Unauthorized In-Suite Condo Alterations
Owners taking on interior renovations to their unit, should always check with property management or the board to ensure that proper steps are followed, otherwise they may be faced with having to remove costly alterations and being held responsible for the costs incurred by the Corporation in getting them to comply with the condominium documentation.
This was the situation in the case of T.S.C.C. 1549 v. Chan. Ms. Chan, an owner of a live/work unit, carried out alterations to her unit, by physically dividing her unit into two parts, one side being the living side and the other being the work side, essentially subdividing the unit into two.
The Declaration of T.S.C.C. 1549 has a provision which prohibits owners from making any structural change, renovation, alteration or addition to the unit without the prior written consent of the Corporation, which consent shall be in the sole and unfettered discretion of the board.
Ms. Chan had, without the board's consent, constructed an internal wall which divided the unit into two separate units and erected internal doors and doorframes to create two separate entrances. These alterations created a life-safety concern, as there were no separate life-safety systems installed on the "live" side of the unit.
Despite the Corporation's efforts to get Ms. Chan to comply with the Declaration, Ms. Chan failed to remove the internal wall which divided the unit and continued to seek the Corporation's retroactive approval of her alteration. Ms. Chan went as far as getting the necessary approvals from the City to install a life safety system; however, this involved altering the common elements and required the approval of the board, for which the board would not give its approval.
The Corporation then commenced an application pursuant to Section 117, 119 and 134 of the Condominium Act. The Corporation's position was that the internal wall created a life safety hazard. In addition, if the Corporation allowed Ms. Chan to subdivide her unit, this would set a damaging precedent as evidenced by the fact that there was another unit owner who had subdivided their unit.
The Court found that the internal wall contravened the Corporation's Declaration as it constituted a structural change, renovation, alteration or addition to a unit without the prior written consent of the Corporation. The Court further found that Ms. Chan had created a potential danger to other residents because the life safety systems in her unit were inadequate and this inadequacy created an underwriting risk with respect to the insurance coverage for the building. The result was that the Court ordered that the wall come down and the unit restored to the original as-built condition. Ms. Chan was further subject to a costs award.