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18 Jun

Montreal condo owners frustrated by delay in reopening of common areas

COVID-19

Posted by: Frederic Pichette

Many Montreal condo buildings still have not reopened common areas like rooftop terraces and outdoor pools, and that has raised the ire of some condo owners.

The Quebec government recently announced that gatherings of 50 people are going to be allowed indoors beginning Monday and that outdoor pools can open. On Wednesday, the government also said indoor pools, gyms and arenas can open Monday.

With so many things reopening, some condo owners wonder why their terraces and pools aren’t open. Carmen D’Elia lives in a condo building in Westmount and she is not pleased that people in her building are not allowed to sit on the rooftop terrace. She received a letter last Wednesday saying the terrace would be closed ‘until further notice.’

“People have gone overboard and they’ve taken the easy way out by staying shut,” D’Elia said. “I think our mental health will suffer in the end. It’s a human right to be able to use our outdoor space. I think it’s important to be able to have an outdoor space when we’ve been cooped up for three months, and it’s not up to a board to make sure that we keep social distancing. We’re adults. It’s not a daycare. We’re owners.”

The decision at her building was made by the six-member board.

“There are particularities about this building,” said Julia Saldanha, a senior property manager at Wilkar Property Management, which manages the building. “For one, it has a little bit of an older population. It’s also a very small terrace. Social distancing on a very small terrace is rather difficult. If you open the terrace and it’s a free-for-all and you don’t have a budget for security, for example, how do you ensure that people are social distancing?”

In contrast, the gym and terraces at the Sherbrooke St. W. condo building the Linton never closed and Jeffrey Boro, president of the building’s board of directors, said that worked just fine. The building had three cases of COVID at the start of the pandemic. But there were no further cases in spite of the fact the gym never closed. The residents were responsible for the cleaning of the gym.

“The gym stayed open because some of the residents represented to the board that it was important for both their physical and mental well-being,” Boro said.

Leaving the terrace open also worked out, he added.

Pauline Ducharme, 84, lives in a condo building in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and she is not happy that she can’t use the gym and pools, which have been closed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I really miss them,” Ducharme said. “I think everyone in the building is missing being able to use the pool and the gym. As soon it’s possible, I’d really like to see them open. There are many seniors here and we could really use the activities at the pool and the gym. It’s part of the package. We bought into this because there was a pool and a gym.”

There have been many complaints from condo owners about the fact that gyms, pools and terraces were closed, said Laurie Murphy, president of Gestion Griffin, which manages the common areas in 20 condo buildings. But she said following recent government announcements, her company is now preparing to reopen gyms, pools and terraces as quickly as possible.

“A lot of the people understand (why the common areas are closed), but at the end of the day people are paying for services that they’re not getting,” Murphy said. “So people understood at first, but now they want to get back to the amenities they’re paying for and we’re starting to have a lot of people asking when those spaces will be open.”