How can someone define what a family is to you? For some, a family includes a mother, father, and children living together under one roof. To others, it's a loyal best friend, a partner, or a roommate.

This is the question that Michael Cowan raised when talking with STOREYS after he and his partner Ryan were asked to show a marriage certificate or proof they were common-law by their condo management.

"In this day and age, and when so much bigger stuff is happening in the world, in our country, and in Canada's largest city, how can someone else define what family is to someone?" said Cowan.

The management's request appears to derive from the interpretation of Ontario condo rules that allow condos to restrict occupants in the building to "single-families," as reported by CTV News. However, as a result, this excludes groups of people who don't fall under this category.

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"I find it appalling, how can they even ask for that? It's unheard of for condo management to ask for marital status," said Cowan.

In an interview with STOREYS, Cowan explained that neither his nor his partner's families live in Toronto. They've only been together since May, and then Ryan moved into Cowan's condo in the Bay and Wellsley area this past September.

"We're paying rent, we're both professionals, he's a Nurse Practioner, I'm a strategist for Google... it makes no sense," said Cowan.

After his partner moved in, they asked the landlord to update the lease agreement, add Ryan's name, and submit it to the condo management. However, after the landlord sent management the revised lease agreement, management informed the landlord that the couple needed to prove that they were either common law or married.

"How can we prove that we're common law if we just moved in together?" asked Cowan.

As reported by CTV News, the request seems to stem from a condo rule, where Metropolitan Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation (TSCC) No. 972 defines itself as "single-family," which "shall mean a social unit consisting of parent(s) and their children, whether natural or adopted, and includes other relatives if living with the primary group."

condoThe Century Plaza, Bay and Wellesley/

Considering that millions of people are renting in Toronto, many of whom rent with a roommate(s), why is this only being brought up now?

Cowan says the situation is now in his landlord's hands, who has since reached out to local MPPs.

NDP MPP and tenant advocate Suze Morrison (Toronto Centre) says that her office has been supporting these renters and their landlord to try and find a solution for weeks.

"No one should face discrimination in accessing housing because of their family status or sexual orientation," said Morrison.

MPP for University-Rosedale and critic for housing, tenant rights, and urban planning, Jessica Bell, said, "condo dwellers have few options to resolve disputes wither their condo board beyond going to court and racking up high legal fees."

"We need to expand the condo tribunal, so residents have a place to go and be heard, and resolve disputes quickly and affordably," said Bell.

Cowan said the situation has since escalated to condo management threatening to deactivate his partner's fob, which means he can only be there as a guest and not as a tenant and can't have access to the amenities.

However, as reported by CTV News, there are hearings slated for this week to review findings by Ontario's Auditor-General on weaknesses in condo oversight -- a move that Cowan hopes might lead to the loosening of the term single-family dwelling.

"I do think the definition of "single-family" dwelling should be expanded or loosened. There are so many young people moving to Toronto and into the LGBTQ community that don't have family here. If they want to move in with a friend who they consider their family and safe-haven, how is that not allowed?" said Cowan.

"We're so progressive yet so far behind in many things and I think this is a very trivial thing to be dealing with right now," added Cowan.

Main image provided by Michael Cowan.