I’d like to talk about having an Ombudsman’s Office for Ontario condominiums. This is somthing that is desperately needed in Ontario.
Currently, Ontario’s condominiums are operated under ‘self-help’ legislation. In other words, condominium owners have no one to help them enforce their rights if there are issues without going to court. This simply allows for a self serving Board to do what they want and its hard for owners to stop things from happening. Or, in the reverse, for one owner (or a small number of owners) to create problems and stir false information about the operation of the condominium.
An Ombudsman’s Office would fix this. If an owner has a problem with the Board, he/she could simply contact the Ombudsman’s Office and if there is an issue (some owners only complain, while many do have an issue) then an ivestigation is started. The Ombudsman’s Office can then order the issue resolved if required.
A common example is the Annual General Meeting (A.G.M.) The current Condominium Act requires that the A.G.M. be held within six months of the end of the Fiscal Period (the 365 day period the condominium handles its finances under, which does not have to be a calender year.) Unfortunately, Boards can hold the meeting at anytime they want unless an owner wants to pay to go to court and force the meeting to be held within the six month period. And even then, a Judge may accept that if the meeting is one month late that it is not a big issue. With an Ombudsman’s Office, an owner could contact them and the Office could pass an order demanding the meeting be held on time and can check the following year to make sure the meeting is held on time as well.
Another example of the use of an Ombudsman’s Office is with the enforcement of the By-laws and Rules of a condominium. Some condominiums pass By-laws and Rules that are not enforced later on. An owner could make a complaint to the Ombudsman about this and if found correct can order that the By-law or Rule be enforced.
And Ombudsman’s Office would also be staffed and run by people who understand, and hopefully live in, condominiums. The courts may not have that expertise and as such may not truly understand the issues arising in a condominium. But the Ombudsman’s Office would do so. This provides a great deal of assistance to owners, property managers, and Boards.
If a Board is doing a good job and is following the Condominium Act, Declaration, By-laws, and Rules then the Ombudsman’s Office will vindicate them if owners try to only complain. So, the Ombudsman’s Office also protects a Board of Directors as well.
In conclusion, an Ombudsman’s Office can, and would, improve the operation of condominiums. While a lot of issues come down to a lack of communication, and the Condominium Act itself does need to be overhaul to fix a lot of the problems, an Ombudsman would assist in dealing some of the misconceptions (on the part of owners) and stop Boards from trying to use their position to dictate what occurs in condominiums.