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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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

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

Condominium Amalgamation – A Few Considerations Regarding the Approval Process

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Recently our office has been working on condominium amalgamations as well as proposals for amalgamations for various clients in southwestern Ontario. We have previously blogged about the considerations for amalgamation [https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/09/21/is-it-time-to-amalgamate/#more-8070] and the process [https://ontcondolaw.com/2016/06/27/considering-amalgamation/#more-1947]. 

Here are a few lessons regarding the amalgamation approval process if the condominiums have already decided to pursue amalgamation and collected the necessary consents required by section 120 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”). Continue reading

Condo Ignores Condo Authority Tribunal (CAT) Requests to Join Case

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A recent CAT decision serves as a good reminder to condominiums of the consequences for refusing to participate in the process.

The owner requested various records from the condominium twice. The condominium had its lawyer respond indicating that it had no obligation to respond because the owner had not used the mandatory form. The lawyer provided a copy of the request form with the letter and indicated that they would respond to the request once it was submitted on the proper form. The owner completed the form and sent a copy via fax to the lawyer and manager. The condominium did not respond so the owner filed a case with the Condominium Authority Tribunal (the “CAT”).

The owner provided notice of the CAT case by courier to the condominium at the management office. The CAT clerk even contacted the condominium twice to ensure they received the notice. The condominium still did not join the case. The condominium did not participate at any point and the process continued without it.

There is an interesting discussion of records requested by the owner that related to a civil action commenced by the condominium against the builder and developer. The action was funded by a special assessment and eventually settled with a payment to the condominium of $1.7 million. The owner was concerned because there was apparently a discrepancy between the settlement amount and the amount received by the condominium ($700,000) so the owner sought an accounting of the amount as well as the settlement agreement. After reviewing sections 55 and 23 of the Act, the CAT member found the owner was entitled to see the settlement agreement.

The CAT ordered the condominium to provide all of the records requested by the owner and pay a penalty of $3,000 for its refusal to provide the records without reasonable excuse. The CAT also awarded the owner costs of $150 (the filing fees paid to the CAT by the owner).

While $3,000 is a significant penalty for many condominiums, I wonder if it is enough incentive for some of the larger condominiums with multi-million dollar budgets. Clearly some are still choosing to ignore record requests by owners (and apparently direct contact from the CAT clerk). What will it take to get them to respond? $10,000? Personal liability on the directors? A summons? Fortunately, most condominiums comply with their obligations when records are requested.

The full case is available on CanLii: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/oncat/doc/2019/2019oncat44/2019oncat44.pdf

Summer Reading: Condo Authority Tribunal (CAT) Edition

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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