Condo Smarts: Live Christmas trees can create problems in condos

Dear Tony: We are at an impasse with our strata council over Christmas trees. Our bylaws permit holiday decorations for festivals throughout the year, with a condition that they must be removed within 10 days of the festival and cannot cause a nuisance to neighbouring units.

This has been easy to manage in a high-rise. The dispute arises from Christmas trees. Trees are not prohibited, but we are prohibited from carrying Christmas trees through the lobby, the hallways and parking garage. Technically speaking, only the ground units and townhouses with street access could have a tree. The council refuses to say whether it will enforce this bylaw, so how do we know whether we can have a tree or not?

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Janine B.

Strata councils really have little choice when it comes to the enforcement of bylaws and rules. Under the Strata Property Act, the corporation must enforce its bylaws and rules, but can apply fines and penalties.

It would be safe to assume that if you drag a tree through the hallways to your unit and are caught in the act, the council will enforce its bylaws. It might impose a fine after it has gone through the enforcement process and can impose recoverable costs for damages and additional cleaning services.

If the strata council does not enforce the bylaw, any owner or tenant can commence a Civil Resolution Tribunal complaint to order the strata corporation to enforce its bylaws.

I am a big fan of live Christmas trees and holiday decorations for all types of festivals throughout the year, but we have to be realistic about potential damages, risks and disruptions to our neighbours.

Neglected trees are a serious fire hazard. No one wants a condo fire over the holidays. (Never use candles on a Christmas tree.)

If the trees are not wrapped and bagged properly at the end of the season, the branches will damage walls and the needles can jam elevator tracks.

We can always rely on at least one owner or tenant dragging a tree through the hallways and neglecting the assigned pick-up date, leaving the tree in the garbage room or the lane for someone else to manage.

My dreaded looming disaster is the owner or tenant who can’t be bothered with proper tree removal and tosses it off his or her balcony, resulting in property damage or risk of injury.

If your building permits live trees, making a good supply of tree bags available to the residents will greatly reduce damage and mess. Before you buy that perfect tree and drag it upstairs, check your bylaws and have a safe and happy holiday.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association.

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