There were so many updates at ACMO-CCI’s Condo Conference (2022) session titled “State of the Industry: Still Going Viral”, that we had to break it down into multiple bite-sized blog posts! This session was moderated by Tania Haluk (Vice President of Operations at Wilson Blanchard Management), and dealt with a handful of impactful and interesting topics, such as the Condo Authority Tribunal (CAT), licensing and staffing of managers, board meetings, and the impact of increasing costs.
This blog post focuses on updates regarding the CAT, which was mainly discussed by Rob Mullin (Solicitor at SV Law) alongside co-panelists Murray Johnson (Vice President of Client Operations at Crossbridge Condominium Services) and Stacey Kurck (Vice President of Client Engagement & Business Development at FirstService Residential Ontario).
At the beginning of the session, the audience seemed still asleep (perhaps a reflection of the networking event the night before), but Rob quickly woke them up with some stark statistics about the CAT, such as:
Between 1967-2017, there were 400 condo-related court cases.
With the introduction of the CAT, there were 344 reported decisions (as of September 30, 2022). This represented a huge increase as the number of complaints within 5 years nearly outpaced those during the prior 50 years!
Rob added some humour to continue waking people right up, and compared the CAT to “going to the dentist without anesthesia” (just as undertaking many other condo-related processes can feel), especially because the CAT has been criticized by many condo managers and boards as not being truly fair. To investigate this perspective, Rob researched the last 5 years (2017 - present) of the CAT’s 344 cases and their results, finding that there were 249 winner/loser cases (the rest were procedural), and:
2017 - 2020: 64% unit owner wins vs. 35% condo wins.
2020 - Present: 45% unit owner wins vs. 54% condo wins.
Overall: 50% unit owner wins vs. 50% condo wins.
It’s important to note that the CAT expanded in 2020 (it used to deal with just records issues prior to 2020, then expanded to include nuisance complaints), which seemed to tilt the windmill from the unit owner towards the condo corporation. However, Rob investigated this further and found that, in general, owners tend to win when the matter is regarding a records issue (because there is a presumption of production), whereas condos tend to win when there’s an enforcement issue (due to a presumption of enforcement, and the condo’s Declaration being “like the law”).
Rob summarized that the audience should “be advised, there does seem to be certain inherent presumptions - maybe bias is too strong of a word - but presumptions of where the case would go”. He further advised Boards to start adequately funding budgets for litigation, especially as the CAT currently doesn’t have any financial repercussions for owners (who currently submit complaints for free) if their complaints turn out to be unsubstantiated, frivolous, or vexatious - though there does seem to be industry-wide hope that this will change in the future.
Tania added that CAT complaints tend to primarily focus on responsiveness and relationships, followed by board decisions, and other issues. Murray and Stacey added great points about how Covid and work-from-home has increased complaints because people were more “fussy, feisty”, and had more “eyes on the building”, and the greater impact this has had on managers burning out and turnover (read more here).
Towards the close of the session, Rob predicted that CAT litigation/work is unsustainable, and that the CAT will somehow have to dampen the processes via importation of cost for owners that are submitting inappropriate complaints. Similar predictions and hopes are voiced by many key players in Condoland, and we hope it's something the CAT considers.
Until then, we hope everyone will be mindful of the challenges that Covid and WFH has created, and be just a little more patient with each other, so we can all continue getting through this together (hopefully with fewer CAT complaints and litigation costs).
P.S. Let’s get your opinion on the CAT in the poll below!