Toronto

Lawyer says it's 'prudent' condos implement mandatory mask policy in common areas

A Toronto law firm that specializes in condominium living, operations and management is encouraging condo corporations strongly consider implementing a mandatory mask policy in indoor common areas to keep residents, staff and guests safe.

Toronto’s mask bylaw doesn’t include condos, rules differ between buildings

Condo buildings throughout Toronto have different rules when it comes to wearing a mask in common indoor elements, but one law firm is encouraging all condos to strongly consider making the practice mandatory. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

A Toronto law firm that specializes in condominium living, operations and management is encouraging condo corporations to strongly consider implementing a mandatory mask policy in indoor common areas to keep residents, staff and guests safe.

The City of Toronto's mask bylaw mandates face coverings be worn in public indoor spaces, with some exceptions, but it doesn't apply to condos.  

Josh Milgrom of Lash Condo Law says the spaces where masks are required under the bylaw are similar to indoor common areas in condos including elevators, lobbies and hallways.

Some condos haven't gone as far as implementing a mandatory mask policy, but are encouraging residents and guests to wear them while in common indoor spaces. (Angelina King/CBC)

"The risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 in those areas are substantially similar, if not the same, to those areas we have in condos," he said.

Milgrom says condo corporations are responsible to manage the common elements and ensure the property is reasonably safe. 

"These are peoples' homes and they should feel safe in their home," he said. "Getting into their actual units, they have to use the lobby, they have to use the elevator."

He says corporations also have obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to employees and other workers to maintain a "safe and healthy workplace."

Condo with mandatory policy supplying free masks at first

The Neo and Montage condos, which are attached, enacted a mandatory mask policy last week with a phased-in approach. 

During the first week, face coverings are mandatory in the elevators and at the security desk, and recommended in all other common areas, according to an email sent to residents by board directors and management. In that phase masks are free at the security desk. 

Masks are now mandatory in some indoor common areas of the Neo condo building in CityPlace. (April Burns/CBC)

The following week masks are available for $1 and the third week masks won't be provided, but are required in all common areas, should the first two phases "go well," according to the email.

CityPlace resident Angie Alexander lives in the Neo building and is happy with the new policy, especially after residents were informed of a positive COVID-19 case in one of the buildings at the end of May.

"I don't want to see any of the cases go up. It's just a little piece of the puzzle that we can do to stop the spread," she said.

Some condos not requiring masks, but encouraging them

Jeremy Anderson's condo in Liberty Village is encouraging residents and guests to wear a mask in common areas, but not requiring it.

Anderson says he's been following the recommendation, but is indifferent as to whether the building should make it a requirement.

"Mandatory always has its pushbacks. You kind of want to feel that you're able to live in your space without too many restrictions," he said, adding he wouldn't be against a mandatory policy if it came into effect.

Jeremy Anderson has been following his condo's recommendation to wear a mask in common areas and says he's indifferent as to whether it should be mandated. (Angelina King/CBC)

"It's proven that it does provide some added measure of safety … it's just something that we need to do."

Giselle Melillo, who lives in the same building, says about half of the residents are following the guidance. She'd like to see the recommendation turned into a requirement. 

"I'm protecting you and they're protecting me, if you're wearing a mask," she said. "There's a lot of controversy around this, it's unbelievable to me."

Giselle Melillo would like to see her condo building mandate mask use in common indoor areas. (Angelina King/CBC)

Milgrom says simply encouraging masks may not go far enough in some condos to get everyone to comply since there's no potential consequences.

He says if condos are encouraging masks but many aren't wearing them, corporations should consider mandating them.

According to Milgrom, a situation could arise where a condo corporation "would potentially be liable" if someone contracted COVID-19 in the building. "It would depend on the circumstances and a variety of different factors," he says. 

Milgrom says a significant number of the 500 condos his firm represents have enacted a mandatory mask policy and expects more to follow suit.

About the Author

Angelina King is a reporter with CBC Toronto where she covers a wide range of stories. She has a particular interest in crime, legal and justice issues and human interest stories. She previously reported on national and international news. Angelina got her start in her home city of Saskatoon where she spent much of her time covering the courts. You can contact her at angelina.king@cbc.ca or @angelinaaking

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