagan, the Board appropriately took all reasonable steps in the circumstances. These included appropriate monitoring of the condition and infestation within the unit, keeping the unit owner informed of the steps taken and to be taken by the Corporation, and, ultimately, engaging the Courts as necessary to ensure compliance and to minimize the impact of one owner’s decisions and activities on the other members of the community.

If your condominium is dealing with a similar situation of a pest infestation in a unit, the following lessons may be taken from this case:

  • Where the unit owner fails or refuses to carry out and/or permit the appropriate treatment of the pest infestation, the unit owner may be in breach of his/her repair and maintenance obligations under the Act
  • Proper inspection of the unit in question, including ongoing monitoring, is key to ensuring the impact on neighbouring units is minimal
  • Wherever possible, work with the unit owner to address the condition
  • Wherever necessary, engage appropriate authorities (including the fire inspector’s office) to ensure the unit complies with all laws and regulations (including the Fire Code)
  • If required, engage the Court system to ultimately achieve compliance by the owner in question.