Condominium Law By Joy Mathews, BPHE (Kin), MA, JD, Fine and Deo Barristers and Solicitors Jason Rivait, BA (Hons), MA, LL.B. Aird & Berlis LLP
Condo Brothers From Different Mothers: A Series Devoted to Difficult Condo Law Issues
ILLUSTRATION BY JASON SCHNIDER
Disputes in Condominiums - to litigate or mediate, that is the question! If Shakespeare was alive today, and owned a condo in Ontario (let’s say Stratford), he would have ample material for a new play about disagreements in condos. Although the title of this article is playful, it focuses on a very serious and challenging topic facing condo owners today. In fact, this issue was a central discussion item for the working group of the Stage 2 Solutions Report, which, if you recall, set out proposed changes to the existing Condominium Act. According to the report, condo communities do not have an effective method of resolving disputes. The current statutory regime provides a mixture of mediation, arbitration and legal remedies, depending on the circumstances, all of which have been criticized for being either too slow or costly, or both. Basically, in the words of the working group, the existing system “clearly does not work well” and it was imperative that recommendations were provided for the government to consider.
The Proposed Solution: The Condo Office, the Quick Decision Maker and the Dispute Resolution Office The Stage 2 Solutions Report provides for a specialized and comprehensive proposal which would see the creation of the “Condo Office”. The government would provide oversight to ensure fairness and impartiality; however, the Condo Office would report through a board of directors that operates at arm’s-length from the government. There are two main functions for the proposed Condo Office. The first function would be educational (e.g. providing information on relevant issues and promoting education for condo owners, directors and managers). The second function would be to house and administer the new dispute resolution and enforcement processes, which are the focus of this article. The Quick Decision Maker and the Dispute Resolution Office The Stage 2 Solutions Report recommends two dispute resolution processes: The Quick Decision Maker and the Dis-
pute Resolution Office. The distinction between the two processes, according to the report’s recommendations, is based on two categories of disputes: “small items” and “enforcement issues”. The Quick Decision Maker would, as its name suggests, have the authority to make quick decisions on “small items” such as: order the delivery of records, rule on redactions, determine the validity and reasonableness of charge-backs, determine the validity of proxies, rule on the validity of requisitions and owners’ entitlement to vote. The Dispute Resolution Office, in contrast, would handle more complicated “enforcement issues”. The staff of the Dispute Resolution Office are more like “analysts” and their goal is to provide a quick, impartial and inexpensive way to assess the merits of each party’s position. The assessment that is carried out is not binding, nor definitive. If the issue remains unresolved, the parties may invoke their rights to mediate and arbitrate the dispute. The recommendation from the report is that the Dispute Resolution Office be a mandaCONDOVOICE SPRING 2015
CCi Toronto's Condovoice Spring 2015 Issue