As you may recall, on November 1, 2017, parts of the Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015 (“PCOA”), came into force. The PCOA amended the Condominium Act, 1998, and other legislation to protect owners and provide them with more information about their condominiums. Original estimates suggested that the remaining amendments from the PCOA would be rolled out in phases with the first phase as early as the Spring of 2018 and all amendments within a year or two. This did not happen. Most of the PCOA still has not come into force. Continue reading
As you may have noticed, I have not blogged about COVID-19 much these past few months. This was an intentional decision based on a number of factors. The situation was evolving so quickly that it seemed like my advice was changing almost daily at times depending on the recent statistics, public health recommendations, emergency orders, and the law. I did not want to confuse or mislead people who might be reading the blog weeks or months later. Also, some people reported feeling overwhelmed by the number of articles, blog posts, and webinars on the topic. I felt it was unnecessary to add to the stress when so many others were doing such a great job publishing information about the subject. I am still frequently asked about COVID-19 resources for condominiums and owners, so today I am going to provide a list of some of the available resources. Continue reading
Written by: Noah Maislin, CEO, Minutes Solutions
Effectively operating a condominium is a juggling act at the best of times. In a few short weeks, COVID-19 has utterly upended our world: keeping all the balls in the air is now trickier than ever.
The Ontario government recognized that property management companies are essential to the health and safety of condominiums by allowing the firms to stay open for business during this global pandemic.
But how do you ensure a community runs smoothly in the new reality of social distancing and self-isolation when a best practice of good condominium management is holding regular meetings with quorum? Without hashing it all out in person, how does a board and its management team collaborate to pick contractors for repairs, ensure completion of urgent work, set timelines, monitor finances, develop budgets, protect the health and safety of residents and staff, pinpoint priorities, address resident concerns, and so much more?
Condominium life doesn’t get put on hold during a worldwide health crisis: if anything, clear communication and nimble decision-making become paramount when the global situation and business landscape can change hour by hour. Add to the mix the spring AGM season and the challenges may seem insurmountable.
Enter virtual meetings: in this emergency, the infrastructure that developed in recent decades has stepped into the breach. When stakeholders can’t be in the same room, connecting remotely is an excellent alternative that still enables all parties to engage and collaborate — even face-to-face — without missing a beat. Typically, the Ontario condominium legislation permits digital or electronic board meetings (e.g., by video or teleconference) as long as all directors consent and are able to communicate at the same time. However, the legislation was recently amended (as of April 24, 2020) to allow board meetings to be called and held virtually, even if not all directors consent. It also allows for AGMs to be held virtually, regardless of what the corporation’s by-law permits.
From the tens of thousands of hours of in-person and virtual meetings Minutes Solutions has serviced, we have come away with some insights about remote communication:
- The Difference Between Videoconferencing and Teleconferencing: Most organizations that are accustomed to working with their teams in-person prefer videoconferencing over audio-only calls. Video isn’t difficult to use and it more easily facilitates social learning and focus even while working remotely. It can also be preferable for tallying votes when a motion is presented at a meeting and for keeping track of who says what. But make no mistake, making decisions and taking action by teleconference are still preferable over not acting at all merely because an in-person meeting isn’t possible.
- The Top Platforms — Zoom vs. Google Meet vs. GoToWebinar: All three platforms can support dozens of attendees at a time, enable screen sharing, and offer good connectivity. All that’s needed are a decent Internet connection and a functional device. Zoom is easy-to-use, intuitive, and simple to schedule. Google Meet is a smooth transition for users of other Google products. GoToWebinar is the best tool for polls, voting, and obtaining attendee reporting/analytics (better for AGMs, not board meetings).
- Your Recording Secretary Can Still Attend Your Meeting Virtually: As always, proper documentation creates continuity for a corporation as it navigates all the decisions and tasks involved in managing a condominium. Your minute taker can log-in or dial-in to take minutes live, or can complete the minutes offline from a recording. All the above videoconferencing options can also record your meeting; if you go this route, make sure your team consents to your policies for recorded meetings and understands the privacy considerations.
While it’s true there can be an initial learning curve in adapting to new technology, the pandemic has highlighted the convenience and efficiency of virtual meetings, not just when social distancing is required. When calmer times return, remote, live communication will complement in-person meetings, and may even replace them in some situations.
Virtual solutions expand the business landscape by offering further options for following best practices in condominium management and for tackling new challenges creatively and collaboratively.
Owners are entitled to examine records of the condominium. Subsection 55(3) of the Condominium Act, 1998, gives owners the right to examine or obtain copies of the condominium’s records, subject to certain limits described in subsection 55(4). Subsection 55(4) excludes certain records, including records related to other owners or units and records “relating to actual or contemplated litigation”. These provisions are designed to balance the competing interests of the owners and protect the condominium’s interests. Continue reading
I sometimes receive emails or calls from owners and directors who disagree with my opinion on an issue because they have read the Condominium Act, 1998, and misinterpreted part of it. Once I explain the relevant part of the Act or assist them in finding the relevant information they missed, we are usually able to agree on the issue. In the hopes of avoiding these sorts of disagreements in the future, I thought that I would provide some tips for reading and interpreting the Act. Continue reading
I have heard of situations where a condominium wants to avoid a requirement of the Act for one reason or another. Often the desire is to avoid the costs associated with the requirement. Other times the desire appears to be to reduce the number of administrative tasks. Whatever the reason, Section 176 of the Condominium Act, 1998, clearly states that the Act “applies despite any agreement to the contrary”. This means you cannot contract out of the Act.
Notwithstanding Section 176 of the Act, there are parts of the Act that a condominium can override by making changes to its declaration, by-laws or rules. There are also parts of the Act that a condominium can opt-out of if certain requirements are met. Continue reading
One of the busiest times of year for annual general meetings (“AGMs”) normally begins in mid-April and lasts until the end of June. This period of time is normally when condominiums with December 31 year-ends hold their AGMs. Unfortunately, many condominiums have been unable to hold their AGMs due to COVID-19. Often the directors felt like they were being forced to decide which way they wanted to contravene the Act: hold the AGM using virtual meetings even though the condominium did not have a by-law permitting virtual meetings, or postpone the AGM and contravene the requirement to hold the meeting within six months of the fiscal year end. Not an ideal situation.
Fortunately, on Friday April 24, 2020, the Ontario government issued an Order to provide some temporary relief to condominiums struggling to make these tough decisions. The Order makes various amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, with respect to meetings of the owners and of the board to make it easier to hold virtual meetings. A copy of the order can be found here: https://files.ontario.ca/solgen-oic-meetings-for-corporations.pdf Continue reading
On March 21, 2020, we published a post entitled COVID-19 Update: Virtual Meetings, Condo Fees, and Liens. We suggested some ways in which condominiums could lessen the burden on owners who may be struggling to pay their condo fees, such as revising the budget or changing the payment schedule. We also eluded to a third option coming soon. This morning we learned more about that third option. Continue reading
In a recent decision the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) was asked to rule on an owner’s request for records. The owner requested several records, including audited financial statements, budgets, board meeting minutes, AGM minutes, the most recent PIC, by-laws, employment agreements with any directors, and management contract. The condominium suggested that many of the issues raised by the owner were due to the condominium being self-managed. Spoiler: this was not a reasonable excuse for not providing records. Continue reading
An owner complains about noise from her neighbour’s balcony late at night and asks the condominium to prohibit the neighbour from talking on the balcony after 11 p.m. The condominium does not have a rule prohibiting residents from talking on their balconies at night, but has a rule prohibiting noise that disturbs the other residents.
With more of us staying at home these days this is bound to be a common problem, especially once the warmer weather comes. What should the condominium do when faced with these sorts of complaints? Should the condominium send demand letters to the neighbour? Start a court application? Should the condominium pass a rule prohibiting these late night discussions on the balconies? Fortunately, a recently reported case gives us some guidance.