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Odours

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.

Odours

Issues involving unpleasant odours, smells or scents are a common issue in many condominium communities. Living in a condominium often means encountering odours that travel between units and the common elements. In some cases, these odours can be unpleasant, and may be a nuisance.

Some odours are a normal part of everyday life and may be unavoidable. They can become problematic, however, when the odour is persistent or excessive.

Unwanted odour can be caused by:

  • Someone else’s behavior within the condominium (e.g., excessive garbage in a unit);
  • A defect in the design and construct of the condominium (e.g., plumbing issues); or,
  • An external source outside of the condominium (e.g., nearby animals).

Examples of common issues with odours include:

  • Odours caused by neighbours or from neighbouring units, including unpleasant cooking odours, or scents from burning incense.
  • Odours caused by certain activities, including smoke from cigarettes or cannabis.
  • Odours caused by a lack of grooming, cleaning, and caregiving of pets.
  • Odours related to the operation of common elements, including smells from the garbage chute or common elements.

If you think your odour issue may be caused by another owner or occupant’s pet, or by someone smoking tobacco or cannabis, you may be dealing with a Pets and Animals issue or a Smoke and Vapour issue.

If you think your odour issue may be caused by infestation, you may be dealing with an Infestation issue.

Have a Question?

Shape Description automatically generated with medium confidenceIf you have a question about any of the information you’ve read, please contact us. We have a team available to answer any questions you may have.

How do my condominium corporation’s governing documents apply?

Every condo owner and occupant is required to comply with the Condominium Act, 1998 (the Condo Act), and with the condominium corporation’s governing documents (i.e., its declaration, by-laws, and rules).

If you are having any issue with odours, or if you received a complaint about an odour issue that you may be involved with, you should start by reviewing your condominium corporation’s governing documents.

If your condominium corporation has provisions in its governing documents relating to odours, these provisions would most likely be found in the corporation’s declaration or rules, though they may also be found in the by-laws.

By reviewing these documents, you can determine what is and isn’t allowed in your condominium corporation in relation to odours. Depending on the issue, you may also want to review your corporation’s governing documents for other provisions that might be relevant, even if those provisions do not specifically mention smells or odours.

For example, your condominium corporation’s governing documents may contain provisions that:

  • Prohibit certain substances or activities in the condominium that are likely to cause intense odours;
  • Require owners or occupants to take reasonable steps to prevent or prohibit certain activities that are likely to cause odours (e.g., no smoking within the units or common elements).
  • Unit owners take part in specific routine maintenance procedures (e.g., replacing air filters, or taking steps to prevent the growth of mould within the units or the common elements that they have exclusive use over).

If you are experiencing an odour issue, you may want to first review your condominium corporation’s governing documents for any odour-related requirements or obligations.

A condominium corporation’s governing documents are required to be consistent with the Condo Act. In addition, a condominium corporation’s by-laws and rules must be consistent with the declaration and must be reasonable.

For an overview of condominium declarations, by-laws and rules, visit our website.

Don’t have a copy of your condominium corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules?

Owners can request a copy from your condominium corporation using the mandatory Request for Records form, available on our website.

How does the Condo Act apply?

Section 119 (1) of the Condo Act, requires everyone, including unit owners, occupants, and your condominium corporation to comply with the Condo Act, and your condominium corporation’s governing documents. Accordingly, if your condominium corporation’s governing documents deals with odours, everyone is required to follow them.

Furthermore, under section 17 (3) of the Condo Act, condominium corporations are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that everyone complies with the Condo Act and the condominium corporation’s governing documents.

If an odour issue does occur, it may need to be addressed immediately. Section 117 (2) of the Condo Act prohibits anyone from carrying on an activity or permitting an activity in the unit or common elements if the activity results in the creation of or continuation of any odour that is an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance or disruption in the condominium corporation.

Odours that interfere with a person’s right to use and enjoy their unit may be constitute an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance or disruption. Whether an odour is an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance or disruption depends on several different factors, including:

  • The source of the odour;
  • The intensity of the odour;
  • How long it lasts;
  • How often it occurs;
  • Whether it affects a person’s right to use and enjoy their unit.

The Condo Act prohibits everyone from causing an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance, or disruption in a condominium, regardless of what a condominium corporation’s governing documents say.

Prolonged exposure to certain smells or odours, could impact an individual’s overall enjoyment of their unit…

A condominium corporation is legally required to take action to address an odour-related issue that:

  • Is causing an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance, or disruption; or,
  • Violates the Condo Act and/or corporation’s governing documents.

Accordingly, If you have an odour-related issue, you should notify your condominium corporation as soon as possible so they can deal with it.

If an owner or occupant is causing an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance, or disruption (either by doing something or failing to do something), or if they are not complying with the condominium’s governing documents, then the condominium corporation or another owner may take legal action against them, including filing an application with the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT).

Likewise, if a condominium corporation causes an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance, or disruption (either by doing something or failing to do something) then a unit owner may take legal action against them, including filing an application with the CAT.

Repairs and Maintenance

 

Some odour issues might be the result of malfunctioning components and might require repairs or maintenance to fix them (e.g., a broken garbage chute).

Under the Condo Act, owners are responsible for maintaining their own units and condominium corporations are responsible for maintaining the common elements. Condominium corporations are also responsible for repairing both the units and the common elements after damage.

That said, a condominium corporation’s declaration may alter who is responsible for repairs and maintenance – for instance, a condominium corporation’s declaration could specify that owners are responsible for repairing their own units after damage, or that owners are responsible for maintaining some of the common elements. If you have an odour issue related to repairs and maintenance, you should check your condominium corporation’s declaration to determine who is responsible.

For more information on repair and maintenance obligations, please click here.

Other Legal Considerations

While condominium corporations are required to ensure that everyone complies with the Condo Act and with the condominium corporation’s governing documents, they may not be able to control what happens outside of the condominium corporation’s property or physical boundaries.

For example, your condominium corporation may not be able to address issues like:

  • Odours coming from other buildings; or
  • Odours from nearby streets or the environment.

Depending on the type of issue you’re experiencing, you may also wish to review your municipality’s by-laws, or contact the organization responsible for your municipality’s by-law enforcement. Municipalities may have by-laws regarding garbage or composting containment to prevent unwanted odours, for example.

Have a Question?

Shape Description automatically generated with medium confidenceIf you have a question about any of the information you’ve read, please contact us. We have a team available to answer any questions you may have.

How can I resolve an odour issue?

We strongly recommend that you attempt all the steps below in sequence (where appropriate) before taking any further action.

Solutions for Condominium Boards & Managers >

File an application with the CAT

If you have tried the steps above and your issue still hasn’t been resolved, you may be able to file an application with the CAT to resolve your dispute. The CAT is an online tribunal dedicated to resolving condominium disputes.

The CAT is pleased to provide an online dispute resolution system (CAT-ODR) to help Ontario’s condominium communities resolve their condominium disputes conveniently, quickly, and affordably.

To file with the CAT, your application must deal with:

  • An unreasonable nuisance, disruption or annoyance related to Odour;
  • One or more provisions of your condominium corporation’s governing documents which relate to Odour; and / or,
  • Indemnification or compensation (commonly called “chargebacks”) related to Odour.

How can the CAT help resolve my dispute?

The CAT has a three-stage dispute resolution process:

  • In Stage 1 – Negotiation, you will work with the other parties to try to resolve the issues.
  • In Stage 2 – Mediation, you will work with a CAT Mediator to try to resolve the issues.
  • In Stage 3 – Tribunal Decision, a CAT Member will conduct an online hearing, during which both sides will make their case. The Member will then issue an order resolving the issues.

Learn more about the CAT’s process here.

Who can file a Odour-related application with the CAT?

Unit owners, mortgagees, and condominium corporations can file applications with the CAT.

What kinds of disputes can be filed with the CAT?

The CAT can deal with two different types of disputes involving Odour:

  1. Disputes about unreasonable nuisances, annoyances or disruptions.
    • You can file an application about an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance or disruption regardless of what your condominium corporation’s governing documents say.
  2. Disputes about the provisions in your condominium corporation’s governing documents that deal with Odour.

What might be considered an unreasonable nuisance, annoyance or disruption?

The Condo Act prohibits unreasonable Odour-related nuisances, annoyances or disruptions. While the Condo Act does not define the term “unreasonable,” the following criteria may be relevant:

  • The source of the Odour;
  • The intensity of the Odour;
  • How long it lasts;
  • How often it occurs;
  • Whether it is permitted or prohibited by the condominium corporation’s governing documents; and,
  • Whether it affects a person’s right to use and enjoy their unit.

What kinds of disputes about the provisions of the condominium corporation’s governing documents can be filed with the CAT?

You can file a dispute about the Odour related provisions of your condominium’s governing documents. This includes issues involving:

  • Compliance with provisions in the corporation’s governing documents related to Odour;
  • The consistency and/or reasonableness of those provisions;
  • The applicability of those provisions; and
  • Any related indemnification / compensation.

Seeking legal advice

If you need advice or guidance, you may wish to seek legal advice from a paralegal or lawyer licensed by the Law Society of Ontario.

If you do not already have a lawyer or paralegal, you may be interested in the Law Society Referral service, which is an online service provided by the LSO to connect people in need with licensed lawyers and paralegals. The service is free, and you may receive up to a half-hour free consultation.

Please note: The CAO and its staff are not permitted to provide legal interpretations or advice.

Want to learn more about previous CAT cases?

Access the CAT’s previous decisions on our website.

Ready to file?

There is a non-refundable $25 fee to file an application with the CAT.

Have a Question?

Shape Description automatically generated with medium confidenceIf you have a question about any of the information you’ve read, please contact us. We have a team available to answer any questions you may have.

Odours

Helpful Resources

Owner to other Owners or Occupant Templates

First Letter to Owner
Second Letter to Owner
Third Letter to Owner

Owner to the Board of Directors Templates

First Letter to Condo Corp
Second Letter to Condo Corp

Board Directors to Owners Templates

First Letter to Owner