Grandparenting Not Required for Rule to Be Reasonable

man holding cigarette

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A recent application (Wellington Condominium Corporation No. 31 v. Silberberg) before the Superior Court considered whether a condominium corporation’s newly enacted rule prohibiting smoking within the common elements of the condominium plan was unreasonable.

The Facts

The facts of the dispute are not complicated:

  • The owner of a unit (the “Owner”) had been smoking on the balcony adjacent to the Owner’s unit (the “Balcony”) since first occupying the unit in 2009;
  • There was no rule prohibiting such activity until, in response to complaints of smoke migration, the condominium corporation proposed a new rule that prohibited smoking within the common elements (including the exclusive use balconies) of the condominium plan;
  • The proposed rule did not prohibit smoking in the units of the condominium plan;
  • The condominium corporation held a meeting of owners after receiving an invalid request for same;
  • Some owners requested the Rule be amended so it would not be enforced against those occupants that smoked in the common elements prior to the rule coming into effect;
  • A majority of eligible owners voted not to amend the rule as proposed by the condominium corporation;
  • The rule came into effect June 21st, 2018 and read as follows:

Smoking of any kind, including without limitation by using vaporizers or e-cigarettes is not permitted in any part of the common elements or exclusive use balconies at any time.

(the “Rule”);

  • The Owner admittedly continued to smoke on the Balcony after June 21st, 2018 and believed the condominium corporation could not stop him from doing so;
  • The condominium corporation contacted the Owner demanding compliance with the Rule;
  • Counsel for the condominium corporation sent multiple letters to the Owner/Owner’s counsel demanding compliance with the Rule; and
  • The Owner continued to smoke on the Balcony.

 

The Application

The Court was asked to consider 3 issues:

  1. Is the Balcony unit or exclusive use common elements?
  2. Was the Rule properly passed?
  3. Is the Rule reasonable?

Is the Balcony unit or exclusive use common elements?

The Court was satisfied that the Balcony was an exclusive use common elements area of the condominium plan.

The Owner alleged the Balcony or a portion of the Balcony was owned exclusively by the Owner.  Other than the viva voce evidence of the Owner during cross examination, photos of the Balcony, and the Owner’s sketch of the Balcony depicting its dimensions, the Owner offered no evidence to support this assertion.

The Court preferred the wording found in the condominium corporation’s declaration that provides:

the Owner of each Unit shall have the exclusive use of that portion or portions of the Exclusive Use Common Elements as set out in Schedule “F” attached hereto.

Schedule F to the condominium corporation’s declaration provides:

The Owner of each Unit shall have the exclusive use of any balcony to which the Unit shall provide direct and sole access as shown on Parts 1, Sheets 2 and 3.

The Court found that “[a]bsent some modifying words in the [declaration] itself, balcony should be taken to mean the whole balcony”.  The Court went on to find that this interpretation was supported by the design of the Balcony and found no evidence to otherwise support the assertion that the Owner has exclusive ownership of part of the Balcony.

Was the Rule properly passed?

The Court found the Rule was properly passed.

As the Owners attended the meeting of owners by proxy, the Court was satisfied subsection 47(9) of the Condominium Act, 1998 prevented the Owner from objecting to a failure of the condominium corporation to give the required notice.  With respect to the meeting itself, the Court was satisfied that the uncontradicted minutes of the meeting of owners included in the condominium corporation’s application materials disclosed that a quorum of owners was present at the meeting of owners and that the Rule passed without amendment.

Is the Rule reasonable?

After recognizing the Court should only interfere with a rule properly enacted by a condominium corporation where such rule is clearly unreasonable, the Court was satisfied the condominium corporation had a reasonable basis for enacting the Rule.  The Court found that:

  1. given the current legislative environment, it was not unreasonable for the condominium corporation to impose further restrictions on smoking within the condominium plan;
  2. it was not unreasonable for the condominium corporation to regulate smoking in areas where fumes could affect other units;
  3. given the broader public context, the Rule was reasonable in and of itself;
  4. owners had an opportunity to discuss the proposed rule at a meeting of owners; and
  5. there had been complaints about smoke migration.

The Court then went on to consider whether the Rule was unreasonable for want of “grandparenting” occupants that smoked within the common elements prior to the Rule coming into effect.  The Court concluded that a period of grandparenting for the Rule was not necessary as such was not required by the Condominium Act, 1998.

The Court went on to note that the Owner was permitted to smoke within the Owner’s unit and that the Rule did not prohibit the Owner from smoking within the entire condominium plan.  Further, the Court as in Thunder Bay Condominium Corporation No. 15 v Ewen, found the Owner could walk off the condominium plan and smoke there.  The Court went on to state that including a grandparenting provision in the Rule would defeat the purpose of the Rule – to prevent smoke migration – and that the Rule does not contain any grandparenting provisions is neither unexpected nor unreasonable.

The Court concluded that the Rule was entirely reasonable and did not leave the Owners without options.

Takeaway

This decision illustrates that reasonableness is highly context dependent.  The decision clearly demonstrates that the Court will consider the broader legislative and public context in making a determination as to whether a rule is reasonable.

Although the Court concluded that a grandparenting provision was not required in this instance, it is essential to note that the circumstances surrounding the Rule appear to have had significant value to the Court in reaching its decision.  Further, the Court concluded that grandparenting in this context would defeat the purpose of the Rule.

It remains possible that a grandparenting provision could be required where:

  1. such a provision would not defeat the purpose of the rule; or
  2. the rule prohibits an activity in its entirety.

Further still, condominium corporations may wish to consider including a grandparenting provision for political purposes – to ensure a majority of eligible owners will vote in support of the proposed rule should the condominium corporation receive a requisition for a meeting of owners to vote on the rule.

Tips for Owners Requisitioning Meetings

competition dispute goats

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Requisition meetings can be a source of anxiety for many directors, managers, and owners. In my experience, the conduct of the parties during the preliminary steps of the requisition process can exacerbate the anxiety and cause a great deal tension, hostility, and bickering at the meeting. We previously wrote about the requirements for requisition meetings (here) and the practical tips (here) for condominiums in responding to requisition requests. Today, I thought that I would share some tips for owners requisitioning meetings. Continue reading

Condo Chat: What do you want to see for future amendments?

stencil.default (3)Today I thought I would write about something a little different – it’s my wish list for the next round of amendments and changes to the regulations. Here they are in no specific order:

  1. Amalgamation for condominiums that are not standard. The amendments to the Act that have come into force make me believe this might be on the horizon, but the regulations still require the condominiums to be standard ones.  I understand the rationale for not combining different types of condominiums, but why restrict the ability only to standard condominiums? Six common elements condominiums should be able to amalgamate without much difficulty.
  2. Public database for managers. Many professional organizations, like the Law Society of Ontario, have a public database that people can search for  information on the licensees. It would be nice if the CMRAO had the same for managers. This would make it easier for people to search for information, such as their licences, about their managers without calling the CMRAO.
  3. Director training in formats other than online. This one is already possible as the authority has been delegated to the CAO. There are condominiums losing knowledgeable and experienced directors because they do not want to (or cannot) complete the training online. Why not allow a organization like CCI to offer training? The CAO could require accreditation of all programs just like the Law Society of Ontario does for the program to count toward our a lawyer’s continuing education requirement. ACMO still plays a role for managers. CCI has been a pivotal organization in educating directors for decades across the country. Why not allow them to continue to do what they do?
  4. More time to call a requisition meeting. The amendments to the Act make it very difficult for a condominium that receives a requisition to hold the meeting within the 35 day period required by the Act. While there is a provision that allows the condominium to send the preliminary notice out to owners 15 days before the notice of meeting, instead of 20 days, this still isn’t enough time in many cases. Currently, the Board only has a few days to review the requisition with its lawyer, find a location for the meeting, confirm the availability of everyone who needs to be there, and have the manager to prepare and distribute the preliminary notice to all of the owners. This is a transitional period issue as the timeline will change once further amendments are in place, but the transition period is taking much longer than expected so it would be nice if this amendment was prioritized for the next round.

These are just a few of the issues I’d like to see prioritized for the next round of amendments. Only time will tell when the next phase of amendments will come into force as there has been no press release from the new government with respect to its plans for the condominium industry. I’d love to hear from you. What do you want to see in the next round?

Amendment Issue: Requisition Meetings

lecture

I previously wrote about the changes coming to section 46 of the Act related to requisition meetings (https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/03/27/changes-are-coming-requisitions/). To recap, the biggest changes are: 1) a prescribed form for requisitions; 2) a prescribed process for communicating with the requisitionists; 3) a longer period of time to call and hold the meeting; and 4) the elimination of the owners’ right to call the meeting if the condominium refuses to do so.

The changes to section 46 of the Act that address requisition meetings have not yet come into force and a date has not been released. This means section 46 (as it was prior to the amendments) continues to apply while other related changes have been implemented, such as those for calling and holding meetings of the owners. Therein lies the problem. Continue reading

End of Year Recap: Top Posts of 2017

2017Like I did last year, I thought that I would again share the five most popular posts of 2017. With so much talk this year about marijuana, prostitution, electric vehicles, and other hot topics, I assumed that those topics would dominate the list, but that was not the case. Interestingly, three of the top five posts were also on the list for 2016 (albeit in different positions). Will the trend continue next year? Only time will tell.  Continue reading

Recap: Requisition Meetings

meetingI’ve had a few questions about requisition meetings recently so I thought I would take some time today to make a few comments about them.

First, a requisition does not always mean that the owners distrust the board or think they are doing a bad job. Often, in my experience, the owners simply want more information than they feel they have been given. Sometimes the information requested was previously provided to the owners, which can be a big source of frustration for directors and managers. Try not to take it personally. The information may have been misplaced or forgotten, or they may not have understood the information provided and need clarification. Whatever the reason, consider the meeting an opportunity to discuss issues and find creative solutions to problems.

Second, preparation is the key to a successful requisition meeting. There is nothing more frustrating to the owners than attending a requisition meeting only to find the board does not have answers to any of the questions asked by the owners in the requisition. This will lead to a heated and lengthy meeting. Take a few hours before the meeting to review the relevant documents, talk to the necessary contractors or professionals, and consider preparing any visual aids or handouts that might assist.

Third, pick a venue that works well for a requisition. If the requisition is likely to result in a volatile meeting, such as where the removal of directors is sought, pick a neutral location such as a common room or your local library. Don’t hold the meeting in an owner’s unit. Also, consider if security guards or off-duty police should be hired for the meeting to ensure that all attendees are safe. This shouldn’t be necessary for most meetings, but I have been to meetings where I was glad they were there!

Finally, consider if other people, such as contractors and professionals, should be invited to the meeting. If the requisition mentions issues with a major repair project, it might be a good idea to have the engineer present. Sometimes a lawyer might be a good idea, such as where there are complex legal issues to discuss, but other times the lawyer’s presence might create a hostile environment for the meeting. It isn’t necessary to have a lawyer attend or chair the meeting; the lawyer should only be invited if his or her presence will assist in some way.

For more information, see my previous posts on requisitions:

 

Requisitions – not all bad

We want to remove the board because we want to fire the manager

Changes are Coming – Requisitions

Changes are Coming – Requisitions

 

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One of the most contentious sections of the Condominium Act, 1998,  is section 46, which is the right of owners to requisition a meeting of owners. Given the number of cases on the requisition right (most of which dealt with improper denials of valid requisitions), it is no wonder section 46 was one of the sections targeted by the government for a significant overhaul. In fact, section 46 will be repealed in its entirety and replaced with a very different process.

The amendments to the Act are designed to reduce disputes regarding the form and content of requisitions. The process is more clearly described and prescribed forms will be required. If a dispute arises, it will be up to the Tribunal to make a decision and if the Tribunal is not established, it will be up to the Superior Court of Justice to make a decision (which is the process used now in most cases).

Continue reading

End of Year Recap: Most Popular Posts

clock.jpgAs the end of the year approaches, I like to look back at the lessons that I’ve learned (both in my personal and professional life). Over the next two weeks, I’ll share some of those lessons with you. For now, I thought that I’d share the most popular posts of 2016. Surprisingly, none of this year’s most popular posts were actually written in 2016.

5. Making Entry to a Unit

An oldie, but a goodie. This post from 2014 describes the requirements for making entry to a unit or exclusive use common elements: reasonable notice; at a reasonable time; and for purposes related to the objects and duties of the corporation.

Continue reading

“We want to remove the board because we want to fire the manager”

So, this won’t be like my usual posts where I share a recent case or discuss a section of the Condominium Act, 1998. Today I’m going on a rant about the relationships between owners, directors, and managers.

Last night I attended another requisition meeting. Nothing out of the ordinary about a requisition meeting; the best managed condominiums can have them from time to time. They are often a result of owners feeling in the dark about an issue and wanting more information. However, in this case the requisition was to remove a majority of the directors, which usually signals bigger issues. I can’t identify the parties involved because of privilege, but one of the reasons the owners sought removal of the directors was that the owners wanted to terminate the property management company and the directors refused or failed to do so. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this as a reason for a requisition to remove the board of directors. It seems to be a trend in recent years. Continue reading

Top Condo Cases of 2014

The courts have been busy this year! While that is good news for law bloggers, it means far too many condominiums are spending money on lawyers when they could be spending it on solutions. Here are the highlights from cases in Ontario:

10. Declarants may use s.152(6) of the Condominium Act, 1998 to regain control of phased condominiums years after they became entitled to request a meeting of owners to elect a new board. Such conduct may not be oppressive, even when the reason for the request was to end litigation started by the condominium against the declarant: Middlesex 643 v. Prosperity Homes LimitedContinue reading