Excessive water use in condo grow-op prompts court case over common expenses

The court found that Truman’s water usage for his grow-op went far above his contribution.
The court found that Truman’s water usage for his grow-op went far above his contribution. iStock.

Have you ever huffed and puffed about what seem to be high common expenses for your condominium unit or townhouse?

Wait until you get a load of the expenses these condo owners had to pay because of another owner.

In the Ontario decision Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp. No. 659 v. Truman the commercial condominium corporation brought a case against Chris Truman for using excessive amounts of water for personal use in a legal marijuana grow-op.

Property Manager Milovan Bozovic noticed in early 2012 that something was wrong with the utility bills, because the amounts payable had gone up considerably. He asked a licensed plumber to check if there was a leak somewhere but the plumber found none.

Bozovic also found out in 2012 that Truman’s unit was a legal grow-op. He decided to install an individual water meter for that unit to measure usage, as there was only one meter to measure water usage for all units.

The meter determined Truman’s unit consumed a total of 269,683 gallons of water, which translated to a water bill of over $19,000.

Bozovic presented utility bills which were dated from October 9, 2008 to March 2, 2012, which shows water was consumed in the range from $1,158.46 to $2,061.88.

In contrast, another set of bills was examined that dated from March 2012 to October 2013 showed that the range went from a low of $1,209.55 to a high of $14,809.87. In other words, the average per unit utility bill went from $1,642.37 for the first set of bills to an average of $5,709.11.

The court found the increase in cost “striking” and excessive.

So, who has to pay?

The court examined what the fall out was from this usage and the first place it looked to was the condominium declaration and bylaws, which allow a condo corporation to sue an owner.

The court found that Truman’s contribution to common expenses was slightly over five per cent, according to the condo declaration but that his water usage went far above his contribution.

The court also found that his excess consumption of water was unfair to the condominium corporation and to the other condo owners, because they had to pay for Truman’s extra consumption. Accordingly, the condo corporation was awarded judgment for $19,066.53 for Truman’s excessive usage of water.

The point here is that common expenses should reflect fair and not excessive usage.  If there is sharp increase in common expenses, the condominium board should notice it and investigate as soon as possible. After all, it is the condominium corporation’s duty to enforce the rules and regulations found in the declaration and bylaws.

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