On April 11, 2019, I wrote about some of the Condo Authority Tribunal (CAT) decisions so far. Some of the highlights include the dismissal of claims that were vexatious, the adoption of the “open book” principle enumerated in previous case law, and confirmation that owners may access the list of owners. You can read the post here. The CAT has been busy since my previous post, releasing another 16 decisions in the last four months! Here are some of the highlights for these recent cases: Continue reading
Many condominiums have private sessions during board meetings where they discuss more sensitive issues involving unit owners, employees, or litigation. These are often referred to as “in-camera” sessions. Owners, apart from the directors and officers, would not be eligible to attend these portions of the meetings. Are owners entitled to access the minutes from in-camera sessions of the meetings of the board? A recent CAT decision answers the question. Continue reading
Can owners request copies of emails between directors? Can the condominium refuse a record request because the owner’s reason for requesting the records is apparently unrelated to their ownership interests? Must the owner prove their reason is related to their ownership interest, or is the onus on the condominium to prove the reason is unrelated to the owner’s interests? These are only a few of the questions recently answered by the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT).
Kai Sin Yeung v. Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Coporation No. 1136
An owner requested emails related to the renewal of a gas contract referenced in board meeting minutes. The owner wanted a penalty and costs of the hearing. The condominium claimed that the emails do not exist, but even if they existed the owner would not be entitled to them. Continue reading
The CAT released a decision confirming that owners are not entitled to receive email addresses provided by owners and mortgagees to the corporation. The case includes an interesting review of the relevant provisions of the Act and regulations related to the record of owners and mortgages and the exceptions to the right to examine records. The full case can be found on CanLii: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/oncat/doc/2019/2019oncat9/2019oncat9.html?resultIndex=3
Some highlights include: Continue reading
On April 5, 2019 I attended the ACMO / CCI 1-day Conference in Kitchener. I was asked to speak during the round table discussions and on the legal panel. My topic for the round table discussion was the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT). Today I thought that I would share some of the lessons that we have learned so far from the CAT’s first twenty or so decisions. Continue reading
Overall, people seem to be pleased with the CAT. The process is generally much quicker, easier, and cost-effective than Small Claims Court, which was the typical way of resolving record disputes before the CAT. Voluntary mediation was an option to resolve record disputes, but few used the process (despite its many advantages over court).
Many would like to see the CAT’s jurisdiction expanded in the near future to take on other matters, such as proxy and ballot disputes, requisitions, and liens. Unfortunately, the current government has not provided any details about its plans for the CAT. It could expand the jurisdiction, leave it as it is, or eliminate the CAT (the third option seems unlikely). We don’t know at this point. Continue reading
The CAT has been busy this month releasing three new decisions. Obviously, the issues relate to record requests. All three cases have some interesting commentary on the circumstances when the CAT will award legal costs and penalties.
The owner filed a claim with the CAT for records. Previously, the condominium obtained an order from the Superior Court of Justice to declare the owner a vexatious litigant. The CAT member found the owner’s claim vexatious and dismissed it. That was not the end of it. The condominium sought over $12,000 for costs of its involvement in the CAT hearing and $22,000 after further submissions were made! Continue reading
The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) has been up and running for a little over a year now. It has released 14 decisions so far, but it has handled hundreds of claims based on the last statistics disclosed at the ACMO/CCI-T Conference in November. Despite being a popular topic at condominium industry events, I am regularly asked about the CAT’s jurisdiction to hear disputes. Continue reading
Earlier this week the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) released its first five decisions. The CAT only has jurisdiction over record disputes at this point in time so all five decisions relate to records. The cases are available on CanLII should you wish to read them in full. Here are the highlights: Continue reading
The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) has been up and running for about a month now. The CAO’s website contains a lot of useful information about the CAT, including the mediators selected to facilitate disputes. The CAO’s website also has the CAT rules that were released earlier this month. The rules answer many of the most common questions posed so far, such as “Who can file a claim?”, “How does the process work?”, and “Do condos need lawyers for the CAT?”.
The general process for resolving disputes at the CAT is:
The process starts with the aggrieved party filing an online application with the CAT. This person is called the “Applicant”. The Applicant must pay a $25.00 filing fee with the application. The Applicant must be an owner, a mortgagee, a purchaser, or the condominium corporation. The other party, called the “Respondent”, must create an account with the CAO and join the dispute.
The negotiation step allows the parties try to settle the dispute using the CAT’s online system. The parties can communicate and exchange offers to settle through the system. The case will be closed by the CAT if: 1) the parties reach a settlement; or 2) no settlement offer has been made by any of the parties for more than 30 days.
The second stage, mediation, is where a neutral third party (the “mediator”) assists the parties in discussing the issues and (hopefully) reaching a settlement. The cost for the mediator is $50.00. The mediator may give directions about the process. If the mediator is also a member of CAT, he or she may make a procedural order that the parties must obey. The mediator, if he or she is a member of CAT, may make a final decision on the dispute if the parties consent.
The mediator decides when the Applicant can move to the final stage. If the applicant has paid the fee for the final stage, the mediator will prepare a brief summary, which will be provided to the member responsible for making a decision. All discussions and documents exchanged during the mediation are private and confidential and may not be made public or used in the final stage unless the parties agree or the CAT allows it.
The CAT will close a case at the mediation stage if: 1) the parties reach a settlement, 2) the parties agree to the CAT making a consent order that ends the case, or 3) the mediator finds that the Applicant has abandoned the application.
The final step is a decision. If the parties cannot resolve the dispute on their own or with the assistance of a mediator, the Applicant can ask the CAT to make a decision for $125.00. The member hears evidence and arguments and makes a binding decision.
Fortunately, the CAT also has the authority to dismiss an application before a decision is made. Examples include where the application is about a minor issue, the CAT does not have authority to hear the case, the CAT is being used for an improper purpose, the Applicant knew or ought to have known that their documents had false or misleading information, and the Applicant has abandoned the application.
The CAT has its own set of rules. Fortunately, the rules are much easier to read than the rules of court or other tribunals. This should make it easier for people without formal legal training to go through the process without a lawyer. Notwithstanding such, the rules permit any party to be represented by an Ontario lawyer or paralegal, or a person who is exempt from the Law Society’s licensing requirements (i.e. a friend helping the person without receiving any fee, licensed condominium manager or a condominium’s director).
The rules describe how the parties are to communicate with each other, share documents, and present evidence. The parties must use the CAT’s online system, unless the CAT allows other methods. The CAT has the authority to order any party to give details, information or documents (called “disclosure”) or summons a witness. The rules also describe how disclosure is to be delivered.
Lastly, the rules indicate that the CAT’s decisions will be available to the public, unless an order has been made to limit access for privacy or public interest reasons. It will be interesting to see how much information is provided to the public.
Costs & Expenses
The rules indicate that the CAT has the authority to order one party to pay to the other party any reasonable expenses or costs related to the CAT, such as the filing fees. However, a party will NOT be ordered to pay another party’s legal fees unless there are exceptional reasons to do so. So, while costs will not be the norm, they will be available where the member believes it is appropriate (i.e. perhaps where one party’s conduct or unreasonable position has caused unnecessary delays or expenses).
Given that the process (at least before the decision stage) is designed to be user-friendly, it is likely that most owners and condominiums will choose not to use a lawyer or paralegal. That seems to be a reasonable course of action; however, given that the CAT’s decision is binding on the parties, the parties might want to use lawyers or paralegals for the decision stage to minimize their risks.
Only time will tell how if the CAT provides what was promised – a quicker, easier, and more cost-effective system for resolving disputes in condominiums. I’m interested in hearing your experiences with CAT. Is it user-friendly? How are you finding the online system?