Disability & Dogs: Has the Pendulum Swung Back?

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A few years ago there was a lot of talk of a Superior Court case involving a woman and her dog. There was a 25 lb weight restriction. Her dog was well over 25 lbs. The woman initially claimed she needed the dog for her work with autistic children, but later claimed she needed the dog because of her own disability. She obtained a doctor’s note that indicated she required the dog for “emotional needs”. The condominium asked for permission to talk to the woman’s physician, but she refused so the condominium rejected her request for accommodation and initiated an application for an order requiring her to remove the dog from the property. The judge found there was insufficient evidence of a disability or any medical reason for the dog to reside in the unit. The judge also stated that the condominium fulfilled its obligation and that it could not be blamed for her refusal to cooperate in the process. The judge ordered the dog removed and awarded costs of $47,000 to the condominium.

The case was hailed by some as the solution to the generic one-sentence doctor’s notes  (i.e. ones from a walk-in clinic or other physician who has spent only a few minutes with the person; ones that do not describe the disability or how the dog is required to accommodate the disability). Others were more cautious about the applicability of the case to other situations. You can read a previous post about the case here: https://ontcondolaw.com/2015/06/24/dog-restrictions-and-disabilities/

Does a recent Human Rights Tribunal decision indicate that the pendulum is swinging away from the case?

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Mental Health in Condos

January 28th, 2016 was Bell Let’s Talk Day. It is a multi-year initiative to raise awareness, acceptance and action for mental health issues. This year alone it raised over $6 million. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day I thought that I would write about mental health issues in condominiums.

Mental health in condominiums is an issue that is likely to increase in  frequency as living in condominiums becomes the norm. The aging population will also make it an important issue as certain mental health issues (i.e. alzheimer’s and dementia) are more common as we age.  The symptoms may include memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, delusions, depression, anxiety, or aggression.  Continue reading

Top Condo Lessons of 2015

As 2016 approaches I find myself reflecting on the most important news, cases, and other events from this past year. Here is my list of the most important condo lessons for 2015:

10. Limitation Periods. The limitation period for enforcing a shared facilities agreement in Ontario appears to be 10 years: Toronto Standard C.C. No. 1487 v. Market Lofts Inc. The limitation period for challenging a special assessment is 2 years and the period begins when the special assessment is levied, not when it is due:  Vasilescu et al. v. Metropolitan Toronto C.C. No. 626.

9.  Noise Issues. An owner does not have a right to absolute quiet in their unit; the other owners are entitled to make ordinary residential use of their units without fear of enforcement efforts by the condominium: Dyke v. Metropolitan Toronto C.C. No. 972. However, it can be oppressive for a condominium to ignore noise complaints, especially when its own experts indicate that there is a problem: Wu v. Peel C.C. No. 245.

8.  Scheduling Meetings. Condominiums ought to be mindful of religious holidays or special events when selecting dates or times for owners’ meetings: Kamal v. Peel C.C. No. 51 (no decision released yet).

7.  Directors’s duties. A director may be found to have breached their duties when he/she publicly opposes a decision made by the board in a way that is not in the best interests of the condominium: Ballingall et al. v. Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 111.

6. Fraud. More property mangers were charged with fraud this year. Condominiums in Hamilton and Burlington were hit hardest. All directors and owners should be diligent when reviewing financial records of the condominium; hire only trustworthy managers; and ask the auditor and bank reps for tips to avoid fraud.

5. Bed bugs are dangerous condition. An owner who fails to address a bed bug infestation (or hoarding) can be found to have breached their duties under the Act and declaration and the owner may be responsible for all of the condominium’s costs: Carleton C.C. No. 25 v. Eagan.

4.  Grandfathering. A clause in a new rule may grandfather existing violations, but it must be reasonable (10 years was not in this case) and consistent with the declaration: Ballingall et al. v. Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 111.

3.  Disabilities must be proven. An owner cannot make a bare assertion of pain or anxiety to substantiate a disability claim and a request for accommodation; the condominium is entitled to request evidence of the disability, a description of the needs of the disability, and an explanation of how the requested accommodation meets those needs: Simcoe C.C. No. 89 v. Dominelli.

2.  Court Costs. The courts continued to express concern for claims by condominiums trying to recover excessive legal costs from owners for enforcement matters. See here and here. But Owners should be careful not to make claims that they can’t substantiate or they may be responsible for the large legal bills of their condominium.

And not surprisingly, the top news event of 2015 is…

1.   The passage of the Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015 (Bill 106). In April the Ontario government confirmed that the Condominium Act, 1998 would be amended in 2015. In May the proposed amendments to the Act were revealed. In December the Bill received royal assent. It is not yet in force as the government needs time to create the regulations and organizational structure (i.e. tribunal), but many estimates say it will be in force later in 2016 or early 2017.

Dog Restrictions and Disabilities

I am regularly asked by clients to assist them with enforcement of dog restrictions (i.e. weight limits) or complete prohibitions in a condominium’s documents. Sometimes an owner will claim that he or she needs the dog because of a disability. The mere mention of the word (disability) immediately increases the anxiety felt by the board and manager. It seems many owners are aware of this anxiety-inducing affect and use the word without regard for its actual legal meaning. There was a recent case where an owner did just that, but the condominium refused to back down without adequate evidence of her disability.

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The Condominium’s Duty Regarding Hoarding (Part 1)

We have probably all seen an episode of, or at least a commercial for, one of the various hoarding shows on television these days. The shows depict a person or family living in unimaginable conditions with piles of goods, garbage, and who knows what else. I have even heard of an episode where several of the hoarder’s cats were missing in the home. The cats were found dead among the debris.

In Ontario, hoarding became a hot topic after a fire in a Toronto apartment caused the evacuation of over 1000 people, injured several, and caused millions of dollars in damage. The unit was occupied by a hoarder and all it took was a single cigarette being tossed on the balcony, which was full of combustible material, to start the fire. During the clean-up they found several other units in the same building with hoarders. Continue reading