One of the defining aspects of the amended Condominium Act will be the establishment of the Condominium Authority Tribunal.
Similar to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, condominium owners will now have the right to file a "complaint" with the Condominium Authority Tribunal with respect to the conduct of his or her condominium corporation.
On first blush, this makes a lot of sense. If an owner, for example, is trying to obtain documents from property management, and the request is being denied, the new Condominium Authority Tribunal should be able to order a quick resolution, with minimal cost. In this example, there should be no reason for either the condominium corporation nor the owner to retain legal counsel, and the overall costs should be minimal for both parties.
While there will be some disputes that will play out in a civilized, inexpensive manner, my experience as a condominium litigator has taught me that this kind of example is the exception, rather than the rule.
I have seen very few disputes over the years that I would deem as "routine," or "uncontested." If, for example, a condominium corporation sends an enforcement letter to an owner due to ongoing noise complaints, the hope is that the owner agrees to alleviate the problem, and not require the condominium corporation to engage outside counsel. Unfortunately, this is not the practical reality. If property management sends two letters and is ignored by an owner or tenant, I would be asked to send a demand letter to the defaulting owner. Most Declarations permit condominium corporations to charge back the legal costs it was forced to incur to enforce its Rules and Declaration. The rationale is that other owners should not be forced to pay costs relating to one owner's non-compliance with the governing documents.
In this example, even if the noise disputes are 100% uncontested, the new Condominium Authority Tribunal will allow the owner in question to take this "dispute" to the Tribunal and challenge any charge-back by the condominium. This will then force the condominium corporation to hold off charging back (and thus collecting) its legal costs. The condominium corporation will also likely retain its own lawyer to defend its position before the Tribunal. While the Tribunal is not yet operational, I suspect this kind of "straightforward" dispute could easily get dragged out for 6-12 months.
While it is very hard to be critical of a system that is not yet in place, I have strong reservations about adding more red-tape, delays and costs to resolve condominium disputes.
I would presume that the Tribunal will establish a mechanism to resolve certain disputes on a summary basis. Unfortunately, I would not be surprised to see full day hearings for noise and pet disputes, which would not be a great use of time and resources.
I hope that these concerns are taken into account when the Tribunal begins accepting complaints, and that owners and tenants will not find ways to take advantage of the system, to the detriment of his or her condominium corporation.
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This article is intended to be an overview and is for informational purposes only.