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Odour

Welcome to the CAO’s guided steps to common issues. The CAO provides the information, tools, and templates on these pages to help condominium communities better understand issues and work together to resolve them collaboratively before they escalate into disputes. For situations where condo communities are unable to resolve their issues collaboratively, the CAO also provides information on the next steps they can take.

If you have any questions about any of the information on the CAO’s guided steps to common issues, please contact us directly.

Odour

Complaints about unpleasant or unwanted odours are a common condo issue. In many instances, living in a condominium will mean living close to your neighbours, and smells can sometimes travel from one unit into another or into the common elements.

Odours are often caused by someone’s behaviour – for example, cooking or smoking are common causes of odour complaints. They can also be a result of maintenance issues, such as mould or a malfunction with the garbage chute. Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify the source of an odour.

Examples of common odour issues include:

  • The smell of mould or moisture in a unit or in the building’s common elements.
  • Cooking smells from one unit are travelling into the common elements or into another unit.
  • The smell of smoke (most often from tobacco) is causing a nuisance.
If you receive a complaint or are having an issue with unwanted odours, start by reviewing your by-laws and rules. Most condo corporations have rules about causing a nuisance to others or interfering with their ability to enjoy their property. It is also common for condo corporations to have rules about smoking in units and common elements.

In addition to your by-laws or rules, section 117 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (“the Act”) currently prohibits a person from allowing a condition to exist or to carry on activity in a unit or in the common elements if it is likely to damage the property or injure someone.

While odour issues are unlikely to result in injuries or damage to property, section 117 will soon be amended to prohibit anyone from creating unreasonable odours that are a nuisance, annoyance, or disruption to another resident.

It is important to note that these amendments are not currently part of the Act. When these amendments become law, this prohibition will apply to all condo corporations.

Condominium corporations are required to enforce the provisions of the Act, the declaration and the by-laws and rules of the condo. If you do not comply with the Act, declaration, or the by-laws or rules, legal action may be taken against you.

We recommend that you attempt all the steps below in sequence (where appropriate) until your issue is resolved.

1. Understand your rights and obligations

The Act will soon prohibit activities which are a nuisance or disturbance to others in a condo community. Your condo’s by-laws, rules, or policies may also address the activity that is causing the odour. Refer to Legislation, By-laws and Rules to learn more.

If you have already read this information, proceed to step 2.

2. Notify the condominium corporation of your concern

Your next step is to communicate your concerns to your condo board or manager. You can do this by talking to your board or manager in person, over the phone, or by email.

Notifying your condo corporation or manager is an important step. After you contact them, your condo board or manager will usually investigate the source of the odour. If the odour is being caused by a building component (for example, water leaking from a faulty pipe has caused mould to grow), it may require a repair. If the odour is being caused by another resident, your board or manager will typically contact the resident who is causing it on your behalf.

If your issue is not resolved by notifying your condominium corporation, proceed to step 3.

3. Follow up in writing

If you have already spoken to your condo board or manager and the odour issue persists, you may wish to follow-up with your board in writing. For future reference, you should keep a copy of the letter or email that you send and make note of the day that you sent it.

You can use the letter template on the How-to guide and letter templates page to communicate with your board or manager.

What if the self-help tools don’t resolve my issues?

In step #4, there are further steps you can take if you’ve tried the steps above and still have an issue. These steps include private mediation, arbitration, and/or other legal actions.

Need more help?

Mediation and arbitration are effective ways to resolve disputes where the parties are unable to reach a resolution themselves. Mediation and arbitration are commonly used to help resolve difficult condo disputes and are sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Under section 132 (4) of the Condominium Act, 1998, all condo corporations in the province are deemed to have a provision in their declaration stating that disputes regarding the declaration, by-laws or rules must be filed for mediation or arbitration. Your condo corporation may also have a by-law establishing the procedure that must be followed in the event of a dispute.

If you have been asked to participate in a mediation or arbitration, you are likely legally required to participate.

If you want to try mediation or arbitration for an unresolved issue, you will need to find a mediator or arbitrator who can assist you. You can search for a mediator or arbitrator online and through organizations that provide ADR services, such as the ADR Institute of Ontario.

Mediation

Mediation is a process where a neutral facilitator tries to bring the parties to a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation is the preferred approach because it’s often less costly and it gives the parties an opportunity to collaborate on finding a solution that everyone is comfortable with.

Arbitration

If mediation fails, binding arbitration is the next step. Arbitration is a process where an arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) conducts a hearing and makes a ruling on the issues in the dispute. The parties involved in the dispute bring evidence to this hearing and then the arbitrator makes a binding decision. There are some cases where an arbitration decision can successfully be appealed to court.

Further legal action

If you are considering legal action against a neighbour or your condo corporation, you may wish to talk to a lawyer or paralegal. It is recommended that you try mediation and/or arbitration before taking a dispute to court.