Canada: Fix Toilet Trouble To Keep Insurance Costs Down

Last Updated: April 29 2016
Article by Robert Noce

Q: Our townhouse condos were originally built with a particular brand and model of toilet that is known for faulty tanks that crack and leak without warning. This has occurred in two units. Many owners have replaced their toilets in light of this risk. Does the condominium corporation have the ability to require the remaining owners to address this problem?

A: Possibly. Given the fact that there have been at least two leaks in two units, I suspect your insurance company has been called upon to deal with the damages. If that is the case, and your insurer is aware of the faulty toilets, it may be in everyone's interest to encourage everyone to change their toilets in order to keep your insurance costs down. If there is an ongoing problem, I would not be surprised if your insurer writes a letter to you reminding you of the importance of changing this. Alternatively, the insurer may decide to cancel the insurance or increase the deductible.

Helpful Hint: I would strongly urge you to call a meeting of the owners to indicate to them the importance of replacing the toilets, and to warn them about the consequences of multiple insurance claims.

Q: Our condo board has recently learned that we are responsible for developing a policy to comply with the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). What should we cover in our policy?

A: Condominium corporations in Alberta are subject to PIPA, and must obtain consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. In addition, PIPA provides individuals with the right to access their own personal information. Condominium corporations must develop and follow policies and practices to meet their obligations under PIPA, and must designate an individual who is responsible for ensuring the condominium corporation complies with PIPA. This person is often referred to as a "privacy officer." You should ask your property manager to help you develop this policy. If you are self-managed, you may need the assistance of a lawyer or someone else who understands the privacy legislation.

Helpful Hint: There is a lot of important and helpful information on the Government of Alberta – Service Alberta website relating to PIPA.

Q: I am in the process of selling my apartment-style condominium. My realtor has asked for a long list of documents and information to provide to potential buyers. I ordered these documents from our property manager and was told that there is a cost of $215. I have some of the documents already, and do not think I should have to pay the entire amount. What do I need to know about reasonable fees?

A: Section 74 of the Condominium Property Act permits the condominium corporation to charge a reasonable fee to compensate for expenses it incurs in producing and providing a document required under the Act. It is difficult to answer your question without knowing exactly what documents the property manager will give (or has given) you. If the corporation can provide a reasonable rationale for charging these fees, there may not be anything you can do to challenge it. Therefore, my advice is that you pay for the documents in hopes that you will be able to recover some of those costs when you sell your unit.

Helpful Hint: The Condominium Property Act is pretty broad where it simply indicates a reasonable fee, and what may be reasonable to one person may be unreasonable to the next.

Q: We recently converted our conventional condo building into bare land condos. We amended our bylaws and advised homeowners that they needed their own insurance. As a follow-up, we sent a form to the owners asking them to confirm insurance coverage. As a board, what implications are there if someone does not have coverage, and what more could we have done?

A: Under the Condominium Property Act, condominium corporations must insure the common property. The corporation must also insure units that are located within a building. If the units are a bare land condominium, the corporation does not have to insure the units, unless the bylaws expressly say so. From your question, it would appear that you have amended your bylaws to make it clear that the condominium corporation is not insuring the units. The implications for someone not having insurance — which is their requirement — means that if there is a fire in their unit, no one will come to their rescue. They will be personally responsible for the damages to their unit and to other units. The consequences are significant. 

Helpful Hint: Insurance is so important that this would be the appropriate time to get legal assistance. Because the consequences are so significant and real, I would strongly urge you to talk to your lawyer and get a legal opinion to ensure that you have done everything correctly and in accordance with the law to protect the condominium corporation and owners.

Q: I sit on the board of our condo building. We recently found out that a rental company owns a few of the units in our building and is renting them out on a weekly basis. Is this legal?

A: In order to determine whether or not short-term leases are permitted in your building, one would need to review your bylaws. I must also indicate to you that the law is not clear on this point, as renting out units on a short-term basis — through Air B&B and other similar short-term rental organizations — is fairly new. The condominium corporation's success in preventing short-term renting would be a question of enforcement and compliance. With respect to zoning, review your land use bylaw to determine if there is any use category that talks about short-term rentals. Given the concerns that you have raised about short-term rentals, I would strongly urge you to seek legal advice on whether or not your bylaws have been crafted in a way to prevent these types of rentals and, if so, what you need to do to enforce your bylaws.

Helpful Hint: Short-term rentals are new, and the courts have really not provided any guidance to condominium corporations as to how they are to be interpreted.

Previously published in the Edmonton Journal

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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