End of the Declared Emergency: Your Most Common Condo AGM Questions Answered

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As you probably know, the declared emergency in Ontario came to an end on July 24, 2020, with the enactment of Bill 195. I’ve received several emails and calls today from clients looking for advice on what Bill 195 means for condominiums. The most significant concern seems to be the requirement for holding AGMs and the temporary extensions for holding AGMs that were provided for in Bill 190. Today I’ll answer a few of the most common questions. Continue reading

Update on Previous Post – Fight Fire with Fire: Seeking Court Orders to Amend the Declaration

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Last year we posted about a case where a condominium commenced an application to the Superior Court of Justice for an order amending its declaration. The condominium wanted amendments to its declaration because of a repair and maintenance issue with the fireplaces in the building. A group of owners with fireplaces filed their own application seeking to have the chimney flues deemed part of the common elements, which the condominium was responsible for maintaining and repairing. They also sought an order requiring the condominium to maintain and repair the chimney flues.

To summarize, the court ordered the declaration amended to make the fireplaces exclusive use common elements, but refused to amend the declaration to require the owners to maintain and repair the fireplaces. As a result, the condominium would be responsible for the repair of the fireplaces while the owners and condominium will continue to share the obligation for maintenance of the fireplaces. Our previous post is available here:https://ontcondolaw.com/2019/08/02/fight-fire-with-fire-seeking-court-orders-to-amend-the-declaration/ Continue reading

Summer Reading: Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) 2020

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The courts might have slowed down because of the pandemic, but the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) appears to be unaffected by the pandemic. The CAT is predominantly online with less rigid rules than traditional courts, so this makes a lot of sense. It is relatively easy for online processes to continue in most cases. Here are some of the highlights from the CAT this summer. Continue reading

Reminder: Feedback on Future Amendments to Act Due August 14, 2020

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As you may have heard by now, the Ontario government is looking for feedback on its latest proposals for future amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998. Specifically, it appears that the government is planning to move forward with implementing a “Condo Guide” that would explain, in plain language, basic information for purchasers of new condominiums on such important matters such as the rights and responsibilities of owners, occupiers, and directors. The guide would be prepared by the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) and developers would be required to provide a copy of the Condo Guide to purchasers with other disclosure documents.

Interestingly, the CAO has already developed a Condo Buyer’s Guide, which is available on its website: https://www.condoauthorityontario.ca/resources/condo-buyers-guide.pdf That said, the proposed table of contents suggests that the new Condo Guide will be more comprehensive, including topics such as purchasing a unit (new and resale), moving into a pre-construction condominium, condominium living, troubleshooting, and a glossary of key terms.

The government intends to implement the changes on December 1, 2020. Comments are due by August 14, 2020. Comments can be made on the government website at: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=33587&language=en

 

Virtual Requisition Meetings

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I am hearing reports that many condominiums are postponing their annual general meetings (“AGMs”) due to COVID-19 instead of using virtual means to hold them. Some condominiums are also avoiding decisions that could result in a requisition by owners, such as making changes to the common elements, assets, or services under Section 97 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”), or creating, amending or repealing rules under Section 58. Many appear reluctant to use virtual meetings and electronic voting for a variety of reasons, but the primary concerns appear to be about the security of virtual meetings, the inability of owners to use the technology, and the associated costs.

Last week I participated in my first virtual requisition meeting to remove two directors from the board of directors of a condominium. I have participated in other types of virtual owners’ meetings, but this was the first requisition meeting so I was not sure if it would work as well. Today I thought I would discuss my experience. Continue reading

Amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998: A Recap of 2017 to 2020

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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

COVID-19 Resources & Update

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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

Guest Post: Dawn of the Virtual Meeting

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Written by: Noah Maislin, CEO, Minutes Solutions

http://www.minutessolutions.com

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.

Can Unit Owners Examine Opinions or Invoices from the Condominium’s Lawyer?

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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

How to Read the Condo Act

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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