It’s BBQ season! With it, comes questions pertaining to BBQ safety and neighbourly etiquette. This is particularly true in condo living and even more so when one lives in a mid to high-rise complex, where occupants have the exclusive use of a balcony.
A recurring question is whether BBQs are allowed on condo terraces and balconies. As you will see in this post, it will depend on your municipality and, even within the same city, on the rules in place in your condo.
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Open fire bans
Before we dive in, it is important to note that some municipalities currently have an open fire ban in place due to the current conditions and devastating forest fires in Ontario and elsewhere. These bans usually do not apply to enclosed BBQs but you may want to consult with your municipality before turning your grill on. You can read more on fire bans here.
Check Your Municipal By-laws
The Ontario Fire Code does not specifically prohibit the use of barbeques on balconies. This does not mean that they are necessarily permitted everywhere though.
A quick internet search will easily provide you with some guidance on whether BBQs are permitted on balconies in your municipality. Notably, the cities of Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Burlington and London appear to have no by-law prohibiting them. It is interesting to note that all of these municipalities acknowledge that Condominium corporations have the legal authority to prohibit barbecuing on their property.
- Ottawa Fire Services recommends the use of CSA approved electric BBQs, as a safe alternative to propane and charcoal barbeques.
- Toronto Fire Services does not regulate the use or transportation of propane cylinders and does not regulate or enforce the use of BBQ’s on condominium and/or apartment balconies.
The city of Guelph, on the other hand, specifically prohibits the use of any kind of BBQs on balconies if the corporation has more than 2 dwelling units.
Similarly, the City of Kitchener also prohibits the use of BBQs on balconies. What is prohibited under Kitchener’s Municipal Fire Code (section 736.4.3) is the starting of a fire in a grill or barbecue for the purpose of cooking food on a balcony of any building containing two or more dwellings. Their Fire Department advised us that electric grills are permissible provided that they are otherwise allowed by the landlord or by the condominium corporation.
It is therefore important that you verify the rules applicable to your city or municipality.
Check Your Condo’s Governing Documents
Regardless of whether your city allows BBQs on balconies, condo corporations can prohibit them. Such prohibition can be found either in the corporation’s declaration or in its rules. Indeed, boards may adopt rules to promote the safety, security and welfare of occupants or to prevent unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the common elements and units of the corporation. BBQing on a balcony can represent both a hazard and a disturbance to neighbours.
In most cases, balconies are not designed for the use of BBQ as they are not large enough to provide enough clearance from combustible materials. BBQ smoke can also drift into nearby apartment units, disturbing other residents or even triggering the smoke alarm.
For this reason, some corporations allow the use of electric BBQs only, while newer corporations allow combustion BBQs directly hooked into the building’s natural gas supply. Finally, other corporations may prohibit BBQs all together. Some of them do it to prevent smoke and smell disturbance between neighbours, others because their insurance policy will not permit it. It is important to verify your corporation’s position on this.
Other provincial regulations
Having stated the above, keep in mind that propane fuelled BBQs are regulated by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (“TSSA”), which provides the following requirements:
- BBQs are approved for outdoor use only;
- Propane tanks must be safely stored, transported, connected and used. You may want to note that you must use the service elevator when transporting a propane tank or, if you do not have a service elevator, you must be alone in the elevator;
- BBQs must be kept clear of all combustible materials as listed on the BBQ rating plate or certified instructions and must be at least one metre away from any combustible materials;
- The propane tank relief valves must be at least one metre away from any building opening below it (including doors and windows) and at least three metres away from the air intake of any appliances or air-moving equipment. It must also be at least three metres from any source of ignition. On size alone, many balconies cannot accommodate these requirements.
Once you are satisfied that you can legally BBQ on your balcony, make sure you do it safely. In 2016, TSSA provided great tips on how to have a safe summer.
Any Condo Tribunal cases on BBQ?
We’ve looked to see if the Condo Tribunal has had to rule on BBQ nuisance.
There was a case last year involving an owner having stored their BBQ in a non-designated area and another case involving someone playing loud music in the BBQ area. But, other than that, the Condo Authority Tribunal does not appear to have had to rule on a case involving smoke/smell nuisance emanating from someone’s BBQ…. probably just a question of time.