Ontario continues to expand its accessibility standards as part of the movement towards a barrier-free and accessible province for individuals with disabilities. In the process, condominium corporations contemplating certain renovations may unexpectedly find themselves in breach of the refined legislation.
On December 27, 2013, the Ontario Building Code was amended to enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and those that are to be “extensively renovated.” The amendments to the Building Code come into force January 1, 2015. Extensive renovations undertaken on large suites located on accessible floors (i.e. located on the ground level or one with elevator access) continue to be subject to the exhaustive accessibility requirements stipulated in the Building Code. However, the new amendments similarly impose certain requirements on extensive renovations that are undertaken with respect to smaller or non-accessible “suites.” The Building Code provides some guidance on what is considered to be an “extensive renovation.” Section 37 suggests that an extensive renovation occurs where existing interior walls, ceilings, floor assemblies or roof assemblies are substantially removed and reinstalled.
Additionally, Part IV.I (Design of Public Spaces) of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is gradually expanding its enforceable authority over the design of public spaces. Commencing January 1, 2018, small private sector organizations (i.e. those with less than 50 employees) will be subject to the enumerated accessibility obligations contained therein. Condominium corporations will be required to consider additional regulatory requirements when electing to construct or redevelop any “public spaces.”
Whether a condominium corporation’s common areas fall within the definition of either a “suite” or a “public space” will depend on the nature of the common area. The Building Code provides a definition of suite which includes, “use of a building or part of a building for the transaction of business or the provision of professional or personal services.” This definition could capture a business center and/or guest suite offered by a condominium corporation to its residents and their guests. The AODA and related regulations do not define “public spaces;” however, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation and ministry guidelines suggest that this term captures, amongst other things, entrance way ramps, outdoor eating areas and parking.
We recommend that any condominium corporation contemplating substantial renovations consult the applicable accessibility legislation as a first step in order to understand the additional modifications that may be legally required.
This article was written by Fiona Brown, a Labour and Employment lawyer at Aird & Berlis LLP.