No grandfather clause for owner needled by Xmas tree ban

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Tony Gioventu

Dear Condo Smarts: Three years ago when I purchased my condo, real Christmas trees were allowed. This was a huge deal for me when I was looking.

Two years ago the bylaws were updated and now we can only have artificial trees.

Because of this, I did not have a tree last year. Someone mentioned that I may be grandfathered in the same way as if I had a pet and they changed the rules.

Could you please clarify as I have never had an artificial tree and would love to enjoy Christmas with a real tree this year.

— GO, Langley Dear GO: If the strata changes their bylaws and prohibits live cut trees then those bylaws apply to everyone.
There are no grandfathering provisions in the act for general building-use bylaws. However, there are specific exemptions under certain conditions that apply to pets, age and rental-restriction bylaws.

For example, a pet residing in a strata lot at the time a bylaw prohibiting pets is passed is exempt for the duration of the pet’s residency. When the pet ceases to reside in the strata lot, that exemption expires and the owner cannot replace the pet.

Real trees pose a number of hazards to buildings systems, including an extreme fire risk when trees are not cared for or when located next to heaters or gas fireplaces.

Unfortunately, it only takes one person to spoil it for everyone, but we receive numerous complaints every year from strata corporations that have had to clean up the mess from trees dragged down hallways, tossed off balconies, or had to repair damage to elevators jammed with needles or scratched and scraped by trees.

It’s not surprising that strata corporations have had to prohibit cut trees to avoid serious problems. It only takes one tragic fire during the holidays to remind us of the shared risks in strata living.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association (www.choa.bc. ca)

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