Canada Day Celebrations!

canada day.jpgI love this time of year. AGM season is almost over. It is hot and sunny; perfect weather for golfing, relaxing by the pool, or going to the beach. And Canada Day is just around the corner! With the 150-year celebrations planned across the country this year’s festivities should be spectacular. More flags. More fireworks. More friends. More family. More celebratory drinks. However you like to celebrate, this year should be a memorable one!

Unfortunately, large celebrations often mean more condo disputes. “My neighbour’s flag blocks my sunlight”. One of the tenants lights fireworks off his 12th-floor balcony. And of course, one of the most common complaints regardless of the time of year, noise and loud parties. No one wants to stop people from having fun, but it can be difficult for a board to balance the competing interests in a condo setting. Here are some suggestions to make this year’s festivities fabulous.

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Condo Children

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What do you think about raising children in condominiums? It seems everyone has an opinion about it. Most write about the perceived cons of condo living, like having no backyard. Recently, I’ve read several articles (like this one and this one) that focused on the positives of condo living for children, like amazing amenities (i.e. pools, games rooms), unique opportunities (i.e. cooking classes, swimming lessons), and large, supportive communities.

While condo living can provide great opportunities for children and families, it can also create a host of problems for condo boards and managers. Noise complaints. Children running around at all hours. Pressing all of the elevator buttons. Some children are little tornados left free to cause destruction and chaos. With a little effort by everyone, condos can be a great place to raise children.

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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.

Condo oppressed owner when it failed to address noise

You have probably all read about the oppression remedy in section 135 of the Act. As a recap, section 135 allows an owner, corporation, declarant or mortgagee of a unit to make an application to the courts where the conduct of another owner, corporation, declarant or mortgagee of a unit “is or threatens to be oppressive or unfairly prejudicial to the applicant or unfairly disregards the interests of the applicant.” The purpose of the oppression remedy is to protect legitimate expectations from conduct that is unlawful or, even if lawful, is considered unfair or oppressive. The legitimate expectations must be balanced against competing interests, such as the board’s duty to make decisions on repair or maintenance. The section has been described as “awesome” because it gives the judge the power to make any order he or she deems proper.

Although oppression has been claimed many times since section 135’s inclusion in the Act, very few of the applicants have been successful. Successful cases involve a declarant that refuses to relinquish control of the condominium or where a decision is made that is unfair to a minority group of owners. However, this week a decision was released where an owner was successful against the condominium not because of a decision made or an action taken, but because of the condominium’s inadequate response to the owner’s complaints.

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Noisy Neighbour or Overwhelmed Owner?

The Court has had another opportunity to rule in the never-ending saga of Dyke v. Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corporation No. 972The owner brought a motion for contempt and other relief. The main question on the contempt motion was whether the condominium and its board of directors or agents disregarded, intentionally violated, or otherwise flouted the previous court order that required the condominium to take reasonable steps to ensure that the owner would have quiet enjoyment of her unit.

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