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Can condo corporations tow cars who are in breach of parking rules?

The Condo Tribunal was recently asked to rule on whether it was reasonable for the condo corporation to tow a car that was in breach of the parking rules.  It seems that the answer is “yes, but not always”. Once more, reasonableness is the key consideration.

Facts of the case

Less than a week after having moved into their condo unit, Mr. Hum had his car ticketed and towed away because he had failed to display the required parking pass. This resulted in a $25 fine and $650 in towing fees.  Mr. Hum contested the reasonableness of this enforcement step taken by the corporation.

Parking rules

The condo’s rules provided that all traffic and parking rules established by the board and all traffic signs posted in the garage had to be complied with by all occupants and visitors.

About seven months before Mr. Hum moved in, a notice was posted on the condo portal indicating that parking passes were required to be displayed on all vehicles parked in the garage and that a failure to do so would result in a fine and possibly being towed at the owner’s expense.

When Mr. Hum moved in, he was informed of the parking pass system and was provided with a parking pass.  The pass was apparently in his car the day it was towed but it was not displayed.

Mr. Hum argued that other people in a similar situation had not been towed but had, instead, received a warning. He provided pictures to support his position. The Condo Tribunal asked the corporation to provide more information on whether giving a warning (instead of towing) was an option but the corporation declined to answer that question.

The question

Ultimately, the question to be determined is whether it was reasonable for the condo corporation to ticket and tow the car in light of Mr. Hum’s failure to display the parking pass.

Decision

The Condo Tribunal concluded that Mr. Hum was aware that he was required to display the parking pass. It also concluded that the only reason why the car was towed was because the pass had not been displayed.

The Condo Tribunal noted that the notice to owners made it clear that parking without a pass would result in a ticket and that it could result in the car being towed. Stated otherwise, the ticket appeared to be an automatic sanction, while towing appeared to be a possibility.

The Tribunal concluded that it was reasonable to issue the ticket but that it was not reasonable to tow the car in the present circumstances:

… on the basis of the evidence presented in this case… it was not reaosnable to have the car towed. Towing a car results in significant cost and inconvenience for the owner. Since Mr. Hum had only moved in less than a week prior, this was not chronic improper or illegal parking situation. A ticket would act as a warning and there is no explanation before me for why it was decided that it was necessary to also have the car towed …

The Tribunal ordered Mr. Hum to pay the $25 ticket and ordered the corporation to reimburse him the towing cost and the tribunal fee, for a total of $849.75.

Take aways

While the Tribunal found that towing the car in this case was unreasonable, it appears that (in other circumstances) towing a car who chronically breached parking rules would be acceptable. Reasonableness is key. Corporations should consider giving a warning before towing someone’s car or reserving towing for repeated or more serious cases (imagine, for instance, if the car posed a danger).

It is key to ensure your rules are clear as to what is expected from occupants and what is the consequence of breaching a rule.

It is also key to be consistent in the enforcement process and not to give warnings to some while towing others.

Of interest, the Tribunal does not appear to discuss how rules were passed and communicated to owners. In this casce, changes to rules appear to have been communicated by way of notices on a portal – rather than through the circulation of  the rule and rather than finding rules in a central document.  Posting rules on portals or bulletin boards does not appear to meet the statutory requirement and may lead to some owners not being fully advised of what rules are in place.

You can read the decision here.

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