By Urban Anomie
CALGARY, AB — Cindy O’Donnell was upset when her five-year-old daughter received a letter in the mail on Thursday, informing her she was being fined $1000 by their condominium board.
What upset O’Donnell the most was that the fine was being brought against her daughter for singing the alphabet in the parking lot while walking home from school with her mother.
“Somebody didn’t like that my daughter was singing, and took the most cowardly approach imaginable to deal with it,” says O’Donnell.
O’Donnell has lived in the Confederation Village neighbourhood for six years, and says this latest move shouldn’t surprise her considering the never-ending “bullshit” the condo board tries to get away with.
“A few years ago, my neighbour’s dog snuck out of the door and was hit by a car. The following day, they got a letter reminding them that if they ever get another dog, it can’t be heavier than 20 pounds. ‘Or else.’”
But upon looking over the list of complaints against the condo board, it gets even more ridiculous.
In 2009, the Confederation Village condo board filled a motion limiting the colour of vehicles residents could own to silver or white, and in 2010, the condo board hired security to enforce their “no Christmas cheer” policy, which banned residents from celebrating the season with lights, guests, food, or decoration.
“Christmas 2010 was tough,” recalls Steven Mare, 78, a resident of Confederation Village since 2009. “Your kids and their family fly halfway around the world to spend Christmas with you, and you have to direct them to a motel.
“It was all very last minute when we found out the condo rules, so there was nothing available. We ate Christmas dinner at The Manchurian Dynasty Palace. It was terrible.”
Mr. Mare’s wife, Roberta, began to sob at the retelling of the Christmas 2010 incident, but was finally able to break words.
“It gets much worse,” says Roberta.” You have no idea . . .”
Through a stream of tears, Roberta says the condo board is currently demanding that residents over the age of 50 dye their hair a “neutral colour” such as brown or blonde, should their hair be turning white or grey.
“They say it’s an eyesore,” Mr. Mare chimed in.” They say our hair colour is lowering property values—that nobody want to live amongst seniors.”
Legal experts say residents generally have no choice but to adhere to condo bylaws if they are in writing.
“The condo bylaws are written to protect everyone’s interests,” says Rob Henderson, a lawyer whose clients often include disgruntled condo residents.
“Sometimes residents aren’t happy with the rules, but there are steps one can take to try and change them, such as appealing, running for the board, getting special permission, or moving.”
O’Donnell says she has thought about moving, but isn’t in the financial position to do so at the moment.
“Calgary’s real estate is priced through the moon,” says O’Donnell. “I could sell my home for lots, sure—but I’d have to buy something equally expensive. That’s just not feasible right now.”
Some residents question how the same members have been on the board for over 20 years.
“Our board president, Glen Faust, has sat on the board for since 1991, yet it clearly states in the condo bylaws that a person can not sit for more than two years,” says a Confederation Village resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
When asked by Urban Anomie how this is possible, Faust claims that nobody has ran against him in condo board elections.
“Aye, there was a woman who ran in the late 90s,” recalls the anonymous source. “She was found dead in the pond in the condo courtyard that very summer. Her throat slashed. The police never did find the people responsible.”
Cindy O’Donnell plans to appeal her daughter’s $1000 fine, but says she isn’t hopeful.
“There was a couple who painted their door the wrong shade of white about a year ago, and they were fined $1000 per day until it was painted the right colour,” she said. “When the couple refused to pay, a lean was placed against the couple’s home. Eventually they went bankrupt fighting against a condo board-controlled war chest kept flush with their very condo fees that are supposed to go towards keeping this place maintained.”
O’Donnell says she doesn’t need that kind of hassle right now.
“Nobody needs that.”