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 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
Many good managers and directors have been pulled into the black hole that is record requests under the amendments to the Act. Since November 1, 2017 there is a new process for requesting records and providing copies or access to them. Unfortunately, the new process is complicated and time-intensive, which will likely to lead to more disputes than the old process.
The CAT (Condominium Authority Tribunal) has released another important decision on the right of owners to access records. Cangiano v. Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corporation No. 962 is a dispute over the owner’s right to receive “legible and unaltered” copies of the proxies used at the AGM. The condominium refused to provide unaltered copies because the proxies contained personal information, but offered to provide redacted copies for $27.60. The owner sought an order directing the condominium to provide her with un-redacted copies of the proxies. 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
Just as I did last year, I’ve put together a list of my favourite condo lessons for 2017. Every condo director, owner, manager, and other person living in or working for condominiums should know these lessons:
10. An owner cannot bring apply for a minor variance from a zoning by-law for common element parking spaces. The board of directors is obligated to manage the common elements, which includes applying for any minor variances that may be required for the common elements. A different result may have occurred if the owner had the exclusive use of all of the common elements the minor variance would apply to, but in this case the owner only had exclusive use of 6 of the 82 parking spaces. Read our post on the case here: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/10/03/who-can-apply-for-a-minor-variance-for-the-common-elements-condo-or-owner/
9. Only lawyers should register liens. Most lawyers jumped for joy when a decision about a lien was released in May of this year. During the trial a report from the Law Society was produced to show that, in the eyes of the Law Society, a paralegal is not authorized to register liens; only lawyers should register liens. The interesting part is that in most firms the law clerks, not lawyers, register liens. And don’t get me started on lawyers who give their clerks access to their registration keys…yikes. Here is our previous post on the topic: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/05/29/is-lien-work-really-for-lawyers-only/
8. Condos can charge interest at almost criminal rates. A case this summer confirmed that a condo can charge interest at 30% above the prime rate if a by-law authorizes it. For more information, read the MTCC 1067 v. 1388020 Ontario Corp. case available here: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2017/2017onsc4793/2017onsc4793.pdf
7. Green energy initiatives are becoming increasingly popular as hydro costs soar and the government is making it easier for condos to implement some of them. For instance, submetering of the units for electricity consumption does not require the approval of the owners; the board can implement it by resolution of the board alone. Condos cannot prohibit clotheslines, but may have restrictions or conditions for their use. For more information, see our previous post on green energy initiatives: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/05/10/green-initiatives-in-condos/
6. Similarly, electric vehicles and charging stations are likely to be a hot topic in future years as demand for electric vehicles increases. For more information on some of the legal issues associated with electric vehicles and charging stations see our previous post: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/04/27/electric-vehicles-in-condos/
5. Degrading and harassing behaviour may be prohibited by section 117 as it may be likely to cause psychological harm. Some owners abuse managers and directors with vulgar language, yelling, and threats. The court has indicated that extreme cases would violate section 117, which prohibits conduct that is likely to cause injury to persons or damage to the property. It would also constitute workplace harassment, which condominiums have a duty to protect their workers from. See our previous post on: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/04/23/if-you-cant-say-something-nice/
4. Owners need to be careful about sending defamatory emails to other owners and residents. Where an owner sends defamatory emails about directors or the manager, the condominium may obtain an order directing an internet service provider to disclose info to the condo to enable it to identify the person. Defamation is a communication that tends to lower the esteem of the subject in the minds of ordinary members of the public. For more information or to read the case in its entirety, see our previous post: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/07/26/defamation-in-condos-an-update/
3. The courts will not amend a declaration because an owner feels it is inconsistent with the Act or unfair. The courts have confirmed that their involvement in such matters is limited by the Act to situations where there is an error or inconsistency in documents or where the documents are oppressive. The court will not interfere with validly passed by-laws either. For more information, read our previous post: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/08/22/summer-case-law-reading/. For a more recent decision by the courts, see the following case: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2017/2017onsc6542/2017onsc6542.html
2. Many more condos may make the switch from self-managed to professional managers in 2018 and beyond because of the next lesson on this list. For more information, see our post for self-managed condos: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/12/18/self-managed-condominiums/
And the top lesson of 2017 (it was also the top for 2015 and 2016) is…
1. The Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you know the Condominium Act, 1998, (and a number of other statutes) were amended this year. Some of the key changes in force now include:
- The creation of the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) to oversee condo managers. [www.cmrao.ca].
- The mandatory licensing of condo managers by February 1st, 2018.
- The creation of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) to oversee condos. [www.condoauthorityontario.ca].
- The creation of the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) to hear condo disputes. The CAT’s jurisdiction is currently limited to record disputes, but the intention is to extend it to other areas in the future.
- Mandatory training for directors and disclosure obligations for candidates for the board of directors.
- A new process for calling owners’ meetings, including new forms for the preliminary notice, notice, and proxies.
- Allowing teleconferencing for board meetings without a by-law.
- Reducing quorum for owners meetings after two unsuccessful attempts to achieve quorum.
- Reducing the approval level required for certain by-laws, like adding disclosure obligations for candidates.
- More communications with owners in the form of three new certificates: periodic information certificate, information certificate update, and new owner information certificate.
- A new record request process where owners, mortgagees or purchasers want to obtain records of the condominium.
There are new forms associated with many of the changes described above. The forms are available here: https://www.ontario.ca/search/land-registration?openNav=forms&sort=desc&field_forms_act_tid=condominium
The deadline for registering condos was recently extended to February 28, 2018. For more information, visit the CAO’s website.
More changes are coming on January 1st, 2018. You can read about those here: https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/12/12/amendments-coming-january-1-2018/
More changes will come into force on February 1st, 2018 and later in 2018 (and maybe early in 2019). Changes still to come include:
- The regulatory part of the licensing of managers, such as a complaints and discipline process.
- Extending warranty coverage through Tarion to residential conversion condominiums in some instances.
- A process for preparing a budget and notifying owners of changes to it.
- A process for charging costs back to owners (i.e. infractions, damage).
Stay tuned! Next year should be full of lessons as more of the amendments are released and we have an opportunity to interpret them.
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?
Are you ready? In less than three months the first set of amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998 comes into force. Arguably the biggest change is the creation of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO). I like to think of the CAO as the “Condo Police”.
The following post was researched and written by Daniel Brockenshire, a law student at Sutherland Kelly LLP. Thanks, Daniel!
The third draft regulation, which was released on February 24, 2017, is aimed at regulatory changes to the Condominium Act, 1998 (the Act) and the Condominium Management Services Act (the CMSA). More specifically, the regulation proposes the scope of the Condominium Authority Tribunal and the designation of two new administrative authorities, one for the Act the other for the CMSA. Comments are due by April 10, 2017. Continue reading