Condo Smarts: Barbecue use can pose health and safety risks

Many strata corporations have prohibited outdoor cooking to ensure no one is affected by odours, smoke and risk of fire

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Dear Tony:

Our neighbour recently had a fire in their barbecue. The damage to our two townhouses was siding, decks and extensive smoke damage as everyone had their windows open. Our home insurance covers the damage to our personal property and the interior of the strata lot, but the neighbour does not have homeowner insurance.

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The strata corporation’s insurance provider has sent an adjuster, and the amount of exterior damage to the siding and decks is above the deductible, so the claim is proceeding, but there is no indication they will have the repairs within their unit completed.

As the affected neighbour, how can we force their repairs? Otherwise, the odour of smoke damage will never go away. Could a strata corporation prohibit barbecues even though this is an outdoor back deck?

— Myrna F.

Dear Myrna:

Strata corporations may adopt bylaws and rules that regulate the use and enjoyment of common property and common assets. Even if a balcony or deck is part of a strata lot, a bylaw may still be applied that restricts, limits, or prohibits the activities in those areas, including prohibiting barbecues or outdoor cooking.

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Exterior areas such as decks, balconies and patios do not have fire suppression, and the radiant heat from a barbecue that either catches fire or is left on may result in dramatic spontaneous combustion of adjacent areas.

Even highrise concrete buildings experience barbecue fires with dramatic consequences when windows and balcony glazing are damaged and can easily exceed $25,000 to $50,000 in costs.

When a homeowner in a strata causes a loss due to their activities, everyone pays the price; however, those homeowners are still subject to civil suits and claims for damages, losses, and personal expenses. An activity such as barbecuing, resulting in a fire, exposes the owners of the strata lot to a number of potential claims, including property damages and injuries.

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Every strata lot owner is advised to maintain a homeowner policy to ensure their strata lot, personal property and general liability are covered.

While we all love a good barbecue, cooking outdoors in multi-family settings creates safety, health, and property risks for everyone.

Most strata lots in B.C., especially apartment and midrise buildings, do not have air conditioning. When we experience a heat wave, we are expected to safely open our doors and windows for fresh air. Unfortunately, this coincides with barbecue season, and smoke damage will occur in exposed homes, posing a significant health risk for persons with respiratory/health issues, often compounding their isolation and discomfort.

Many strata corporations have prohibited outdoor cooking to ensure no one is affected by odours, smoke and risk of fire.

A communal barbecue away from buildings is another option if there is a sufficient location within the strata corporation.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association. Email

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