Whose Notice is it Anyway?

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The Condominium Act, 1998 provides that an owner is entitled to notice when a condominium corporation takes action to perfect and enforce a lien, however, the recent decision in Mei Ki Ching v Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 203 demonstrates that a spouse that is not a registered owner of a unit may be entitled to the same notice.

Facts

  • McIntosh (the “Owner”) is the sole registered owner of a unit within the condominium plan (the “Unit”);
  • Ching (the “Spouse”) is not a registered owner of the Unit;
  • The Unit was the matrimonial home of the Owner and Spouse;
  • The Owner and Spouse separated in July of 2014;
  • The Owner continued to occupy the unit after separation;
  • In May of 2015, the Spouse registered a designation that the unit was the matrimonial home (the “DMH”);
  • The DMH contained the Spouse’s name and current address;
  • In March of 2017 the Owner defaulted in the Owner’s contributions to the common expenses of the condominium corporation;
  • In March of 2017 the condominium corporation began taking steps to perfect and enforce its lien in accordance with the Condominium Act, 1998;
  • The condominium corporation eventually takes possession of the Unit; and
  • After the condominium corporation took possession of the Unit the Spouse obtained an order granting her exclusive possession of the Unit and vesting the Unit in her name.

The Decision

The Family Law Act, 1990 makes it clear that each spouse has an equal entitlement to the matrimonial home and to give effect to such equal entitlement, a spouse with the right of possession in the matrimonial homes has the same right of redemption or relief against forfeiture as the other spouse and is entitled to the same notice respecting the claim and its enforcement or realization.  The provisions of the Family Law Act, 1990 further required the condominium corporation to provide notice to the Spouse at the usual or last known address of the Spouse or, if none, the address of the matrimonial home.

Despite being aware of the Spouse’s current address because of the registration of the DMH, the condominium corporation failed to provide notice to the Spouse when it took actions to perfect and enforce the lien.

The Court found because reasonable inquiries (in this case, a title search for a nominal fee) by the condominium corporation could have made the name and current address of the Spouse known to the condominium corporation, the condominium corporation was required to provide the Spouse with same notice that was provided to the owner respecting the lien and its enforcement.

Because of the condominium corporation’s failure to provide the required notice, the Court found the lien to be invalid against the Spouse, although the Spouse was required to make certain payments towards common expenses, a special assessment, and late fees.

The Issue for Condominium Corporations Generally

In this case, the DMH provided the condominium corporation with all the information it required to effect proper notice on the Spouse.  Other than a title search, which, absent the registration of a DMH would likely not provide a condominium corporation with the necessary information to determine if there is a spousal interest in the unit, the Court provides no guidance as to what efforts a condominium corporation must take to be considered to have made reasonable inquiries.

Is a condominium corporation to make inquiries of the registered owner? Search marriage records? Contact the lawyer that acted on behalf of the owner when such owner purchased the property?

In the absence of any information about a spouse, will it be sufficient to address all notices to the registered owner and spouse (i.e. John Smith and Spouse) and send them to the unit or the registered owner’s address for service?

There is no doubt reasonable inquiries will depend on the particular circumstances that surround a condominium corporation’s enforcement efforts but, the industry may not get guidance as to when the inquiries of a condominium corporation are reasonable in the circumstances until a similar case is decided.

Switching from Snail Mail to Email

MailThe first round of amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, are scheduled to come into force on November 1, 2017. As you likely know, many of the changes will require more frequent (and voluminous) communications to owners. This extra paperwork could be very costly to produce in paper and deliver by mail. As such, now might be the time for most condominiums to switch to electronic means to deliver notices to owners. Electronic means is usually email, but it could be via fax, community website, or another method of communicating electronically.

What’s involved in electronic delivery of notices?

Continue reading

Draft Reg#2 – Part 3

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The draft regulations also address issues like notices of meeting, voting, quorum, board meetings by electronic means, and voting thresholds for by-laws.

Notices of Meetings

The regulations set out the detail for the preliminary notice that must be sent to owners before an owners’ meeting. It details the type of information about candidates for director positions, candidates for auditors, and other material that owners want to be included (so long as 15% of the owners request it and it is not contrary to the Act or regulations). The preliminary notice will be a standardized form.

One thorny issue will continue to be requisition meetings. Since the amendments to the requisition process will not be included in the first phase of amendments, but the changes to the notice of meeting sections will be, it means that the board only has 5 days to send a preliminary notice of meeting after it receives the requisition. For example, if the requisition is received on January 10, the preliminary notice must be sent by January 14, the notice of meeting by January 29, and the meeting held on February 13. There would be no margin for error in sending out the notices or the meeting would be held beyond the period required by the Act (35 days from the receipt of the requisition).

It is intended that the regulations would come into force on July 1, 2017, but they would only apply to meetings held 40 days or more after the regulations come into force and for those where notice has not been sent.

Voting & Quorum

As you may know, quorum for meetings will be changed by the amendments to the Act. Quorum for owners meetings will be satisfied by: 1) 25% of the owners represented at the first and second attempts to hold the meeting; or 2) 15% of owners at subsequent attempts.

The regulations also require every condominium to have a standard provision in its by-law that no person voting by ballot, proxy, or electronic means, would be required to identify his name or the unit in which the vote is cast. There will be mandatory proxy forms for owners’ meetings instead of the optional forms used now.

In addition, there will be a lower threshold for voting for certain by-laws (i.e. to change the content for information certificates and notices, to add extra disclosure obligations for directors). Instead of a majority of all owners, the threshold would be lower: a majority of votes cast at the meeting.

These changes should be in force on July 1, 2017, but it would only apply to meetings held 40 days or more after the new quorum and voting sections of the Act come into force.

Interesting decision on material change from 40% increase in monthly fees

A new case sheds some light on the requirements for notice of a material change. Section 74 of the Act requires the developer to notify purchasers of material changes in any information contained or required to be contained in a disclosure statement.

In 2009 the purchasers agreed to buy a unit in the Trump Hotel from the developer. The closing date was to be in 2010. An amendment was agreed upon that extended the closing date to March 31, 2012 at the latest. In early 2012 the developer’s lawyer provided the closing documents to the purchasers’ lawyer. The purchasers’ lawyer noticed that the common expenses for the unit had increased from $1,775 per month in the original documents to $2,472 per month in the closing documents. The purchasers’ lawyer wrote to the developer’s lawyer about the difference and argued that it constituted a material change that required the developer to provide notice or a revised disclosure statement. The purchasers terminated the agreement, but the developer refused to return the deposit.

The purchasers commenced a proceeding against the developer. The purchasers argued that the developer’s lawyer had set a closing date, extended it and the developer failed to close by the closing date in the agreement. The developer argued that it had not extended the closing date. The purchasers sought an order requiring the developer to pay back the deposits paid, being $228,250. The developer sought a declaration that the deposits were forfeited.

The court found that the developer’s lawyer had authority under the agreement to extend the closing date and had done so by his communications to the purchasers’ lawyer. The court also found that the purchasers relied upon the communications of the developer’s lawyer to their detriment.

The most interesting portion of the case (for me at least) was that the developer argued that the purchasers should have invoked section 74 of the Act to rescind the agreement, and since they did not they were in breach of contract for failing to close. However, the court noted that the triggering event for rescission in section 74 of the Act is delivery of a revised disclosure statement or notice. The developer argued that the statement of adjustments provided to the purchasers’ lawyer by its lawyer prior to the proposed closing date was sufficient. The court disagreed and found that the purchasers were entitled to rescission since the triggering event (i.e. a revised disclosure statement or a notice of a material change) never occurred, which means the time period for rescinding the agreement had not begun.

The purchasers were entitled to their deposits back plus interest. Costs have not been decided.

This case is important for any developers, purchasers, and their lawyers since there are specific requirements for notice of a material change under section 74 that must be followed. A simple letter from the developer’s lawyer to the purchasers or their lawyer may not suffice.