As the baby boomer population ages and more individuals look to downsize, these individuals need to determine what to do with furnishings and possessions accumulated over the years. While their former four-bedroom home in the suburbs had space suitable for storing items, space is at a premium in their new urban residence, a trendy mid-town condo. Consequently, it is not possible to accommodate all of the boxes storing comic books, photo albums and seasonal items in their new condominium unit.
Faced with this conundrum, many condominium residents are purchasing on-site storage locker units in their condominium building or renting off-site storage lockers. This practice, although not a new phenomenon, recently attracted media coverage. As opposed to renting an off-site storage locker, purchasing an on-site storage locker has the advantages of enabling condo dwellers to keep additional possessions on-site despite downsizing and provides an opportunity to own an additional asset (if the locker is an actual unit and not an exclusive use common element area) that could potentially be sold for a profit (subject to provisions in the condominium's declaration which may limit to whom a locker unit can be transferred).
Despite the benefits of on-site storage lockers, it is critical to remember that storage locker use is governed by the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”), the registered declaration and by-laws, and any rules passed by the condominium's Board of Directors. In particular,
- Section 117 of the Act provides: “No person shall permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity in a unit or in the common elements if the condition or the activity is likely to damage the property or cause injury to an individual.”
- Declarations commonly prohibit using a unit in a manner that may result in the cancellation (or threat of cancellation) of the condominium corporation’s insurance policies, or that may significantly increase any insurance premiums.
Lockers packed with an excessive amount of storage items, especially if the stored items are combustible materials like newspapers and comic books, are potential fire hazards. There is no exact science as to what is excessive and poses a danger and what is allowable, but there are trained professionals including the fire department and Fire Code experts that can get involved if necessary. Generally speaking, the storage locker should be tidy with a clear access path and not filled to the brim. If management or the Board reasonably deems a storage locker to be dangerous, it is important for unit owners to work with management to quickly resolve the matter. In light of the tragic fire at 200 Wellesley that was exacerbated due to a unit owner’s hoarding, condominium boards should be well aware of the dangers attributable to hoarding and the possible impact it can have on insurance premiums. Consequently, management and condominium boards are obligated to ensure that unit owners maintain storage lockers in a relatively neat and orderly fashion to avoid any fire safety and insurance coverage concerns.
With these points in mind, prior to downsizing, it is recommended that potential purchasers get a good feel for their unit’s dimensions and the on-site storage lockers in order to help determine what possessions will be moving to the residential unit. If the remaining possessions cannot be safely stored at the on-site storage locker(s), it is advisable to investigate nearby off-site locker rentals, hold a garage sale or inundate family and friends with possessions no longer needed.