Ontario Court Enforces Condominium's Rules Banning Short Term Rentals

The condo corporation of a 244-unit Ottawa residential condominium had become aware that an increasing number of owners were offering their units for short-term rentals on websites such as AirBnB, and  Rentals were for as short as a single night, and typically included the use of the condo’s amenities such as the parking area, exercise room, pool, and meeting rooms. This was disruptive to other owners, who were essentially forced to tolerate a hotel operation for complete strangers being run without their consent from inside the residential complex.

The condo corporation went to court to enforce its rules and declaration that restricted the use of its units to “single-family dwellings” only, and prohibited leases of less than four months in duration.  The application was directed specifically at the activities in one particular unit, owned by a lawyer and his wife, for which the court said there were “no less than 13 [online] reviews of guests who leased it in recent months.”

In hearing the application, the court noted that the Condominium Act, 1998 expressly allows for a condo declaration and rules to include prohibitions and restrictions on unit use, occupation and leasing. It found that the restrictions promulgated by the condominium’s declaration in this case were entirely valid and enforceable.

In particular, the rules against short-term use were not overly restrictive, and were in keeping with those approved of in similar court decisions.  The declaration purported to restrict unit occupation for “single-family dwelling” purposes, which was a legitimate objective.  In this context, courts have previously defined “family” to mean a "social unit consisting of parent(s) and their children, whether natural or adopted, and includes other relatives if living with the primary group"; prior decisions have also upheld and enforced such single-family provisions in the past.

Having found the condo rules and declaration valid, the court examined the owners’ impugned conduct.  It concluded that the term "single family use" could not be reasonably interpreted to include their operation of a hotel-like business in which they repeatedly offered their unit to complete strangers on the internet for as short as a single night. 

Overall, the evidence was compelling that these owners were leasing their unit commercially, in clear breach of the declaration and rules.  Given their prior intransigence (including an outright refusal to even acknowledge the valid restrictions and their harsh and persistent criticism of the condo board’s attempts to enforce them), the owners were formally ordered by the court to comply, even though they had promised not to lease their unit going-forward. See Ottawa-Carleton Standard Condominium Corp. No. 961 v. Menzies, 2016 ONSC 7699.