Barbecue use an issue that needs evaluating

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Tony Gioventu

Dear Condo Smarts: The unusually warm weather the past few weeks has brought the barbecues out in our strata complex. At the same time, many of us have opened up our units to air them out, and much to our dismay we came home last Friday at dinner to discover our unit filled with greasy barbecue smoke.

We have asked the owner below us — our council president — to make sure our windows are closed before they fire up, but all they say is the strata permits barbecues and they don’t have to listen to our complaining.

What are owners to do when others are so inconsiderate, and the result is a significant inconvenience?

— Molly Wilson, North Vancouver

Dear Molly: Barbecues are becoming a more contentious issue for strata corporations every year. It is not only the smoke damages that are done to homeowners’ units each year, but heat damage to buildings and two very dramatic fires in recent years that are causing so much grief.

If an owner, tenant or resident uses barbecue in any way that unreasonably disrupts your use of your strata lot, or causes damage to your property, that is most likely a nuisance under your bylaws. The strata council has an obligation to enforce the bylaws, yes even against council members, and if they fail to do so, owners frequently seek court orders against the corporation for failing to do so.

The smoke can cause health hazards, property damage to porous fixtures such as carpets, wallcoverings and window coverings, and personal property. The greater risk to all wood-frame or combustible-type buildings is the fire. Many strata owners use barbecues on their decks and balconies.

Outside spaces are still adjacent to combustible materials. Just because the inside of the building has sprinklers doesn’t mean the exterior is protected.

This is a risk-management decision of the strata corporation, and now even that of your insurance companies. Many strata corporations are finding themselves facing much higher policy costs this year, and one of the contributing factors is a history of claims relating to barbecues, and associated fire and water damages.

Every strata corporation in B.C. needs to make a serious evaluation whether they wish to permit barbecues or not, and consult with their insurance provider to understand the implications of costs and insurance coverage.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association. Send questions to him at

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