The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT)

negotiateThe Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) has been up and running for about a month now. The CAO’s website contains a lot of useful information about the CAT, including the mediators selected to facilitate disputes. The CAO’s website also has the CAT rules that were released earlier this month. The rules answer many of the most common questions posed so far, such as “Who can file a claim?”, “How does the process work?”, and “Do condos need lawyers for the CAT?”.

The Process 

The general process for resolving disputes at the CAT is:

  1. Negotiation
  2. Mediation
  3. Decision

Negotiation

The process starts with the aggrieved party filing an online application with the CAT. This person is called the “Applicant”. The Applicant must pay a $25.00 filing fee with the application. The Applicant must be an owner, a mortgagee, a purchaser, or the condominium corporation. The other party, called the “Respondent”, must create an account with the CAO and join the dispute.

The negotiation step allows the parties try to settle the dispute using the CAT’s online system. The parties can communicate and exchange offers to settle through the system. The case will be closed by the CAT if: 1) the parties reach a settlement; or 2) no settlement offer has been made by any of the parties for more than 30 days.

Mediation

The second stage, mediation, is where a neutral third party (the “mediator”) assists the parties in discussing the issues and (hopefully) reaching a settlement. The cost for the mediator is $50.00. The mediator may give directions about the process. If the mediator is also a member of CAT, he or she may make a procedural order that the parties must obey. The mediator, if he or she is a member of CAT, may make a final decision on the dispute if the parties consent.

The mediator decides when the Applicant can move to the final stage. If the applicant has paid the fee for the final stage, the mediator will prepare a brief summary, which will be provided to the member responsible for making a decision. All discussions and documents exchanged during the mediation are private and confidential and may not be made public or used in the final stage unless the parties agree or the CAT allows it.

The CAT will close a case at the mediation stage if: 1) the parties reach a settlement, 2) the parties agree to the CAT making a consent order that ends the case, or 3) the mediator finds that the Applicant has abandoned the application.

Decision

The final step is a decision. If the parties cannot resolve the dispute on their own or with the assistance of a mediator, the Applicant can ask the CAT to make a decision for $125.00. The member hears evidence and arguments and makes a binding decision.

Fortunately, the CAT also has the authority to dismiss an application before a decision is made. Examples include where the application is about a minor issue, the CAT does not have authority to hear the case, the CAT is being used for an improper purpose, the Applicant knew or ought to have known that their documents had false or misleading information, and the Applicant has abandoned the application.

The Rules

The CAT has its own set of rules. Fortunately, the rules are much easier to read than the rules of court or other tribunals. This should make it easier for people without formal legal training to go through the process without a lawyer. Notwithstanding such, the rules permit any party to be represented by an Ontario lawyer or paralegal, or a person who is exempt from the Law Society’s licensing requirements (i.e. a friend helping the person without receiving any fee, licensed condominium manager or a condominium’s director).

The rules describe how the parties are to communicate with each other, share documents, and present evidence. The parties must use the CAT’s online system, unless the CAT allows other methods. The CAT has the authority to order any party to give details, information or documents (called “disclosure”) or summons a witness. The rules also describe how disclosure is to be delivered.

Lastly, the rules indicate that the CAT’s decisions will be available to the public, unless an order has been made to limit access for privacy or public interest reasons. It will be interesting to see how much information is provided to the public.

Costs & Expenses

The rules indicate that the CAT has the authority to order one party to pay to the other party any reasonable expenses or costs related to the CAT, such as the filing fees. However, a party will NOT be ordered to pay another party’s legal fees unless there are exceptional reasons to do so. So, while costs will not be the norm, they will be available where the member believes it is appropriate (i.e. perhaps where one party’s conduct or unreasonable position has caused unnecessary delays or expenses).

Given that the process (at least before the decision stage) is designed to be user-friendly, it is likely that most owners and condominiums will choose not to use a lawyer or paralegal. That seems to be a reasonable course of action; however, given that the CAT’s decision is binding on the parties, the parties might want to use lawyers or paralegals for the decision stage to minimize their risks.

Only time will tell how if the CAT provides what was promised – a quicker, easier, and more cost-effective system for resolving disputes in condominiums. I’m interested in hearing your experiences with CAT. Is it user-friendly? How are you finding the online system?

Common Errors with the Amendments

techThe first phase of amendments to the Act has been in force for almost a month now. We have new forms, a new tribunal, and the CAO. There is a new process for calling and holding meetings. There are new information certificates. The changes span hundreds of pages so, understandably, everyone is still getting the hang of it all. There are even disputes about how certain parts should be interpreted. Here are some of the most common mistakes or misconceptions that we’ve encountered so far: Continue reading

Fair Taxes – Guelph Condo Residents

piggybankTo any Guelph condo owners and residents, you need to lend your voice (or even just be a face in the audience) at some upcoming City meetings to help get the condos in the Guelph community better services for the taxes paid. I give thanks to Ted Pritchard, the chair of the Fair Taxes Campaign – Guelph, for informing condo owners (including me) of the upcoming dates. Continue reading

The New Information Certificates

PICThe amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, will result in much more frequent communications to the owners with valuable information about the condominium. One new source of information is the information certificates: the periodic information certificate (PIC); the information certificate update (ICU); and the new owner information certificate (NOIC). The new certificates became a requirement as of November 1, 2017.  Continue reading

The NEW PROCESS for Owners’ Meetings

meetingThe first phase of amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, came into force on November 1, 2017. While the first phase included amendments to a variety of areas, there were a few areas with significant changes. One of the most significant changes will be to the way we call and hold owners’ meetings.

While much has been written about the new AGM process, it is important to note that the changes to the Act apply to all owners’ meetings (i.e. AGMs, requisition meetings, special meetings) in most circumstances.  The transitional provisions are not entirely clear so if you intend to call and/or hold a meeting of owners between November 1st, 2017 and December 10th, 2017, you should speak with a lawyer to see which provisions apply to your meeting.  Continue reading

Turn-over Meetings: From Developer to Owners

stencil.default (35).jpgDevelopers have several obligations post-registration of a condominium, such as appointing a board of directors and the auditor, collecting fees, obtaining insurance, and registering the proposed by-laws. There are other tasks, such as arranging for a reserve fund study, performance audit, or repairs/maintenance, that might arise depending upon how long the developer controls the first board.

The developer must also call a meeting of owners on the later of the 30th day after 20% of the units have been transferred and the 90th day after the developer has first transferred title to a unit. At the meeting, the owners (other than the developer) may elect two new directors.  The meeting is not required if a majority of the units have been transferred and a meeting has been called to relinquish control to the owners (called the “turn-over meeting”). The turn-over meeting must be called within 21 days of the developer transferring a majority of the units and held within 21 days after it is called.  Continue reading

The Condo Act Forms are Available!

fireworksThe moment we have all been waiting for is almost here! The first phase of amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, come into force on November 1, 2017. For weeks we have all been speculating as to whether the implementation date would be delayed again or not. The main reason? We didn’t have the forms yet. Well, guess what? On Tuesday afternoon the forms were released!!  Continue reading