We wrote about condo meetings and election pitfalls in the past (see HERE and HERE) but those articles focused on “what happens at the meeting/election”. A recent Superior Court decision highlights the dangers of poor meeting notices – these meetings were essentially dead before they hit the ground.
We saw “condo meeting” cases before the court in 2021, seeking procedural directions or injunctions to stop them.
For each case that made it to a judge, more cases were negotiated between condo lawyers and owner lawyers, at a cost to both parties. The negotiations often aimed for meeting transparency from notice through vote tabulation.
The Condo Act is silent on many issues management, boards and owners face in navigating meeting minefields. We turn to rules of order, past practice and common sense. Here are some of the common questions and issues we have recently encountered.
A Toronto condominium is making headlines after levying a $14 million special assessment. The condo’s 321 units were given 15 days to pay between $30,000 to $42,500. Many residents are seniors who see their units as their retirement home but the condo promised it wouldn’t enforce its liens before April…how generous.
The building needs major structural repairs and its finances are shocking to say the least. Last spring, the condo had a $5,000 operating fund and a whopping $1.75 in its reserve fund. The condo reportedly owes “as much as $9 million in debt” with $8 million owed to private lenders and another $1 million owed to the City of Toronto for unpaid utility charges – the condo pays $80,000 a month on interest alone.
This condo’s dysfunction predates the $14 million special assessment – it is one of the few condos that had a court-appointed administrator. Evidently this condo’s problems could not be solved even with an administrator. This is story should serve as a both a warning and a rude awakening for condos across the province: condominium operations are no joke.
We recently blogged about the current framework governing electronic signatures in Ontario (here). In a May 2021 case, the Divisional Court recognized text messages as a valid digital signature in a dispute between parties over a debt for leasehold improvements and the application of the Limitation Act, 2002.
Civil claims in Ontario must generally be started within two years of an “act or omission” giving right to the claim. The “limitations clock” starts to run on the date of the act or omission but can be extended in certain circumstances such as where a debtor acknowledges the debt to the creditor. The acknowledgment must be in writing and signed. The clock starts to run on the date of the acknowledgment.
In this case, there was a dispute over money owing to a contractor. Some invoices were paid but the last was partially outstanding. The parties exchanged text messages on June 2, 2016, where the debtor recognized the debt but refused to make payment until the project was completed to his satisfaction. The contractor brought a claim in the Small Claims Court for the balance owing and successfully argued that the text exchange was an acknowledgment of debt under s.13 the Limitation Act, 2002 and the claim was brought in time of the two-year limitation period (with the clock starting from the date of that text exchange). The text exchange was within 2 years of the start of the claim. The last payment made to the contractor was outside of 2 years of the start of the claim.…
Electronic signatures are the new normal in most corporate transactions. With physical distancing, gathering restrictions and many working remotely, electronic signatures make it easy for business to continue as usual, including at condominiums.
Meeting minutes, status certificates, proxies and requisitions, etc. may all be signed electronically.
But what is an electronic signature and when is it valid?
We recently blogged about the mandatory registration for short-term rental operators in the City of Toronto. You can read it about it here.
You can now report short-term rental addresses that are operating without registration, not used as a principal residence, unsafe, causing a nuisance or for other non-emergencies, using 311’s online …
When Amlani v. YCC 473 was released at the start of the year, it was the immediate frontrunner for “2020 Condo Case of the Year”. YCC 473 appealed and even in a year of fascinating cases, the Amlani decision still holds its seat at the top of that mountain.
The initial Amlani decision dealt with a common situation. In a nutshell, the board received complaints about Mr. Amlani’s smoking so they instructed their lawyers to deal with the matter. YCC 473 relied upon the indemnity provision in its declaration to charge back its legal expenses to Mr. Amlani and subsequently register a lien against Mr. Amlani’s unit to collect its legal fees.
The initial judge held that YCC 473 could not rely upon it’s the indemnity provision to charge back its legal costs for two key reasons:
1. Mr. Amlani did not commit “an act or omission to or with respect to the common elements and/or all other units” as required by the indemnity provision; and
2. YCC 473’s interpretation of its indemnity provision contravened section 134 (5) of the Condo Act as the costs it claimed related to compliance and enforcement costs without being embodied in a court order.
Section 134 (5) of the Condo Act allows a corporation to add its enforcement costs to an owner’s common expenses if a court awards the corporation its damages or costs in bringing a compliance application. Section 134(5) does not itself authorize a lien for legal fees incurred prior to the compliance application: to register a valid lien for legal fees, the court must first award these fees. However, many condominiums rely on their indemnity provisions as a “catch-all” provision to permit a corporation to add certain costs to an owner’s ledger resulting from their acts or omissions, often without requiring a court order.
The Amlani decision sparked considerable debate amongst condominium lawyers. Some of our esteemed peers argue that you cannot rely on an indemnity provision to charge back legal compliance and enforcement costs without first obtaining a court order. Others took the position that Amlani was a fact-specific decision that turned on the specific wording of YCC 473’s indemnity provision; they argued the Amlani decision does not stand for the proposition that a court order must be obtained before any pre-litigation legal compliance and enforcement costs can be charged back.
The Divisional Court recently set the record straight: condos cannot rely on their indemnity provisions to enable a lien to be registered against a unit to charge back compliance and enforcement costs without a court order. This does not mean a condo can’t recover its pre-litigation compliance and enforcement costs – condos can seek these costs in an s. 134 (5) order but registering a lien for these costs before the order is obtained is improper.…
The City of Toronto has recently announced that the registration system for short-term rental operators or hosts will launch on September 10, 2020. Homeowners who rent their principal home or condo on a short-term basis (a period of less than 28 consecutive days) must register with the City by the end of year and renew…
Prior to COVID-19, condos could have electronic meetings and electronic voting only if they had a by-law authorizing it.
During COVID-19 the Condo Act is amended to temporarily permit condos to conduct business virtually during a “temporary suspension period” (i.e., between March 17, 2020 and a date at least 120 days from the termination of the emergency period). Right now, condos can call and hold electronic meetings and owners can vote electronically without a by-law.
Anecdotally, we have chaired and participated in several owners’ meetings during the pandemic. Our lawyers have taken additional, high level electronic platform training. We have participated in meetings run by third party service providers and have run and moderated our own owners’ meetings from our own platform.
Our key takeaway? The chair is vital to keeping an electronic owners’ meeting on track.…
The Condo Act and a condominium’s governing documents generally give a condo broad enforcement powers to ensure residents are abiding by the rules. Condos often turn to their lawyers to commence expensive legal proceedings as a reliable response to non-compliant residents. In assessing costs against a condo, a recent Superior Court of Justice decision should serve as a reminder to all condos that they should take reasonable steps to resolve disputes.
Continue Reading Always Act Reasonably – the Amlani Decision and a Lesson from the Court