Article updated Monday, September 30, 2013.
The creation of an independent condo office to oversee the industry is one of more than 200 recommendations included in a report about the reformation of Ontario’s outdated Condominium Act. Released Sept. 24, the report marks the end of stage two in a three-part legislative review process initiated by the provincial government and led by the Public Policy Forum.
Stage one involved consultation of industry stakeholders to identify the key areas of review: governance, dispute resolution, finances, consumer protection and condominium management. Working groups assigned to these five areas then drafted recommendations, which were reviewed by a 12-person expert panel.
The provincial government, which has the final say over which recommendations are adopted, will now start to plan for implementation.
The report proposes that the condo office be an arm’s length agency tasked with dispute settlement, education and awareness, maintaining a condominium registry and licensing condo managers. Its operations would be funded jointly by user fees and a “modest” monthly levy ($1 to $3) on every condo unit in the province. The condo office would also provide free or inexpensive information regarding the Condo Act, employ a quick decision-maker to make summary rulings on disputes around issues such as charge-backs and proxies, and house a dispute resolution office to rule on more complex disputes.
The Ontario government has already committed to implementing mandatory qualifications for condo managers. The report recommends a two-stage licensing process. Stage one would require applicants (18 years or older) to meet minimum requirements for insurance, agree to a criminal background check and pass a test on the Condominium Act. To pass stage two, applicants would be required to: have two years experience; comply with a code of ethics; complete designated courses; and take a final exam within four years of receiving their stage one licence to demonstrate their competence as a condo manager.
In addition to mandatory qualifications for condo managers, the report recommends mandatory training for first-time condo board members as well as a code of ethics for directors. The report also proposes that management companies obtain a certificate of authorization before signing a contract with a condominium corporation.
Other key recommendations include: clarifying who is responsible for repairs and maintenance; creating separate operating and reserve fund budgets; and setting minimum retention periods for condominium corporation documents.
Anne-Marie Ambert, a member of the 12-person expert panel and founder of the Condo Information Centre, expects most people will be excited about the recommendations, particularly the need for a condo office. However, it will likely take a long time for the government to implement, she says.
Ambert anticipates the government will roll-out the recommendations incrementally, starting with online education.
“If this works well, it’s good for boards, managers, owners and the condo industry,” she says.
However, Ambert is dismayed the report failed to address certain matters. Among them are the continued role of mediation and arbitration, which she says is costly and ineffective, and the lack of a framework to define the role of condo lawyers.
Ambert says she is optimistic, though, that the government is committed to continuing to improve upon the recommendations for reform.
A report from the residents’ panel consulted in stage one of the legislative review is expected to be available later this week.
Don Lenihan, a senior associate with the Public Policy Forum, says feedback on the recommendations has been largely positive.
Condo stakeholders will now have until Nov. 8 to review the recommendations and provide feedback through an online survey. The government is expected to introduce legislation at Queen’s Park in spring 2014.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.