A man’s home is his castle, except when he hoards in a condo.
Hoarding can be defined as the acquisition of and the failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value. These items can include such things as flyers, newspapers, books and empty plastic containers. Compulsive hoarding can quickly become a dangerous situation in a condominium. Excessive amounts of paper, plastic, and liquids often become a fire hazard. Hoarder’s units also have a much higher risk of rodent and insect infestations.
In the City of Toronto, the property standards by-law currently in place requires that all residents keep their property clean and clear of debris both inside and out. This by-law also requires that properties be kept free of conditions which may encourage infestation of pests. Further, Section 117 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) provides that no person shall permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity in a unit or in the common elements if the condition or the activity is likely to damage the property or cause injury to an individual. It is quite apparent that compulsive hoarding is a contravention of the property standards by-law and of Section 117 of the Act.
Corporations must act as expeditiously as possible when compulsive hoarding is discovered. The first step that the corporation should take is to issue a letter to the unit owner requiring that the unit be cleaned immediately. The letter to the owner should also provide a date and time that the unit will be inspected by the corporation to ensure that the unit owner has complied. On that date, two representatives of the condominium corporation should inspect the unit to determine if the unit owner has complied with the corporation’s request. If the unit is not cleaned to the corporation’s satisfaction, or if the corporation is denied access to the unit, the Fire Department should be contacted and advised of the potential fire hazard in the unit. Often the matter will then be dealt with by the Fire Department, and the Police Department if deemed necessary.
If the compulsive hoarding continues in the unit after the Fire Department is contacted, the next step is for the condominium corporation to contact its solicitors to begin legal proceedings. Depending on the urgency of the situation, the first step taken by the lawyer may be to issue a demand letter to the unit owner requiring that they immediately take measures to permanently remove any fire hazards from their unit. If the unit owner fails to rectify the matter after this demand letter, or if there is a significant and imminent risk of damage to persons or property, the corporation may seek an order for compliance under Section 134 of the Act.