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Discussion Forum

CAFCOR Forum – Owners Helping Owners. Our Forums offer a wealth of information accumulated in thousands of posts.  We encourage everyone who has a question or problems to discuss, to search the forums first.  There is a chance that your question was already answered.  Viewing threads also allows a better understanding of issues facing condominium owners.  To visit the Forums, please click HERE.

law.jpgThe High Price Of Condominium Arbitration.
A condominium is a community of people with common interests and the theory is that the community should try to resolve disputes by agreement rather than the adversarial process.  Mediation is seen as a “win-win” process which allows disputes to be resolved by a communication process leading to a common understanding of the needs of the condominium community. Read more...
Condo TowerOver 9,000 Condominiums in Ontario
In 2011 there were over 9,000 registered condominiums in Ontario, an increase from 8,788 in 2008.

For a breakdown (2009) based on location please click HERE .  The numbers were provided by the Ontario Government.
Condo Residents Need A Voice Print E-mail

Condo residents can dish it out. Every day they take on developers, property managers, the municipal government, their own boards and, sometimes, their own neighbours.

I know this because this summer I decided to ask condo owners what was wrong with the Condominium Act and I got an earful. Here are some of the things I heard:

“I am concerned about "developers and 'hidden' clauses, and having to sue or fight or pay to get out of contracts that the developers make.” John Doe from Ontariomicrophone_full.jpg

The majority of condo owners wrote to say they felt ill-equipped to take on developers. Agreements are not clear, developers imply they are making commitments they are not actually making and, as a prize, get great latitude from the courts.

In 2001, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a developer, who decided to build townhouses instead of an outdoor recreation area. The Court ruled against unit owners even though some had paid a premium for the recreation area that was never built. The judges figured it was the purchasers’ fault for believing the developers’ declaration and not reading an obscure provision hidden in the voluminous documentation.

“I was told my mortgage would cover everything” Trevor from Toronto

In 2006, unit owners lost another case against a developer. This time they had to pay back Dayspring Phase I for a $1.7 million loan. Unit owners argued they did not know their heating and cooling equipment was “on loan.” Apparently, condo owners missed the fine print in the builder’s disclosure statement.

In her Condominium Handbook lawyer Audrey Loeb points out that it takes a lot of money to find the proverbial needle in the documentation stack: “… the average sale price of a condominium unit is under $150,000 and the cost to have a lawyer review all the documents and point out every little nuance to the purchaser is out of the price range of the majority of purchasers. Most purchasers do not seek legal advice with respect to the disclosure material, and it is in (Loeb’s) view inappropriate to permit developers to rely on ambiguous language buried in the schedules.”

Disclosure packages have all kinds of hidden surprises – upcoming constructions, additional fees and repair problems to name a few. Most condo owners just get stuck with the news and the costs after they make the purchase.

“… the Condominium Act is more or less "a do it yourself document" Hana from Toronto

If a tree falls in a condominium building, and no one is there to hear it, who must pick it up? The problem with the Condominium Act is that very few people know the rules of duty and responsibility, most unit residents and boards are unclear and resolving disputes takes time and money.

“Someone must enforce condo law. Who enforces law? The courts. Not very encouraging.” Nancy from Collingwood

Condo residents have little recourse to solve small disputes outside of arbitration or the courts. Trials and mediations can be long, draining and expensive.

Our courts are wasting their valuable time and our valuable money dealing with problems that can be resolved with less of both.

Ten years have passed and thousands of units have been built since the Condominium Act was last amended. Since then, we have learned a few things and it’s time the law reflects what we now know.

Standard Declarations

The Condo Act should require standard provisions for disclosure materials and the declarations that govern condominium corporations.
No more hidden clauses. No more having to hire a lawyer for $3,000 to decipher the provisions of a $150,000 condo. Declarations should look like each other and not be uniquely drafted and distorted. After all, condo owners are consumers and they must be able to read what they are buying in plain and simple language.

Developers should have to deliver what they promise and provide purchasers with clear, fair disclosure.

Standard provisions, already available in British Columbia, allow for fewer moving date surprises. Short of delivering a big magnifying glass and an Audrey Loeb clone, standard provisions are the best way to ensure that declarations are accessible to prospective owners.

Good faith and fair dealing

Lord knows it’s only fair that developers have a duty to fair dealing when they deal with owners and purchasers of units. The documents are too voluminous and too daunting to expect prospective purchasers to review each little line. Buying a home is too important a prospect to play “hide the deal breaker” with modest income purchasers – which make up the majority of the market.

Good faith disclosure can go a long way to eliminate the fights between developers and purchasers. Developers will think twice before playing games if they have to pay damages when they fail to play fair.

Review Board

Condo residents and boards deserve timely and relevant information and guidance from a source they can trust. A review board can assist in resolving small disputes cheaply, without thousand of dollars and without the courts by providing review officers, panels or tribunals that can settle disputes among residents, owners and their boards or their management companies at a low price.

“Soundproofing is terrible; I can hear all drainage from the unit above me, in addition to loud noises such as music or loud voices.” Connie from Toronto

Of course, some of the problems in condominiums escape the confines of the Act and touch on general issues with building and construction that must be reviewed.
  • The definition of “new homes” should be expanded to conversion condominium buildings to allow for protection under Tarion. And all complaints referred to Tarion, whether or not they come from condo owners should be dealt with in a more timely manner.
  • The standards for sound insulation in the Building Code Act are inadequate and better soundproofing requirements would go a long way to make condo living quieter. It would certainly help condo owners and club goers in downtown Toronto share the space.

This week Statistics Canada reported that most of Toronto’s population growth concentrates in clusters and lives in condominiums.

It’s high time we update the Condominium Act to reflect the new reality. Otherwise, anger among condominium owners will continue to grow with their numbers.

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