Strata Alert: How to get into people’s strata lots without their permission

Strata Alert: How to get into people’s strata lots without their permission

Paul lowres-501 favourite


Paul G. Mendes, Partner
Phone:  604-685-4894


Elena Balland v York Condominium Corporation No. 201
, 2016 ONSC 2405

No, this is not a primer on how to commit the perfect B&E.  You can find many detailed “how to’s” for that on the Internet.

This post is an all too common situation that arises when a strata corporation needs access to an owner’s unit and the owner refuses to cooperate. For example, many strata conduct maintenance that occasionally requires access to common elements located within a strata lot. The vast majority of owners comply with reasonable requests for access, but some owners will never comply, no matter how often or how nicely you ask.

In situations like that, I am often asked if the strata can change the locks and charge the cost of the “forced entry” back to the unit owner.

The answer to that question is yes, but not without a court order.

A strata lot is private property and the strata corporation cannot enter on to private property without an owner or occupant’s permission, except perhaps in cases of emergency.

The Strata Property Act (SPA) does not define an emergency.  It is probably safe to say, however, that an emergency arises whenever there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that immediate entry is necessary to “ensure safety or prevent significant loss or damage, whether physical or otherwise”.  If that sounds familiar to you, it is because I am paraphrasing section 98 of the SPA, which sets out the strata corporation’s “emergency spending power”.  An example of an emergency would be forced entry for the purposes of turning off water to stop flooding.

In the Balland case out of Ontario, the strata needed access to an owner’s unit for the purpose of inspecting plumbing and fire separations between two units. The owner refused so the strata applied to the court for an order permitting entry. The owner relented and allowed access before the court date.  As a result of the inspection, however, the strata determined that it needed to conduct some work on the plumbing and attempted to gain access a second time. The strata and the owner could not agree on an access date, and the work was unable to proceed. At the original hearing, the court ordered the unit owner to pay the strata corporation’s cost of having a plumber attend at the owner’s unit ($344) and $9000 in legal costs.

The owner appealed the decision, and the appeals judge ruled in her favor. The appeal Judge’s decision appears to have been influenced by three things:

  1. the strata corporation’s failure to explain why it needed entry;
  2. the fact that the strata chose to attend the unit on a day that it knew the owner would not be present; and
  3. the court hearing was more about costs rather than entry.

I can see a BC court or the Civil Resolutions Tribunal (CRT) reaching a similar result on the same facts.

If you need access to an owner’s unit, here are some steps you can take to reduce the need for legal action or at least improve your chances if the legal action for entry becomes necessary:

  1. Be sure that access is absolutely necessary and for some legitimate purpose. A legitimate purpose would be any purpose that is required by the strata in order to fulfill its duties under the SPA or the bylaws.
  2. Be sure to carefully and clearly explain the reason for the access in writing.
  3. Give the owner reasonable notice of the proposed access.
  4. Try at least three attempts to coordinate a mutually convenient date before you go to court or the CRT.

WHAT WE DO: Lesperance Mendes has been advising and representing strata corporations and strata management companies since 1997.  If your strata corporation has a dispute with an owner that may require legal action, contact us before taking the law into your own hands (unless you are Liam Neeson of course). For more information about our strata property loss services contact Paul G. Mendes, Partner, at 604-685-4894 or by email at

Lesperance Mendes Lawyers
900 Howe St #550, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2M4
(604) 685-3567