Ask Pat: Age-restricted Condos

Brad asks—

There are a number of townhouses and condo units in New Westminster that are age-restricted to 19+ only. This age discrimination is legal under BC’s Human Rights Code (and purchasing property is the only area laid out in the Human Rights Code in which it’s legal to discriminate against age).

Is there anything that a municipality in BC can do to extend the Human Rights Code to make age discrimination when purchasing property illegal?

If so, might New Westminster consider doing this to improve the housing stock available to families with children under 19?

I remember back when @MsNWimby and I were looking to upgrade from our condo on Royal Ave several years back. We weren’t really hunting hard, as we really liked our Condo and the building, but with my continued obsession with bicycles and inkling of wanting to start a garden (this is before the New Westminster Community Garden Society got launched), living on the 20th floor was starting to get stale. So we started softly looking around.

Our shopping was 95% New Westminster, and we weren’t fussed about house or townhome, as long as we had a place for bikes and a bit of soil to put plants into. Walkability to SkyTrain was a high priority, as was being away from noisy traffic. We looked at a few of the spacious townhouses in the Fraserview area. At more than one, the seller looked at us (a couple close enough to their prime reproductive years looking a multi-bedroom units) and pointed out that this was an “age restricted” complex. No-one under 19 admitted… we weren’t thinking of starting a family, were we?

I remember specifically one relatively affordable 2,400 square foot 3 bedroom 3 bath two-car-garage unit opening to the ravine park where you were allowed to have two cats and two dogs, but no people under the age of 19. I thought “bullshit”. How could that type of discrimination even be legal?

Apparently it is.

Section 123 of the Strata Property Act (a provincial legislation over which a City has no jurisdiction) makes it clear that Strata Councils can pass Bylaws that restrict the ages of people residing in a Strata Lot, as long as it does not violate the Human Rights Code.

Section 9 of the BC Human Rights Code says you cannot discriminate against a person attempting to purchase a property on account of their race, colour, religion, or sexual orientation, but does not restrict discrimination based on a age.

Section 10 of the same Act deals with tenancy, saying you cannot refuse to rent to someone for the same reasons, but adds age and “family status” to the list of discriminatory factors.

So you cannot use a persons youth or a family’s children as a reason to refuse renting an apartment, but you can use those reasons to refuse to allow them to live in an apartment they own. Government is stupid.

There is a provision in the Act for 55+ “seniors housing”, but the 19+ part is not really spelled out anywhere in the Act, except that “age” in the act is defined to mean an age of 19 years or more – if you are under 19, you are not protected from age discrimination by the Act.

Of course, the Human Rights Code is, ultimately, superseded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so I suppose some Constitutional Lawyer may be able to argue that the gaps in the Human Rights Code violate the Charter, but I have neither the black robe nor powdered wig to opine knowledgably about that.

One interesting point: the pressing need for family-sized housing is having an interesting effect on age-restricted condos. Prices for condos in age-restricted complexes are generally depressed (more than 10% in many cases), and CMHC are very reluctant to (or, according to some sources, completely refuse to) provide Mortgage Insurance to complexes with age restrictions.

Is there anything that a Municipality can do? Not directly. We could work through the LMLGA and UBCM to pass resolutions asking the provincial government to change the rules, but I am not sure there would be much political appetite in senior governments (or in local government, for that matter) to poke that hornet’s nest.

I would love to hear from people defending the 19+ restrictions – are they really a good thing for a neighbourhood, or for a community?

19 comments on “Ask Pat: Age-restricted Condos

  1. Hi Pat, Living in a 55+ condo in Castlegar and a non-age restricted in Mexico, I prefer the latter. An age mix makes for a more humane life. Kids keep you young and gives you a reason to make chocolate chip cookies. Mom

  2. While the 19+ building is no doubt frustrating to some (myself included) – I don’t think they are close to the biggest problem in the family (3+ bedroom) housing situation. In New West’s case they are already adding extra density to small city, which is a plus.

    There is, I believe a valid point that condo living is not for everyone. Noise complaints are already a common issue for Strata Corporation councils to deal with, often with no real means of policing the issue. Often these complains are from people who simply do not want to live in a condominium, however due to monetary constraints have no other option in our city. A situation where a building was stripped of it’s 19+ status would inevitably lead to a situation where people who obviously want to live in a child-free atmosphere being the opportunity to do so. If someone is so inclined to live in a community of no under 19 year-olds that they would accept the financial deterrents that you mentioned about the value and liquidity of such properties then, in my mind, legislative options would be counter productive.

    Also as mentioned, 19+ buildings trade at a significant discount to other units. It would be relatively safe to assume that removing this restriction would see the price of the limited amount of 19+ building units move closer to the non-restricted building prices, rather than the latter being sold at a discount due to the small increase in supply.

    I think that reclassification of existing 19+ buildings should be regarded as a minor factor in family housing issues, long behind the lack of new units being developed. Either road – the interests of the young families in New Westminster are better served by private enterprise (i.e. developers) and local elected officials working together, rather than looking to property owners to burden the brunt of a legislative experiment.

  3. I have been wanting to purchase a particular home in one of the Langley MHP, but they JUST put the age restriction up to 55, which really ticks me off as I am 51, but am wondering if there is anything I can do about this because when my realtor and I went to see the home, at that time, there was a 45 age restriction. Thanks

    1. Hi Susan, You would have to carefully read the bylaw. it may have loopholes. However, because you are not the owner of the unit there’s nothing you can do about it. Most stratas won’t deal with potential buyers and in most cases exceptions will not be made based on the fact that there wasn’t a bylaw in place when you looked at the unit. Also, FYI… if bylaws are not filed at land titles they are not enforceable. Just because a bylaw has passed it doesn’t mean that it’s actually filed and enforceable. Many people don’t know this. I hope you found a suitable home 🙂

  4. The Canadian Human Rights Act says

    Purpose of Act

    2 The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

    Then it says:

    Prohibited grounds of discrimination

    3 (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

    and further:

    Denial of commercial premises or residential accommodation

    6 It is a discriminatory practice in the provision of commercial premises or residential accommodation

    (a) to deny occupancy of such premises or accommodation to any individual, or

    (b) to differentiate adversely in relation to any individual,

    on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

    This is found at

    http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/H-6/page-1.html#docCont

    ================================================================

    However, the BC Human Rights Code basically allows discrimination based on age:

    Discrimination in purchase of property

    9 A person must not

    (a) deny to a person or class of persons the opportunity to purchase a commercial unit or dwelling unit that is in any way represented as being available for sale,

    (b) deny to a person or class of persons the opportunity to acquire land or an interest in land, or

    (c) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding a term or condition of the purchase or other acquisition of a commercial unit, dwelling unit, land or interest in land

    because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression of that person or class of persons.

    Age is nowehere to be found; moreover there is the following clause:

    Code prevails

    4 If there is a conflict between this Code and any other enactment, this Code prevails.

    This is found at

    http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_96210_01#section3

    ====================================================================

    So even if the BC Human Rights Code contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it still prevails?

    But does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms supersedes The BC Human Rights Code?

    The Charter indeed says:

    Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

    15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

    But then earlier it says:

    Rights and freedoms in Canada

    1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    This can be found at

    http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html

    =====================================================

    I am confused…

  5. I own a condo in Victoria for many years. We originally bought it for my retired parents to live in. They have both passed away. Now my son and daughter in law live in it with their 4 year old son. While my parents live there they added a age restriction. Which my wife and disagreed with. So the strata council said we would be grandfathered in. We just got a eviction notice. My daughter in laws father is a lawyer as is looking into this.

    1. Allan, this was several years ago. Can you provide an update? Would REALLY love to know what happened! I find myself challenged by this 19+ bylaw.

  6. This kind of 3bedroom places would fit for a growing family with children. Who would need that much space if it’s just couple living there. As housing market demands this kind of houses, having the age restriction is a disadvantage for the owners. Getting rid of the age restriction would definitely increase their selling price by a lot!

  7. I fit all criteria of the 55+ except age. single, quiet, small dog… my kids are out of the house, no grand kids YET. I have no parents left, i have the means and the want to live there and yet… I cannot. Im 48. and when did senior become 55?? People are living longer and healthier lives and still working at 70 than even just one generation back. This is ridiculous. I found the perfect home and i cannot purchase because of my age. OUCH.

  8. This may not be age discrimination under the BC Human Rights Code, since it only applies to those 19-65, but it is certainly sex discrimination. You cannot legally discriminate a woman for being pregnant, being able to become pregnant, or for having a baby.

  9. I am 25 and looking to buy in New West as well, and anything within my budget is 40+ age restriction! It is making it very difficult to get into the market. I am also single, but wonder what would happen if I moved into a 19+ place and ended up having a kid one day. Are they legally allowed to force me to move if I’m a homeowner?

  10. Vancouver Island resident, in the same boat years after this initial post. Google search brought me here. Found a beautiful condo for my amazing two daughters aged 12 and 10, and myself , but 19+. I’m law student and furious and wishing I was 15 years ahead in my career to fight this bull.

    My Question- Are you aware of any current legal challenges around this issue, in B.C. right now? If so, could you pass on any info, I would like to follow this problem……..

    1. Hi Jane, this is the same Jessie as two comments above. I looked through BCHR tribunals and didn’t find any successful cases against age restrictions; however, all the complainants were saying that it was age discrimination which doesn’t apply to property. However, none had challenged them under sex discrimination.

    2. Where is this condo located? I’m interested in seeing if they have any condos available because I require a childfree place.

      The market for childfree individuals is extremely small. Don’t take this away from us. Please and thank you!

  11. I lived in New West many years, moved to Coquitlam, and now hope to return with my two toddlers. My perfect home is a 3+ bedroom, 90’s construction (because new builds are shoeboxes with terrible layouts) townhouse. Every. Single. Complex. In New West that fits this bill is age restricted! Homes CLEARLY designed for FAMILIES are age restricted! 2400 square feet, 3 and 4 bedroom townhomes. I don’t think promoting new builds is the way, personally I would never ever buy one. I also don’t want the upkeep of a single family home. This is age discrimination, discrimination against women who have babies (strata can start fining them after birth!?), discrimination against family status…if we don’t allow landlords to do it we definitely should not allow stratus to!

    Curious what happens if a landlord refuses to rent their age-restricted strata unit to a family?

  12. Hi everyone from beautiful Chilliwack,
    In our age restricted (45plus) older Town house complex(10 units) right in Chilliwack down town (you really don t need a car) there is right now a unit with 4 bedrooms on the market . There will be some future listings coming this year. If somebody is interested pls. contact me via Email.
    I am also a owner in this complex but not a Realtor !

  13. Hi again from Chilliwack,
    We will soon have a councel meeting to get this ugly age bylaw out of the door hopefully.
    Age restrictions does more harm then good to a strada .Here in our complex we have to many older people .Most of them have no means anymore to be an activ part of our selfmanaged strata . And its understandable but one of this days there will be a hard time to find new/younger councel members .
    This fact is frustrating.
    Right now we have low strada fees because of selfmanagment but this could change and fees will at least double (not good for the elderly with fixed income)

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