Starting on October 1, 2020, the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) will begin to hear more than record request disputes. The CAT’s jurisdiction has been expanded to hear most of the common disputes in condominiums. Specifically, the CAT will hear disputes with respect to any of the following provisions of the declaration, by-laws or rules: pets and other animals; vehicles (the definition is very broad, including boats, aircraft, and vehicles powered by muscular power); and parking and storage.
The CAT will also have jurisdiction to hear disputes related to indemnification or compensation claims related to any of the disputes that it now has jurisdiction over. For example, if the condominium brings an application to the CAT because an owner is not complying with a provision in the declaration about pets it will also be able to ask the CAT for a ruling on its right to be indemnified by the owner according to its declaration.
Section 132 of the Condominium Act, 1998, will also be amended on October 1, 2020 to add the following:
(4.1) Subsections (1) and (4) do not apply to any matter in dispute for which a person may apply for resolution under section 1.36 to the Condominium Authority Tribunal established under Part I.2 if the Tribunal has been established under that Part. 2020, c. 14, Sched. 1, s. 18 (1).
This means that mediation and arbitration are not prerequisites for an application to the CAT, which makes sense because the CAT has its own mediation process. It will be interesting to see how this change is interpreted. Do we think mediation and arbitration will continue to be used for these disputes despite the CAT’s jurisdiction being expanded to hear them?
While the expansion of the CAT’s jurisdiction is sure to result in the resolution of matters with less costs being expended than with court and arbitration, there is a significant gap in the CAT’s Rules right now. The CAT’s Rules currently indicate that the CAT will not order a party to pay legal fees “unless there are exceptional reasons to do so”. The CAT’s Rules were amended on September 21, 2020 (I assume to address the expansion), but this rule was not changed. The Rule made sense when it was only record request disputes and the CAT was deciding if the condominium had failed to produce a record when it was required to do so, but now that it is going to hear cases where owners (sometimes blatantly) disregard the declaration, by-laws, or rules, it seems grossly unfair to saddle the innocent owners with the costs of the condominium’s enforcement efforts. Will the expansion of the CAT’s jurisdiction actually result in fewer of these nuisance and enforcement issues being resolved because of the possible costs?
Stay tuned. Hopefully we see further changes to the Rules in the days to come to address this imbalance.