A Toronto condominium community recently endured a tenant from hell. In MTCC 1025 v. Hui, residents, security staff and contractors were subject to a tenant’s threatening and disturbing behaviour, including:

  • Threatening a security guard with a knife;
  • Exposing himself and performing lewd acts in the common elements of the condominium building;
  • Attempting to force his way into a resident’s car and a contractor’s van;
  • Defacing unit doors and nearby walls;
  • Setting up a chair and blocking the entrance of the building, not allowing residents to enter (so they had to enter via the loading dock), and the list goes on.

The owner of the unit cooperated with the corporation from the outset. She delivered an eviction notice to the tenant and applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an urgent hearing, but the request for an expedited hearing was denied. The corporation brought an application for a compliance order against the tenant and owner.  At some point in the interim, the tenant was arrested and therefore no longer on site.

The court had no trouble granting a compliance order against the tenant for breaching section 117 of the Condo Act (which prohibits any dangerous activity that is likely to damage property or cause injury), the corporation’s declaration, rules and the Occupational Health and Safety Act when misconduct was levelled at staff.

But who was responsible for the corporation’s costs of the application?

Continue Reading Cooperative unit owner pays the price for tenant’s outrageous conduct

The Province of Ontario announced that effective September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (which they define as having two vaccination doses for at least 14 days) and provide proof of vaccination status along with photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities. The Province is implementing a “vaccine passport” initiative in “higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn”.

The vaccine passport system applies to “indoor meeting and event spaces” and “facilities used for sports and fitness activities such as gyms and recreational, with the exception of youth recreational sport”. While condominiums are not “public settings” in the conventional sense, there are many areas within the condominium that are considered public settings (albeit only to residents/guests of the condo) such as party rooms, gyms and pools. It is our opinion that the vaccine passport system would apply to condos with party rooms, indoor gyms, courts, fitness studios or pools.

Residents will be required to prove their vaccination status before entering these facilities. The Province is expected to provide procedural clarification but we anticipate that front-desk staff, concierge and property managers will need to review vaccine receipts before permitting entry. We anticipate that residents will only need to provide proof of vaccination on a one-time basis as these facilities are specifically intended for a smaller segment of the population – in other words, actual residents and their guests – and one cannot get unvaccinated.

COVID is one of the greatest challenges of our time and the vaccine passport is added work for condo residents and staff. We expect the vaccine passport will be controversial to some, but one of the key features of condo living is that it is communal: therefore, everyone needs to cooperate and work together in the collective interest of the community. We are optimistic the vaccine passport will bring us closer to a return to normalcy.

In February 2021, the provincial Home Construction Regulation Authority (HCRA) became responsible for licensing and regulating home builders and sellers in Ontario. This was previously overseen by the Tarion Warranty Corporation (TARION).

The HCRA sets standards for competence and conduct while TARION continues to oversee warranty claims and complaints relating to new construction.  HRCA also administers an “Ontario Builder Directory” which has now been updated to include charges filed against a builder (not just convictions).

The HCRA released its first list of charges on August 4, 2021. A Richmond Hill property builder was charged with 10 counts of “illegal vending” for selling properties without an HCRA license or TARION registration – an 11th charge was laid for failing to produce evidence during a search warrant.

A judgment of the Superior Court from mid-July also saw a builder ask the court for an injunction to stop TARION from carrying out a conciliation process where purchasers demanded delayed occupancy compensation.  The builder argued that the delay was “unavoidable” because of water supply issues and COVID-19, and therefore compensation was not payable.  The purchasers demanded TARION conciliation with the builder as part of the TARION process.  If TARION found the delay unjustified, it would compensate purchasers, seek reimbursement from the builder, and put a notation in the builder’s record of a “chargeable conciliation.”  The chargeable conciliation would also be noted in the HCRA’s Ontario Builder Directory.

The court denied the builder’s injunction as it was not equitable or just to deprive new homeowners from warranty protection.  Claims submitted to TARION are meant to be a quick and inexpensive way for homeowners to seek compensation for late occupancy and the conciliation process was designed to prioritize interests of the consumer over the interest of the builder.

The court found that if an injunction was granted, builders who were concerned about how TARION might rule on a warranty claim would have an incentive to pre-emptively file an application with the court to stop conciliation and potentially avoid an adverse ruling – this frustrates the purpose of the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act.  There was no public interest advanced by the builder in trying to stop the TARION conciliation and the court found that there was harm to the public interest in doing so.

It is interesting to see the interplay between TARION and HCRA and how they function to protect consumers.

A Toronto condominium corporation finds itself in the news lately (link to article here) over a hotly-contested election.

Two unsuccessful candidates brought a legal proceeding claiming election interference after they won on an initial count by a slim margin of two votes but lost on a recount. The candidates claim their proxies were disqualified without reason and votes were illegitimately added the ballot box. In the wake of a close election we often see accusations of conspiracy, corruption and impropriety thrown around. In this condo’s case, this has resulted in a nasty legal battle: both sides reportedly incurred at least $200,000 in legal fees so far.

While the truth remains to be seen, the financial and time cost devoted to determining who’s right seems extreme; the issue is clearly important to those involved and it is up to the parties whether to continue the battle.  Whatever the case may be, Tony’s Takeaway is that these problems are avoidable.

Whether meetings are held electronically or in-person, here are a few best practices we suggest to ward off accusations of “stolen elections” or demands to “stop the count”:

Continue Reading Condo elections, dodging “fake news” and voter fraud

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.

Continue Reading E-signatures continued – Are text messages valid digital signatures?

GMA is proud of our comprehensive Standard Unit By-law (“SUBL”) and streamlined processing arrangements.

Our SUBL precedent has recently evolved.  We have buttressed its existing strict liability insurance deductible provision by specifically defining circumstances where an owner is liable for a water leak, fire or other “act or omission” perils, in case the government proclaims the proposed amendments to s. 105 of the Condo Act.

The SUBL can be adjusted to protect the Corporation from incurring excessive insurance deductible amounts.  We have also clarified the Corporation’s optional rights of inspection of various unit safety devices and hazards, including chargeback rights in s. 92 or s. 105 scenarios, as described below.   Here are some of our SUBL improvements:

Continue Reading Standard Unit By-law Upgrades

The Superior Court of Justice recently raised an interesting question: can a condominium corporation foreclose on a unit to enforce its lien? While the Court didn’t answer the question, raising the question seemingly casts doubt on what a corporation can or can’t do to enforce a lien. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for another case to get our answer: earlier decisions have made it clear that a condominium lien can be enforced through foreclosure.

Continue Reading “Like a Mortgagee”: no uncertainty with condo liens and foreclosure/power of sale

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?

Continue Reading Condo business as usual with electronic signatures

When condo owners get hit with a lien, things typically go one of two ways: the owner pays the lien and everyone moves on with their life or the owner disputes the lien and a contentious battle ensues. A registered lien secures “reasonable legal costs and reasonable expenses incurred by the corporation to collect the lien” per section 85 of the Condo Act. Corporations often turn to their lawyers in lien battles and recoverable legal costs and expenses begin to mount.   One owner recently learned that lesson the hard way.

Continue Reading Lien challenges: applying pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding