Written By: Tony Gioventu, Executive Director CHOA
‘We have an owner who moved into our building five years ago, knowing there are five stairs at our front entry and three stairs to walk up into our games room. Since her residency, her health condition has changed, and she can no longer easily manage stairs and requires assistance every time she enters or exits our building.’
To what extent does a strata corporation have to go to accommodate an owner who has an accessibility issue in an older building? We have an owner who moved into our building five years ago, knowing there are five stairs at our front entry and three stairs to walk up into our games room. Since her residency, her health condition has changed, and she can no longer easily manage stairs and requires assistance every time she enters or exits our building.
While the strata council and owners are sympathetic to her condition, is it the obligation of our community to make alterations to our common property for owners whose life conditions have changed? We were all aware of the stairs before we moved in.
— DBR, North Vancouver
Whether an owner was aware of a barrier or not, and whether your building is new or was constructed in a period before building codes addressed access and accommodation is not material in determining whether a strata corporation has to accommodate owners, tenants or their families.
Both the right to accommodate or intent to accommodate must be respected. The following test applied from the BC Human Rights Tribunal, ( HRTC) Decision 139 of Leary v. Strata Plan VR1001, regarding second-hand smoke, is a valuable method of assessing requests for alterations or accommodation that require consideration and may be applied to accessibility.
The person seeking accommodation must:
The strata council must:
In a recent HRTC decision of Jacobsen VS Strata Plan 1773 in Nanaimo, the strata corporation has been ordered to provide accessibility to an owner in similar circumstances to enable access to the building and the strata lot that may include the installation of a lift or an external elevator. The consequences for not responding respectfully, timely, or appropriately have also resulted in an award for $35,000 for injury to the applications dignity, feelings and self respect.
Take the application and request seriously. Respond in a timely manner, seek legal advice on the appropriate actions and make your buildings accessible for everyone. We may all need accommodation at some point.
Tony Gioventu, Executive Director CHOA
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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