Keep the peace in condo land (and avoid going to court) with this lawyer's tips

Talking it out, knowing your rights, and doing your homework will help you avoid a time-consuming and costly legal battle with your condo board, says lawyer Chris Jaglowitz.

Talk out disputes and know your rights, says Chris Jaglowitz

Thinking of moving into a condo? Make sure that the condo declaration squares with your lifestyle and needs, says lawyer Chris Jaglowitz. (Steve Kemp)

On Monday, CBC brought you the story of Jayne Pilot, a Brampton woman who was handed a court summons from her condo board for what she describes as minor backyard infractions — an extra patio chair, and two oversized flowerpots.

But court should be the last resort, says Chris Jaglowitz, a lawyer who specializes in condo disputes.  

He spoke to Matt Galloway on CBC Radio's Metro Morning about how to handle issues between condo boards and owners before they boil over.

Do your homework before moving in

Do you have a beloved 65-pound Labrador retriever? Are you a big fan of outdoor grilling in summer? Take that into account before picking your building, says Jaglowitz.

"Looking at the condo declaration bylaws and rules before you purchase is critically important so that you know what you're getting into," he explains.

"It's very difficult if you want to have certain lifestyle components and you move into the building without seeing whether or not that building is suitable for you."

"Most condo disputes are over people, pets and parking: The 3 Ps," says Chris Jaglowitz. (CBC)

If you get a complaint, respond

If that big dog proves to be more of an issue than anticipated and you receive a complaint, respond to it, says Jaglowitz.

"We see a lot of scenarios where the owner or occupant does not respond at all," he says. "A series of letters will go from the manager, eventually then from lawyers."

At that point, "there's really no other option" than a slide into a court setting.

Know your rights — and expect mediation

"You have the right to expect that your board will take reasonable steps to enforce its declaration bylaws and rules," says Jaglowitz.

Key among those reasonable steps? A mediation and then arbitration process to settle problems without going to court, which Jaglowitz says is required by the Condo Act.

Keep communication lines open

Most important of all, Jaglowitz says, is handling problems before they gain momentum and keeping communication channels open between both sides.

"The greatest condo managers are ones who resolve issues of this nature before they end up on the lawyer's desk," he says.

"It could be as simple as a conversation in the hallway, a friendly letter."

With files from Metro Morning