Recent Court Decision Respecting Hoarding

In the case of Peel Condominium Corporation No. 12 v. Gill, the condominium corporation applied to Court because of the owners’ “hoarding an excessive and dangerous amount of clutter in their condominium unit”. The unsafe condition of the unit was initially noted in inspections of the unit carried out by the condominium corporation, and subsequently confirmed through inspection and reporting by a fire safety consultant. Despite requests from the condominium corporation, the owners had failed to carry out the necessary clean-up of the unit; and the owners ultimately even installed additional locks to prevent the condominium corporation from carrying out further inspections or from attending to the required clean-up.

The Court said:

The Applicant provided several opportunities for the Respondents to remedy the condition of their unit. The Respondents did not take any steps to remove the clutter from their unit. Rather than work with the Applicant, the Respondents refused to allow the Applicant to inspect the unit and changed the locks on the door to the unit. I am satisfied that the Respondents will not voluntarily clean the unit.

The Court ordered the owners to promptly attend to the necessary clean-up and, failing such, that the clean-up would be carried out by the condominium corporation at the owners’ expense.  The Court also confirmed the right of the condominium corporation to undertake regular inspections in order to monitor the ongoing condition of the unit.  Finally, the Court ordered that the owners’ pay costs to the condominium corporation.

This case nicely expresses the rights and responsibilities of a condominium corporation in such cases. When dealing with a hoarder, the typical required steps are as follows:

  • Arrange for inspection(s) of the unit, and proper recording of the interior conditions.
    • When photographs are to be taken, I recommend advising the residents that the photographs will be used only for purposes of fulfillment of obligations under the Condominium Act and the condominium’s governing documents and will otherwise be held in strict confidence.
  • Also arrange for inspection(s) and reporting by a qualified expert.
  • In many such cases, the resident may need help from family or may need some form of social assistance. When appropriate, and where possible, it may help to contact the resident’s family or social worker.
  • When possible, also arrange for inspection(s) and reporting by relevant Fire and Health authorities.
    • In some cases, representatives from Fire and Health authorities may be willing to attend during an inspection by the condominium corporation. I caution, however, that Fire and Health authorities are not always helpful, simply because their mandates are “narrower” than the mandate of a condominium corporation. Furthermore, municipal authorities may decline involvement unless they first receive a request from the municipality’s by-law enforcement department. In other words, any involvement of relevant authorities may have to be initiated through the municipality’s by-law enforcement department.
  • Give the owner (and/or tenant, when applicable) full notice, and a reasonable opportunity to clean up the unit.
  • If the clean-up is not completed (as confirmed by follow-up inspection) attend to the required work under Section 92 of the Condominium Act, as well as any applicable provisions in the Declaration, By-laws or Rules, with the related costs added to the owners’ common expenses in accordance with Section 92 and/or in accordance with provisions in the governing documents.
  • Be sure to secure any collection rights by way of lien, before expiry of the applicable lien rights.
  • Where necessary, due to lack of cooperation, make application to Court (as in the Peel CC 12 case).

Hoarding situations can sometimes be extremely serious, and in fact dangerous for all the residents, including the residents of the cluttered unit. Thankfully, condominium law gives a condominium corporation the tools to effectively deal with such situations, even though the process can often be quite lengthy!

Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!