As you may have noticed, I have not blogged about COVID-19 much these past few months. This was an intentional decision based on a number of factors. The situation was evolving so quickly that it seemed like my advice was changing almost daily at times depending on the recent statistics, public health recommendations, emergency orders, and the law. I did not want to confuse or mislead people who might be reading the blog weeks or months later. Also, some people reported feeling overwhelmed by the number of articles, blog posts, and webinars on the topic. I felt it was unnecessary to add to the stress when so many others were doing such a great job publishing information about the subject. I am still frequently asked about COVID-19 resources for condominiums and owners, so today I am going to provide a list of some of the available resources. Continue reading
It was a pleasure for the Robson Carpenter team to see and chat with many familiar faces at the conference this past weekend. The conference was full of fantastic exhibitors and informative sessions on a broad spectrum of issues, challenges, and anticipated changes in the condominium industry. There were so many great speakers, panels, and topics in the various sessions that I often wished I could be in two places at once to listen in on concurrent sessions!
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite moments and takeaways from the conference:
Discussion of Security Issues
I particularly enjoyed the Q&A style insights, advice, and perspectives from the panel in “Palace or Prison: Security Through Environmental Design” with security topics ranging from lighting, mirrors, cameras, and signage, to communication systems for communities. Of note, the panel’s emphasis on unique situations and issues for different types of condominium communities from massive high rises to townhouse complexes was very engaging.
It was interesting, if unsurprising, to hear numerous speakers and people I interacted with on the tradeshow floor express ongoing frustration with the length and complexity of the new prescribed form. Clearly this form continues to be a source of frustration for managers, boards, and owners. On the bright side, representatives from the Condominium Authority of Ontario (“CAO”) did highlight they have created an information guide as well annotated sample proxies available on their website (link here https://www.condoauthorityontario.ca/en-US/resources/proxy-overview/ ) to assist owners in understanding how to fill out these forms. Hopefully more refinements to the form are planned by the government in the future.
CAO and CMRAO Statistics
Interesting numbers on the 1st Year of the CAO and Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (“CMRAO”) – representatives of the CAO and CMRAO shared some fascinating statistics about their respective 1st anniversary of operation:
- The CAO’s database estimates there are over 11,000 condominium corporations in Ontario. Of those, 85 % have registered with the CAO and 84% have provided the required returns (transitional and annual)
- Over 2,800 licensees registered with the CMRAO
- Over 300 condominium management companies with 3 companies employing over 100 property managers each.
The Condominium Authority Tribunal (“CAT”) which currently has jurisdiction over records disputes under section 55 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) already has 127 active cases. We previously posted about some of the first decisions released by CAT here (link).
There were some interesting questions and discussions in one session regarding condominium corporations that have passed by-laws increasing the quorum threshold from the 25% required by the Act for the 1st and 2nd attempts to call an owners meeting. My opinion, and one shared by a few other lawyers I have spoken to, is that the most recent amendments of the Act in subsection 50(1.2) have voided those higher quorums (ex. 33 1/3 %) thresholds in by-laws. Quorum can be no more than 25%. If a corporation wants to increase the threshold from 15% on the 3rd and subsequent attempts to call an owners meeting, the quorum increase is restricted to remaining at 25% by 50(1.2) of the Act.
On a final note, the exhibitors with booths that had a live-magician, hockey memorabilia collection, and handwriting analyst were captivating and very popular draws for many.
If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, don’t forget the Golden Horseshoe chapter of CCI has its annual conference coming up in the spring of 2019. We will have a booth and both Craig and Michelle will be speaking. Definitely something to look forward to attending as we slip into the winter season!
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.
You’ve probably heard by now that the dates have changed for implementing changes to the Condominium Act, 1998 (“Condo Act”), and various other pieces of legislation under the Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015 (also known as “Bill 106”). The start date was planned to be July 1, 2017 for some of the changes, but the Ontario government recently announced that the date has been pushed into the fall. Not surprisingly, the administrative authorities will be designated first with the implementation of most of the other changes coming in afterward. The new timeline is described below in more detail.