You might have noticed that Annie Bailey’s post (10 Condo Law Highlights of 2020) had a notable omission: COVID-19. Given the overwhelming number of legal changes, reported cases, and news about COVID-19 in condominiums, we decided to dedicate an entire year-in-review post to COVID-19 in 2020. Here is our list of the top ten legislative changes, reported cases, and resources that your condominium need to be aware of heading into 2021 while we continue to deal with COVID-19 and the pandemic.
Levels, Colours and Lockdown – The Spring started with the entire country in lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As the numbers started to fall, each Province adopted its own strategy for addressing the pandemic. In Ontario, we had levels or stages at one point, which was later changed to five zones (each with a different colour). Each zone has its own restrictions, such as on the number of people attending gatherings, and requirements, such as additional cleaning and contact tracing.
While we appreciate the effort of those working hard to draft all of these legislative changes (often on Friday evenings), it is nearly impossible for anyone to keep up. We previously wrote about the five new categories (https://ontcondolaw.com/2020/11/30/covid-19-five-new-categories/). You can also find a great summary from our friends at CondoAdviser here: http://condoadviser.ca/2020/11/confused-by-colour-zones-and-restrictions-try-our-covid-tool/condo-law-blog-Ontario and the Ontario government has prepare summaries as well, which you can find here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.
Not sure which colour or zone your area is in? No problem. The Ontario government has a map to help you: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions
Virtual Meetings – one of the many legislative changes during the pandemic was to permit condominiums to hold their owners’ meetings using technology that allows owners to vote using electronic or telephonic means (“virtual meetings”). These meetings were permitted before the pandemic, but condominiums had to pass by-laws to use them. The Ontario government has authorized, via temporary amendment to the Act, all condominiums in Ontario to host virtual owners’ meetings until May 31, 2021 without a by-law. This could be further extended if Covid-19 continues to be prevalent in the Spring of 2021. Need tips about chairing virtual meetings? Head over to the Lash Condo’s blog for some great tips.
It is important to note that initially the legislation extended the time for condominiums to hold annual general meetings. This temporary amendment was not extended and all condominiums must make sure they meet the required deadlines for their AGMs. See our previous post on the deadlines for 2019 and 2020 deadlines: https://ontcondolaw.com/2020/07/30/end-of-the-declared-emergency-your-most-common-condo-agm-questions-answered/ 2021 AGM deadlines should be unchanged.
Court Enforces Covid-19 Policies & Rules – there have been a few reported cases of condominiums successfully enforcing Covid-19 policies and rules where a resident was engaging in conduct that potentially put the other residents at risk. In one case an owner was prohibited from allowing contractors into their units to complete painting and other minor work. In another case an owner was prohibited from allowing contractors to repair a unit that was damaged as it was not an emergency or essential (the owner had another bathroom). See the post by our friends at DHA: https://dhacondolaw.ca/condo-law-news/court-upholds-corporations-covid-19-policy/
New Covid Condo Financing – at least one lender is providing condominiums with a short-term loan option to help with operating cashflow problems this year due to excess cleaning or higher receivables because of owners struggling to pay their condo fees. We previously wrote about this: https://ontcondolaw.com/2020/04/17/covid-19-update-new-financial-option-for-condominiums/
Online Dispute Resolution – it only took a global pandemic, but the courts and tribunals in Ontario have moved into the 21st century! Many matters can be heard via teleconference or videoconference instead of requiring everyone to attend in person. They have expanded the use of electronic filing and service. All of this should reduce costs to the parties and hopefully speed up the process. From a condominium perspective, many mediations and arbitrations can now be held online. There was a great article on online dispute resolution by Colm Brannigan and Marc Bhalla for the CCI-GRC’s blog: https://www.cci-grc.ca/blogs/view/stay-home-stay-safe-and-mediation-online
Webinars – there have been so many great webinars this year to help people keep up with all of the legislative changes related to the pandemic. Many of the CCI chapters have held regular webinars. CCI-GRC even held its first virtual conference in November! While many enjoy the social aspects of the in-person seminars and conferences, the virtual options have many advantages over the in-person ones. I predict a use of both in-person and virtual options once it is safe to have large gatherings again, but for now there are plenty of webinars available for you to keep up.
And that is a wrap for us on pandemic material for the year. Like many of you, we are tired of talking about Covid-19. It is our reality right now, but it does not need to be the only thing we talk about. We will get through this pandemic one way or another.
We wish you all a happy and healthy new year!