Condominium Act 1998
Submissions to the Standing Committee

After Bill 38 passed second reading, it went to the Standing Committee on General Government for hearings. Interested parties were given 20 minutes to submit a brief and to speak on their concerns.

I found the transcript of the hearings held on in Toronto on 28 October 1998 and they made for interesting reading. The special interests in the condominium industry were well represented and other public interests, including the "People's Animal Welfare Society" presented their views on an earlier date.

However, on this day, the following interests and only two condominium owners spoke to the committee.
CCI-Ontario condo industry lobby group
CCI-Ottawa Chapter condo industry lobby group
CCI-Golden Horseshoe Chapter condo industry lobby group
Deacon, Spears, Fedson and Montizambert condo law firm
Brookfield Lepage Residential
property management company
Canadian Bar Association—Ontario condominium committee
Bratty and Partners law firm representing the builders
Delzotto Zorzi law firm for building industry
London Guarantee Insurance Co. insurance company
Canadian Cable Television Association cable TV interests
Robins Appleby and Taub law firm—financial services
Smith Lyons law firm—financial services
Kevin Crowe condo owner, condo director
Bernie Sieger condo owner, ex- condo director

John Deacon, from Deacon, Spears, Fedson and Montizambert, made a couple remarks that are worth noting:

"We conclude our presentation, again, by urging favourable consideration of the joint recommendations by ACMO/CCI, of which you've heard several presentations already -- I understand there are two more for later today -- as well as the issues raised above. ... So I recommend, incorporating as many as possible of the CCI-ACMO amendments that you see fit to enact, as well as the items that I've mentioned in my presentation."

Condominium Ontario
Mr. Deacon also talked a little about Condominium Ontario.

"I know there was a significant effort made about 15 years ago by the ministry to try and establish In the associations _98 directory there is a listing for _Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario_.

Condominium Ontario with a situation of kitchen-table resolution of disputes. They actually went as far as training hearing officers, but it didn't quite get off the ground."

The two owners (abridged)

What is interesting is that with the possible inclusion of mediation and
Section 56 (6) of the new Act: "If at least 15 per cent of the units of the corporation are owner-occupied units on or after the time at which the board is required to call a turn-over meeting under section 43, no persons other than the owners of owner-occupied units may elect a person to or remove a person from one of the positions on the board." (and that would have been due to Kevin Crowe's appearance, it appears that nothing the two owners requested was added to the new Condominium Act.

Kevin Crowe:
I am a resident-owner at Peterborough Condominium Corp 2, meaning it's very old and is in Peterborough and I am also a director and treasurer of that condominium.

Owner occupancy represents approximately 15% of the total 77 units. The year of incorporation was 1977. I've been a resident-owner for nine years and a director for two.

Why did I buy a condo? It was affordable and we assumed the equity would increase and make it possible to move up in a reasonable time frame. Unfortunately, the resale value is steadily decreasing.

Conflict-of-interest handbook
The following are suggestions and possible amendments to Bill 38: One, I believe a conflict-of-interest handbook should be developed and be included in the bill as it applies to directors, managers, employees and all suppliers. I speak from my own experience in non-profit housing where we are provided with such a handbook. This handbook has been a very effective tool. The only reference I can understand relating to conflict of interest in Bill 38 is section 40, which only deals with the director's disclosure, and section 41, dealing with an officer's disclosure.

High cost of lawyers
Two, I greatly believe in mediation and arbitration. It never existed and the cost of pursuing owner co-operation was greatly expensive and in my opinion it took too long to take the necessary measures. I have been told by lawyers that if you've got two years and $20,000 you may be able to do something.

Property values
The values of most condominiums purchased after 1989 are substantially less than at the time of purchase.

Owner apathy
In our condominium, it's very difficult to get participation on the board or even attendance at annual meetings. I have dreams of a maintenance committee and/or resident committee, but no responses to past requests have occurred. What a shame it is. I believe that a board of management could function much better.

The last suggestion, is to have a plain English document outlining the most important requirements available for each particular type of condominium, which can't be interpreted other than its true intent.

Non-resident owners
It's difficult to accept that our lifestyle and the value of our only major asset is determined by the decisions of so many non-resident owners and that we don't have the financial resources to enforce compliance.

I would like to thank the committee for allowing me to address my suggestions and concerns.


Mr Bernie Sieger

Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to be here. I don't represent any group; I am here as an owner-resident. I have been a real estate broker for over 30 years. I don't as a rule handle residential properties, but in my building and the twin building next door I have sold for and sold to different people.

Term limits
I heard someone say that six years is not too long to have anyone on a board or as a chairman. It's far too long. I can only speak for our own condominium, but our president has been there for seven years. In his mind he owns the building. It's that simple. He has been a big shot for so many years that you can't talk to him and there's nothing you can do to him.

The board consists of five people. One is—and I have called him this to his face and put it in writing—a pompous, arrogant bully. He hasn't done anything about it, so I guess he feels it's true. The other person on the board is a friend of his who says, "You rub my back and I'll rub yours." The third one has been arguing so long he's got a heart condition and his wife says to him, "Get off the board," and he refuses. The other two are rubber stamps.

So we have in my building a dictatorship. We have two people who are running the condominium corporation and they have hidden agendas.

Owner apathy
Another thing I heard today is that people vote. Most people in a condominium don't care. They shrug their shoulders and they figure, "If I don't have to do it and he's willing to do it, let him." Whether he is able or competent, they don't care.

Condominium Ontario
In the act as it stands now, "The Lieutenant Governor in Council shall designate a non-profit corporation incorporated without share capital under the Corporations Act to be the bureau for the purposes of this act...assisting in the resolution of disputes between condominium corporations and unit owners and between two or more unit owners."

This, unfortunately, was in the original Condominium Act, and a bureau was never appointed.

I'm living in a condominium. According to the act, in order to change the Condominium Act for the declaration, you have to have a meeting and get 66% of the owners to approve any substantial change in the reserve fund.

Four years ago or so we needed some work done, and I'm sure it would have gone through. Our reserve fund at the time was approximately $700,000. The board decided to spend $350,000, that's 50% of the reserve fund, and according to the Condominium Act, they have to have the meeting, get the approval of 66%, and anyone who objects and loses can then, within 10 days or 30 days, go to the board and say, "I want you to buy my condominium unit at fair market price," which the condominium must do and then they can resell it. But if he's not happy with the change, then he's entitled to have them buy his condominium and move.

High cost of lawyers
This particular board didn't bother having the meeting -- just didn't bother. It specifically spells out that they have to, but they didn't. What do I do? They broke, as far as I'm concerned -- infringement of my rights -- a law. I can't phone the police. There's nobody stated here in this act that I can call. The only thing I can do is call a lawyer and sue them.

I spoke to a lawyer. He said, "Before I write one letter I want a $1,000 retainer and you can be prepared to pay anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 if we don't go to court." He says, "If the first letter works it won't cost you that, but it'll be under $1,000."

Now, why should I as an owner or any other owner have to go to the expense of legal fees when, when I bought my condominium, the act said that there is a bureau I can go to?

I learned a great deal today in this room, from lawyers and from other people. As I said before, most people are sheep; they just don't care.

As far as this board is concerned, right today they were doing things, this board, which, when they sent out for the election, sent out a proxy and they said, "If you cannot attend the meeting, give your proxy to" -- president's name, vice-president's name. I complained. I said, "That's illegal, it's against the elections act." You can't say, "If you're not going to be there, give it to him or him." They didn't care. Finally, two years ago they stopped.

Board hires friends
Just to give you an example, I looked at the minutes of the meeting and the accountant that we have had since day one is a friend and client of two of the board members, the two strong board members. I got up and I looked at the meeting and finally it penetrated that the three remaining members of the board said, "Let's get rid of the accountant." The minutes said the two abstained, the other three voted unanimously to get rid of the existing accountant and hire new ones, and the names were right there.

Two years later, at the last annual general meeting, I got up and I said, "Can you explain to me how this was passed unanimously two years ago and we still have these same accountants, your friends?"

The chairman said, "Well, we had another meeting after that and rescinded it." I said, "Well, where's the minutes?" He said, "We didn't take any minutes." He finally said to me, "Sit down and shut up," because he didn't like what I was saying.

Need dispute officers
This is what you have to put up with and I am appealing to this committee because I have no recourse. If there was a person I could go to with my complaint who had the authority to step in, investigate without it costing me a fortune, and say, "OK, I've got the minutes," and ask the board, "Why this, why this, why this?" and if they cannot give a satisfactory answer, this committee or this bureau should be in a position to impeach the board, get them out and have new elections, because that's what we desperately need.

Questions from the committee members:

Mr Gerretsen: I have a very simple question. These kinds of unfortunate situations I've heard about before as well. It is unfortunate, and I suppose it's one of the problems of condominium-style living that most of the problems people get involved in are of a social nature more than anything else. I've just checked with the parliamentary assistant -- and she can correct me if I'm wrong -- I understand that provision of that kind of a bureau is not in the new act.

Mr Sieger: I know.

Mr Gerretsen: What you're really saying is that there should almost be something similar to the tenants' rental review board, there should be a person appointed whom you could go to without expending on your own behalf lots of money on legal fees etc, who could maybe assist in resolving these issues by arbitration or otherwise.

Mr Sieger: Someone with power.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, somebody with power.

Mr Sieger: An ombudsman.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes.

Mr Sergio: Just to complete our time here, you did say that you managed to read the declaration.

Mr Sieger: Yes.

Mr Sergio: We had one of our previous presenters saying that hardly anyone bothers to read the documentation because it's so voluminous. One reason is the language that is used in all the documentation -- the bylaw declaration, the act, whatever. When they start to look at it and read it, people just become disenchanted and –

Mr Sieger: Excuse me, sir. I'm not a lawyer, but I can understand it. It is in plain English.

Mr Sergio: Yes, so how many people do you think bother to read all the documentation, and should there be a digested version of all those documents to make it more simple?

Mr Sieger: I don't know. It's simple to me. If you don't want to read the documents and you don't want to give it to your lawyer to read, then you have no recourse.

When I read that there is a bureau that can take care of it, and this is the law, I have nowhere to go. The only way I can go is go to court. I think something should be built in.

Mr Lessard: I was interested in your suggestions for the new legislation to try and deal with the difficulties you're experiencing. I guess one of the things you're suggesting is something like an ombudsman under the Condominium Act.

Mr Sieger: Yes.

Mr Lessard: The provisions that are in there now with respect to permitting you access to the courts, that's something that I take it you're not satisfied with?

Mr Sieger: It's very costly.

Mr Lessard: Have you tried that route?

Mr Sieger: I spoke to a lawyer and, I told you, he said before he would send the first letter he wanted a $1,000 retainer and he told me I could spend anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 if we don't go to court. If we go to court it will be $20,000 or $25,000. Legal today is very expensive.

Mr Lessard: One of the suggestions in the legislation is that there be an opportunity for mediation and arbitration. Is that something you think holds some promise?

Mr Sieger: If the person who handles it, who presides, has the power to do what some people would consider drastic moves. In other words, if he found out that a board was corrupt, he would have the right to impeach the board and force new elections. If a person like that came along -- now, I might come to him and he might say to me, "I'm sorry, but you just want too much." I don't know. Right now there's nothing.

Mr Gilchrist: Do you have any comments on how the proposals to increase mediation could be expanded to deal with the specific problems that you have encountered in the past?

Mr Sieger: No. I think it would be as in the old act -- the new act doesn't even mention it -- that someone, some group or bureau should be appointed to handle complaints, trivial or not. It would be up to them whether it was trivial.

Mr Gilchrist: It would be just as fair though, would it not, that if your board had a more rapid turnover in the members so that you had a greater chance to reflect the current views, that would be something you could impose internally, not just from government coming in and being intrusive?

Mr Sieger: But your board is usually made up of people who take the job because nobody else wants it. I was on the board for three years. We did a lot of work and then this one person, who is now the chairman -- it went to his head. You can't even talk to this man. I have been told to sit down and shut up by him and so have other people.

Mr Gilchrist: Your submission to us is that it should even be tightened up to a shorter period, perhaps three years?

Mr Sieger: To shorten is proper. Yes, three years is plenty. At the end of three let him stay out for a year. Give someone else a chance.

Mr Gilchrist: Thank you for your time.

Mr Sieger: Management usually does all the day-to-day work.

Mrs Ross: I just wanted to follow up on the term. You just made a comment, "Nobody wants to run for a term of office." You're saying on the one hand nobody wants to run, but you're also saying they should be allowed -- we've heard from other people saying they should be allowed to run for a long time because of that very reason, you can't get anybody to run. I'm curious to know; you ran for three years, you said.

Mr Sieger: I was on for three years, yes.

Mrs Ross: Did you decide not to run again?

Mr Sieger: I was on for three years. In our condominium there is a stipulation, no pets. Now, some people have cats, some people have dogs. I got on the elevator one day and some woman had -- it looked like a horse -- a huge dog, and I started to sneeze because I'm allergic. I said, "Lady, this dog shouldn't be on the elevator," and she, in so many words, made a racial remark to me. I told her off.

The president came to me. She went to the president and told him what I had said. I didn't swear at her but I did tell her off. He apologized to her on my behalf and then gave me hell.

I said, "Look, your mandate doesn't -- you know, you're not the conscience of this building." He said, "If you don't like it, that's too bad."

I felt I could do more being off the board than on, and I left. They've got a file that thick for me. I put every complaint in writing -- I've got some of it here -- and they're very upset about it.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Sieger.

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