Canada's Condominium Magazine
The government of Ontario is asking condo owners and other interested parties for their input regarding coming regulatory changes to the Condominium Act. The Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015 (PCOA) was passed in December, 2015. It includes the Condominium Management Services Act (CMSA). The public has until March 30 to comment on proposed regulations for implementing the changes (see links below). The proposed changes are planned to come into force beginning on July 1, 2017.
The government began its review of the Condominium Act in 2012 with a series of public consultations. From the beginning, as the name of the act indicates, it has focused on the consumer protection aspects of the law, improving the way condos are run and managed, and strengthening their financial sustainability.
Consultations showed that many condo owners are very concerned about the lack of communication between condo boards and owners. Often owners are surprised to learn that there are outstanding legal judgements against their corporation and that there could be serious financial implications for them as a result. Many owners complained that their boards did not keep them informed in a timely manner about such matters as the costs of ongoing renovations and repairs or the state of the corporation’s reserve fund. Many said they felt left out of the decision-making process in their communities.
The first phase of the changes therefore deals with communications. Boards will have to provide mandatory financial updates about their operations, referred to as “periodic information certificates” (PIC), as well as general information updates when needed, as when there is a change in the directors of the board. Boards will have fifteen days to provide new owners with all of the most recent information updates. All three of these information certificates will be standardized by the government and posted on the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services website.
Dispute resolution a key concern of condo owners
A power imbalance between owners and their boards was identified by many as the single biggest flaw in the existing law, according to the government. Owners said that they felt powerless when they disagreed with their board, or when they believed the board was acting inappropriately. At present, owners can resort to mediation, arbitration or the courts for resolving disputes with their boards, but owners face several disadvantages. Boards can hire expensive legal counsel, and they can prevent owners from seeing important documents and information.
The new law addresses this imbalance, says the government, by proposing new dispute resolution measures that will speed the process and make it fairer and more effective for owners. It has proposed setting up an arm’s length Condo Office that would take responsibility for dispute resolution. The law also proposes ways in which condo owners can more easily add or amend by-laws once issues have been resolved, if that is deemed appropriate.
Those wishing to become condo directors after the new law takes effect will have to meet new requirements, including certain disclosure obligations pertaining to corporation-related legal proceedings or business matters the candidate or his/her family may be involved in.
Follow these links to add your comment on the proposed regulations:
Thinking of buying a condo?
Here are some questions that all condo owners should discuss when reviewing the condo declaration, by-laws and rules with their lawyer, real estate agent or accountant:
- how are my condo fees determined? (the fees that cover the costs of keeping the common elements and amenities in good repair and pay for services such as security and cleaning)
- do the declaration, by-laws and rules of the condominium suit my lifestyle? (some condominiums limit the size and number of pets or prohibit certain pets altogether)
- what are the boundaries of my unit?
- are the windows and doors part of my unit?
- is the roof part of my unit in a townhouse complex?
- are any of the pipes behind the drywall part of my unit? (in most cases, you will be responsible for and required to maintain and repair your own unit)
- what are my repair and maintenance responsibilities?
- am I responsible for the maintenance of my heating and cooling equipment?
- if a pipe leaks behind the wall, is it my responsibility to repair?
- if I have exclusive use of a yard, deck or fence, am I responsible for maintaining and repairing them?
- should I consider getting extra insurance?
- what does the corporation’s standard insurance cover? (it is important to understand what you are responsible for and if you would like to get your own insurance coverage)
- is there enough money in the reserve fund?
- are there any planned expenditures? (it is important to know the financial health of the corporation to help assess what your condo fees will be)
- how many rental and/or mixed-use units are there? (condo owners who rent out their units as an investment may not share the same interests as owners who live in the building)
- is there a shared facilities agreement with another condominium or property? (some condominium properties may share amenities with others)
- are there commercial units? (this means that residents will need to share the building with stores and businesses)