Caremongering in Condos

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During the pandemic a new word is spreading around the world almost as quickly as the virus itself: Caremongering. Caremongering is a response to the scaremongering that some feel is prevalent these days due to the pandemic. Caremongering groups are popping up all over to help vulnerable groups or people struggling due to the pandemic. Some are aimed at helping seniors and other vulnerable people get necessities, like food and medicine. Some groups are trying to find ways to support small, local businesses stay open during the pandemic. Other groups try to help with the anxiety and depression caused (or exacerbated) by the pandemic’s isolation.

What does this have to do with condos? Condos are small communities and there are many opportunities for caremongering within the community. Before we get into some ideas, let me be clear about a few things. I am not encouraging people to engage in activities that endanger themselves or any other resident. Anyone participating in these activities must take the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus and comply with any orders or recommendations made by public officials. (Sorry for the disclaimer, but remember this is a blog written by lawyers).

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Section 109: Court Amendments of the Declaration & Description

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I appreciate that many of you might be feeling overwhelmed by all of the posts about COVID-19 lately. It is all we hear about and it is hard not to feel anxious about it sometimes. Today, we go back to normal. This post is about a recent court decision.

A recent case discusses when the court will order an amendment to the declaration or description under section 109 of the Condominium Act, 1998.  According to section 109 of the Act a condominium or an owner may make an application to the Superior Court of Justice for an order amending a declaration or description. The court may make an order where:

Grounds for order

(3) The court may make an order to amend the declaration or description if satisfied that the amendment is necessary or desirable to correct an error or inconsistency that appears in the declaration or description or that arises out of the carrying out of the intent and purpose of the declaration or description. 1998, c. 19, s. 109 (3).

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COVID-19 Update: Virtual Meetings, Condo Fees, and Liens

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On March 12, 2020, we wrote a post about the most common questions that we are receiving about COVID-19 in condominiums.  The focus was on the basics: the obligations of condominiums to ensure the property is safe, the ability of the condominium to clean or sanitize common areas without approval of the owners,  reducing or closing common amenities unless essential,  and handling repair and maintenance work. I’m going to do much of the same today, but the focus will be on meetings, condo fees, and liens.

As a reminder, I am not a medical professional. The Public Health Agency of Canada is a great source for tips on preventing the spread and keeping yourself safe. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html. Public Health Ontario also has great resources, including a helpful self-assessment tool if you are concerned that you may have the virus. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/ 

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Condo Obligations: COVID-19 & Other Communicable Diseases

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month, you know that COVID-19 is the latest coronavirus  (i.e. SARS, MERS) causing concern around the world. Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic due to the “alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.” According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) the symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Some people experience more serious symptoms and even death. As of the time of this post, the PHAC has said the risk to Canadians is low. PHAC has indicated that certain groups are at risk of more severe outcomes, including those who are over 65 years old, those with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying medical conditions.

I wasn’t going to post about this topic because it has been covered by so many other condo law blogs already, but I have received dozens of emails and calls about COVID-19 in the last few weeks from worried clients. I am not going to get into the various medical, political or legal issues surrounding COVID-19. I am not going to give medical advice. Instead, I’m going to answer some of the most common questions that I receive about the obligations of condominiums with respect to COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Continue reading

Upcoming Educational Opportunities

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With possible amendments coming as soon as July 1, 2020, there is no time like the present to attend one (or more) of the many great educational opportunities scheduled for the coming months. If you have the time attending a conference will likely get you more bang for your buck. If not, you can still learn about important condo issues by attending one of the shorter sessions. Here are some of the events that I’m looking forward to the most in the coming months: Continue reading

Reminder: Feedback on Future Amendments Due Soon

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As described in our post in February, the Ontario government is looking for feedback on its latest proposals for future amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998. Specifically, the government is looking for information on:

  • Changing the amount of interest that would be owed to a purchaser who makes deposits and other payments on a purchase into a pre-construction condo project, by the developer, if the condo project is cancelled and in other circumstances;
  • Requiring the CAO to develop a condo guide for buyers and require developers to provide it at the point of purchase;
  • Establishing guidelines or standards that will govern how condo corporations are to procure goods or services;
  • Clarifying how interim occupancy fees are handled by developers;
  • Establishing a process whereby condo corporations could add charges to an owner’s common expenses (condo fees), under certain circumstances;
  • Clarifying how contributions are made to reserve funds, the manner in which they can be used and how reserve fund studies can be conducted; and
  • Clarifying the processes for mediation or arbitration between corporations and owners.

These topics may not be important to you, but they should be. These topics could have significant financial implications for your condo (and you). You only have until March 10, 2020 to submit your comments. To have your say,  visit the Ontario website and provide your feedback online: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=31627&language=en

Security Cameras in Condos: Privacy Interests vs. Safety & Security

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We are routinely asked to provide advice to our clients about the installation of security cameras on the common elements. Sometimes the cameras are installed by the condominium on the common elements to reduce vandalism and property damage. Other times an owner wants to install a camera on the common elements adjacent to his unit to protect the occupants of the unit. For both situations the primary concern is normally the privacy rights of the other residents, but secondary concerns are often possible damage to the common elements caused by the installation of the camera and compliance with the legal requirements of the Condominium Act, 1998.

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Caution: Reading this Post May Cause Nightmares About Indemnity Clauses

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A recent case involving the right of a condominium to charge legal fees to an owner for alleged non-compliance with a rule has the industry talking. The decision has divided the legal community, resulting in many interesting legal debates and a whole lot of uncertainty for condominiums going forward.

The case is Amlani v. York Condominium Corporation No. 473. The dispute was about smoking. Amlani smoked and the condominium received complaints about it. The condominium took some steps to improve the situation, such as sealing joints and penetrations between the units. The owner limited his smoking to one room and used air filters to reduce the smoke transmission to other units. Unfortunately, the condominium received further complaints. The owner was willing to meet and discuss potential solutions, but the condominium was unwilling to do so and demanded that he stop smoking in the unit as it was a nuisance. Continue reading

Top Condo Lessons of 2019

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As 2020 approaches I find myself reflecting on the most important news, cases, and events from this past year. There were several notable decisions released this year and a few that I’m sure we would all like to forget! The hardest part of these lists is selecting only ten to speak about. Here is my list of the top ten condo lessons for 2019:

Counting Isn’t as Easy as 1, 2, 3

The Court confirmed the 10 day notice requirement for liens can be calculated by excluding the date the notice of lien is mailed and including the date of registration. Sending the notice of lien on January 21 and registering the lien on January 31 was acceptable. (Note: this is the minimum; more time is generally better). See CCC 476 v. Wong (2019). Continue reading