Grandparenting Not Required for Rule to Be Reasonable

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A recent application (Wellington Condominium Corporation No. 31 v. Silberberg) before the Superior Court considered whether a condominium corporation’s newly enacted rule prohibiting smoking within the common elements of the condominium plan was unreasonable.

The Facts

The facts of the dispute are not complicated:

  • The owner of a unit (the “Owner”) had been smoking on the balcony adjacent to the Owner’s unit (the “Balcony”) since first occupying the unit in 2009;
  • There was no rule prohibiting such activity until, in response to complaints of smoke migration, the condominium corporation proposed a new rule that prohibited smoking within the common elements (including the exclusive use balconies) of the condominium plan;
  • The proposed rule did not prohibit smoking in the units of the condominium plan;
  • The condominium corporation held a meeting of owners after receiving an invalid request for same;
  • Some owners requested the Rule be amended so it would not be enforced against those occupants that smoked in the common elements prior to the rule coming into effect;
  • A majority of eligible owners voted not to amend the rule as proposed by the condominium corporation;
  • The rule came into effect June 21st, 2018 and read as follows:

Smoking of any kind, including without limitation by using vaporizers or e-cigarettes is not permitted in any part of the common elements or exclusive use balconies at any time.

(the “Rule”);

  • The Owner admittedly continued to smoke on the Balcony after June 21st, 2018 and believed the condominium corporation could not stop him from doing so;
  • The condominium corporation contacted the Owner demanding compliance with the Rule;
  • Counsel for the condominium corporation sent multiple letters to the Owner/Owner’s counsel demanding compliance with the Rule; and
  • The Owner continued to smoke on the Balcony.

 

The Application

The Court was asked to consider 3 issues:

  1. Is the Balcony unit or exclusive use common elements?
  2. Was the Rule properly passed?
  3. Is the Rule reasonable?

Is the Balcony unit or exclusive use common elements?

The Court was satisfied that the Balcony was an exclusive use common elements area of the condominium plan.

The Owner alleged the Balcony or a portion of the Balcony was owned exclusively by the Owner.  Other than the viva voce evidence of the Owner during cross examination, photos of the Balcony, and the Owner’s sketch of the Balcony depicting its dimensions, the Owner offered no evidence to support this assertion.

The Court preferred the wording found in the condominium corporation’s declaration that provides:

the Owner of each Unit shall have the exclusive use of that portion or portions of the Exclusive Use Common Elements as set out in Schedule “F” attached hereto.

Schedule F to the condominium corporation’s declaration provides:

The Owner of each Unit shall have the exclusive use of any balcony to which the Unit shall provide direct and sole access as shown on Parts 1, Sheets 2 and 3.

The Court found that “[a]bsent some modifying words in the [declaration] itself, balcony should be taken to mean the whole balcony”.  The Court went on to find that this interpretation was supported by the design of the Balcony and found no evidence to otherwise support the assertion that the Owner has exclusive ownership of part of the Balcony.

Was the Rule properly passed?

The Court found the Rule was properly passed.

As the Owners attended the meeting of owners by proxy, the Court was satisfied subsection 47(9) of the Condominium Act, 1998 prevented the Owner from objecting to a failure of the condominium corporation to give the required notice.  With respect to the meeting itself, the Court was satisfied that the uncontradicted minutes of the meeting of owners included in the condominium corporation’s application materials disclosed that a quorum of owners was present at the meeting of owners and that the Rule passed without amendment.

Is the Rule reasonable?

After recognizing the Court should only interfere with a rule properly enacted by a condominium corporation where such rule is clearly unreasonable, the Court was satisfied the condominium corporation had a reasonable basis for enacting the Rule.  The Court found that:

  1. given the current legislative environment, it was not unreasonable for the condominium corporation to impose further restrictions on smoking within the condominium plan;
  2. it was not unreasonable for the condominium corporation to regulate smoking in areas where fumes could affect other units;
  3. given the broader public context, the Rule was reasonable in and of itself;
  4. owners had an opportunity to discuss the proposed rule at a meeting of owners; and
  5. there had been complaints about smoke migration.

The Court then went on to consider whether the Rule was unreasonable for want of “grandparenting” occupants that smoked within the common elements prior to the Rule coming into effect.  The Court concluded that a period of grandparenting for the Rule was not necessary as such was not required by the Condominium Act, 1998.

The Court went on to note that the Owner was permitted to smoke within the Owner’s unit and that the Rule did not prohibit the Owner from smoking within the entire condominium plan.  Further, the Court as in Thunder Bay Condominium Corporation No. 15 v Ewen, found the Owner could walk off the condominium plan and smoke there.  The Court went on to state that including a grandparenting provision in the Rule would defeat the purpose of the Rule – to prevent smoke migration – and that the Rule does not contain any grandparenting provisions is neither unexpected nor unreasonable.

The Court concluded that the Rule was entirely reasonable and did not leave the Owners without options.

Takeaway

This decision illustrates that reasonableness is highly context dependent.  The decision clearly demonstrates that the Court will consider the broader legislative and public context in making a determination as to whether a rule is reasonable.

Although the Court concluded that a grandparenting provision was not required in this instance, it is essential to note that the circumstances surrounding the Rule appear to have had significant value to the Court in reaching its decision.  Further, the Court concluded that grandparenting in this context would defeat the purpose of the Rule.

It remains possible that a grandparenting provision could be required where:

  1. such a provision would not defeat the purpose of the rule; or
  2. the rule prohibits an activity in its entirety.

Further still, condominium corporations may wish to consider including a grandparenting provision for political purposes – to ensure a majority of eligible owners will vote in support of the proposed rule should the condominium corporation receive a requisition for a meeting of owners to vote on the rule.

Whose Notice is it Anyway?

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The Condominium Act, 1998 provides that an owner is entitled to notice when a condominium corporation takes action to perfect and enforce a lien, however, the recent decision in Mei Ki Ching v Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 203 demonstrates that a spouse that is not a registered owner of a unit may be entitled to the same notice.

Facts

  • McIntosh (the “Owner”) is the sole registered owner of a unit within the condominium plan (the “Unit”);
  • Ching (the “Spouse”) is not a registered owner of the Unit;
  • The Unit was the matrimonial home of the Owner and Spouse;
  • The Owner and Spouse separated in July of 2014;
  • The Owner continued to occupy the unit after separation;
  • In May of 2015, the Spouse registered a designation that the unit was the matrimonial home (the “DMH”);
  • The DMH contained the Spouse’s name and current address;
  • In March of 2017 the Owner defaulted in the Owner’s contributions to the common expenses of the condominium corporation;
  • In March of 2017 the condominium corporation began taking steps to perfect and enforce its lien in accordance with the Condominium Act, 1998;
  • The condominium corporation eventually takes possession of the Unit; and
  • After the condominium corporation took possession of the Unit the Spouse obtained an order granting her exclusive possession of the Unit and vesting the Unit in her name.

The Decision

The Family Law Act, 1990 makes it clear that each spouse has an equal entitlement to the matrimonial home and to give effect to such equal entitlement, a spouse with the right of possession in the matrimonial homes has the same right of redemption or relief against forfeiture as the other spouse and is entitled to the same notice respecting the claim and its enforcement or realization.  The provisions of the Family Law Act, 1990 further required the condominium corporation to provide notice to the Spouse at the usual or last known address of the Spouse or, if none, the address of the matrimonial home.

Despite being aware of the Spouse’s current address because of the registration of the DMH, the condominium corporation failed to provide notice to the Spouse when it took actions to perfect and enforce the lien.

The Court found because reasonable inquiries (in this case, a title search for a nominal fee) by the condominium corporation could have made the name and current address of the Spouse known to the condominium corporation, the condominium corporation was required to provide the Spouse with same notice that was provided to the owner respecting the lien and its enforcement.

Because of the condominium corporation’s failure to provide the required notice, the Court found the lien to be invalid against the Spouse, although the Spouse was required to make certain payments towards common expenses, a special assessment, and late fees.

The Issue for Condominium Corporations Generally

In this case, the DMH provided the condominium corporation with all the information it required to effect proper notice on the Spouse.  Other than a title search, which, absent the registration of a DMH would likely not provide a condominium corporation with the necessary information to determine if there is a spousal interest in the unit, the Court provides no guidance as to what efforts a condominium corporation must take to be considered to have made reasonable inquiries.

Is a condominium corporation to make inquiries of the registered owner? Search marriage records? Contact the lawyer that acted on behalf of the owner when such owner purchased the property?

In the absence of any information about a spouse, will it be sufficient to address all notices to the registered owner and spouse (i.e. John Smith and Spouse) and send them to the unit or the registered owner’s address for service?

There is no doubt reasonable inquiries will depend on the particular circumstances that surround a condominium corporation’s enforcement efforts but, the industry may not get guidance as to when the inquiries of a condominium corporation are reasonable in the circumstances until a similar case is decided.

Clear and Current Disclosure

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In Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 2051 v Georgian Clairlea Inc. (“Georgian”) the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed the findings of the motion judge with respect to a declarant’s disclosure obligations as set out in the Condominium Act, 1998 (“Act”).

Subsection 72(1) of the Act provides that “the declarant shall deliver to every person who purchases a unit or a proposed unit from the declarant a copy of the current disclosure statement made by the declarant for the corporation of which the unit or proposed unit forms part” (emphasis added).  The obligation to provide the current disclosure statement demonstrates that the Act intends for the declarant’s disclosure obligations to continue as the project changes between inception and final closing. Continue reading

Looking Back on 10 Decisions of 2018

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Below is a brief look back at some of the most talked about cases in 2018:

Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp. No. 932 v. Lahrkamp, [2018] O.J. No. 311

A unit owner had commenced many legal proceedings against the condominium corporation for approximately 10 years relating to the production of documents – many of these proceedings were dismissed.  The condominium corporation successfully applied to the Court to have an order prohibiting the owner from commencing legal proceedings against the condominium corporation and its past, present, and future directors, property managers, and service providers without leave of the Court.  Note that the unit owner was not prohibited from bringing legal proceedings before the Condominium Authority Tribunal (“CAT”) and did so later in 2018…the owners application before the CAT was dismissed.

Jones v. 2341464 Ontario Inc., 2018 ONSC 717

A developer/vendor attempted to unilaterally terminate an agreement of purchase and sale for a pre-construction condominium unit due to delays in construction.  The Court found that the provisions in the agreement of purchase and sale that allowed the developer/vendor to unilaterally terminate the agreement of purchase and sale had been removed by a valid amendment and that the developer/vendor was required to perform its obligations set out in the agreement of purchase and sale.

Simcoe Standard Condominium Corp. No. 431 v. Atkins, [2018] O.J. No. 2986

Two condominium corporations were ordered to call requisitioned meetings of owners because of a special assessment levied by the condominium corporations. The condominium corporations had refused to call the meetings of owners because they alleged the requisitioning owners had obtained the necessary signatures to requisition a meeting of owners by disseminating misleading information.  The Court was not persuaded by the evidence presented to support such an allegation and found no reason for the condominium corporations to refuse to call meetings of owners in accordance with section 46 of the Condominium Act, 1998.  Further, the condominium corporations asked the Court to prohibit the use of proxies during the requisitioned meetings of owners as a result of the dissemination of misleading information. The Court refused to do so finding that the communications were not misleading but rather expressed an opposing view. The Court also questioned if it had authority to “deny owners the statutory right to vote by proxy.”

Janet Cangiano v Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corporation No. 962, 2018 ONCAT 7

A unit owner had requested to audit the proxies recently used to elect directors to the board of directors without redaction. The CAT refused the request of the unit owner as clause 55(4)(d) of the Condominium Act, 1998 provides that the ability of an owner to examine the records of the condominium corporation does not apply to “any portion of a ballot or proxy form that identifies specific units in a corporation or owners in a corporation unless a by-law of the corporation provides otherwise”.

Peel Standard Condominium Corporation No. 984 v. 8645361 Canada Limited, 2018 ONSC 4339

After obtaining an order prohibiting a commercial unit owner from harassing the condominium corporation’s board members, employees and managers and multiple orders from the Court, the condominium corporation successfully obtained an order requiring the owner to vacate and sell the commercial unit for any reasonable offer.  The Court also granted the condominium corporation the ability to apply for possession of the commercial unit if the owner did not comply with the conditions of the Court’s order.

Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 2256 v. Paluszkiewicz, 2018 ONSC 2329

A condominium corporation asked the Court to set aside the decision of an arbitrator with respect to the validity of improvements made to a unit authorized by a section 98 agreement. The section 98 agreement was authorized by the declarant appointed board and called for the production of detailed drawings and further approval of the board prior to renovations commencing.  The owner argued the required plans were submitted to the declarant appointed board provided and the evidence of the condominium corporation was not sufficient to persuade the Court to set aside the decision of the arbitrator.

Patterson v. York Condominium Corporation No. 70, 2018 ONSC 3735

The Court dismissed an owner’s effort to force the condominium corporation to raise the common expenses, among other requests.  The Court found that the decision process of the board of directors met the standard of care required under section 37 of the Act and that the Court should not substitute its own reasoning for that of the board of directors.

Noguera v. Muskoka Condominium Corporation No. 22, 2018 ONSC 7278

An owner had commenced construction to remove a demising wall between units with the board or director’s permission.  A subsequent board of directors asked for the owner to enter into a section 98 agreement and wanted to review/alter the decision and decision making process of the previous board of directors.  The owner brought an oppression and was permitted to complete construction but was required to enter into a section 98 agreement.

Terence Arrowsmith v Peel Condominium Corporation No. 94 2018 ONCAT 10

An owner made a request for records relating to the removal of mould from the sauna and mailroom.  The condominium corporation did not provide the requested records despite conceding the owner was entitled to such records on the basis that the owner had not properly completed the mandatory request for records form.  The CAT ordered the documents to be provided and award costs (which included an award for the owner’s time spent participating in the process) to the owner. The CAT also went on to impose a monetary penalty on the condominium corporation as a result of its failure to provide records without reasonable excuse.