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

Ready, Set, Action: Are In-Camera Minutes a Record of the Condo?

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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

What did you get yourself into? Top ten tips for new directors

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I’m often asked to give advice to new directors, especially first time directors. It is a difficult question to answer because the advice depends on a number of factors, such as the experience level of the director, whether or not the condominium has a manager, and the age of the condominium. In hopes of reducing the anxiety of a few new directors, here are my top ten suggestions to newly elected directors:

1. Review the condominium documents – it is important for directors to review the declaration, by-laws and rules shortly after being elected. You are not expected to be an expert, but you need to have a basic understanding of the key provisions, such as repair and maintenance obligations, restrictions on the use of units, and shared facilities. Familiarity with the documents will make for more efficient board meetings and more informed decisions.

Continue reading

AGM: Apathy, Gossip and Mutiny

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The AGM is often the most important meeting of the year for a condominium. The AGM provides the owners with valuable information about the condominium’s affairs with presentations from the auditor, board, management, and other professionals. It also gives owners an opportunity to voice their concerns or ask general questions about issues that might be important to them, like upcoming repair projects, parking, or landscaping. Finally, the AGM allows owners to be involved in important decisions, such as electing directors or passing a new by-law.

Most AGMs go off without a hitch and everyone goes home happy and informed. Some, however, are long and arduous battles that leave people more confused than when they started. The battles are often caused by apathy, gossip or mutiny. Continue reading

The Controversiality of the Voting Threshold: Borrowing By-laws

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Earlier this week, we blogged about the considerations and processes involved when a condominium determines there is a need for borrowing from a lender, inclusive of the requirement for a borrowing by-law. In this post, we discuss a recent case related to the passage of borrowing by-laws, which has created some controversy within the condominium industry.

LaFramboise v. York Condominium Corp. No. 365, 2019 CarswellOnt 680, dealt with a motion brought by an appointed administrator on behalf of a condominium corporation, seeking direction from the court as to whether a borrowing by-law had been passed at an owners’ meeting. Although there was little information provided on the particular circumstances that led to this application, it appears that some unit owners may have questioned the validity of a borrowing by-law that was passed at an owners’ meeting, resulting in the motion for direction to be filed by the condominium corporation’s administrator.

Based upon an interpretation of sections 50 and 53 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (“Act”), the Court appears to suggest that so long as a majority of all unit owners within a condominium are present at an owners’ meeting called to consider a borrowing by-law, a borrowing by-law can be successfully passed with the support of a majority of all unit owners present at the meeting rather than a majority of all units within the corporation.

Respectfully, the conclusions drawn from the interpretation of the Act in this case are contrary to the Act; specifically, section 56(10) of the Act.

56(10) of the Act unambiguously states that a by-law is not effective until:

“(a) the owners of a majority of the units in the corporation, or such other number of owners that is prescribed, vote in favour of confirming it, with or without amendment…”

Unless a lower voting threshold is prescribed in the regulations, section 56(10) of the Act makes it clear that a majority of the units in the corporation must vote in favour of a proposed by-law in order for it to pass, rather than the majority of units present at the meeting.

An often overlooked section of the regulations provides additional support for our position. Section 1.1(1) states that a reference to the portion of units in a corporation in the Act or regulations shall be interpreted as a reference to a portion of: a) owner-occupied units; b) units that are not s.49(3) units (i.e. parking, storage, facilities or mechanical installations); or c) all units in the corporation if all units are s.49(3) units and clause (a) does not apply. Subsection (2) specifically states that subsection 1.1(1) applies to section 56(10)(a) of the Act. Accordingly, subsection 56(10) requires a majority of units in the corporation that are not s.49(3) units unless all of the units are those type of units.

As noted above, the regulations do outline various by-laws that can be passed by a majority of the units present at a meeting rather than a majority of all units in a corporation; however, you will note that a borrowing by-law is not one of the prescribed by-laws that may be passed with the support of a majority of units present at a meeting [see section 14(2) of O. Reg. 48/01].

Below you will find a chart prepared by our firm which summarizes the by-laws that can be passed by a majority of units present at a meeting, pursuant to the regulations:

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Based upon the clear language in section 56(10) of the Act and the regulations, we cannot agree that a by-law can be passed with the support of a majority of those units present at an owners’ meeting called for that purpose (unless the regulations specifically permit for a lower voting threshold). Rather, in order for a by-law to pass, a majority of all units within the corporation must vote in favour of it.

Accordingly, despite the existence of this case, it would be prudent for condominium corporations to continue to receive the support of a majority of all units within the corporation when attempting to pass a by-law, unless the regulations clearly prescribe a lower voting threshold for that type of by-law.

To Borrow or Not to Borrow? How Does the Process Work: Borrowing By-laws

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We previously blogged about common myths regarding condominiums utilizing borrowing by-laws here https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/07/12/condo-financing-myths-debunked/

Condominiums have three ways to raise money

  1. Increasing monthly common expenses;
  2. Special assessment of owners; or
  3. Borrowing money from a lender.

As we noted condominiums typically use borrowing by-laws when they have to raise a substantial amount of money within a short period of time.

There can be a multitude of reasons a condominium may want to consider a borrowing by-law: an unexpected need to complete a major common elements repair/maintenance project before projected in the reserve fund, unexpected damage from a significant weather event (ex. the significant windstorm in southern Ontario in May 2018), or the desire to complete replacements related to a major common elements project (ex. installing new windows as part of a building envelope EIFS project). Continue reading