Gerry Hyman has another article for the Toronto Star. Let’s discuss a couple of the questions:
QUESTION: Our property manager wants all owners to sign for any correspondence received from the board or management. If an owner refuses to give an electronic signature — using a device installed for parcels delivered by Canada Post — the correspondence will not be delivered. There is no rule requiring owners to provide such signatures. Is this valid?
ANSWER: The correspondence could not include mailed letters as those will be delivered by Canada Post to the owners — management must not interfere with those deliveries.
A decision to withhold correspondence not signed for must be made by the board, and not by management. It would not be in the board’s interest if correspondence, such as a requirement that an owner comply with the rules, is not received by the owner.
If the correspondence is notice of an owners’ meeting, that meeting will not be properly called if some of the owners do not receive notice.
While it might make sense to some times request an owner sign for correspondence they receive as they could otherwise claim that they never received the notice, nothing under the Condominium Act requires this and as Mr. Hyman states it may mean that owners can legally claim that they never received correspondence as they could not receive something they did not receive.
Also, the property manager has no right to want this. Only the Board can set such policy and even then the Board is not required to do something just because the property manager wants it. The property manager works for the Board, who in turns works for the owners, plain and simple. The Board is elected by the owners, and the property manager is directly, or indirectly through a property management company, hired and fired by the Board.
QUESTION:Our condo has a $62,000 deficit. The board of directors has levied a special assessment of one month’s common expenses against the units. Payment is required and, if late, a $25 fee will be charged. Can the board do this?
ANSWER: Yes. The board is entitled to levy a special assessment for funds needed to manage the corporation. If an owner fails to pay within the time specified, the owner may be held responsible for any resulting reasonable additional administrative expense incurred by the corporation.
Well, this also raises a bigger question: Does the corporation not have any accumulated surpluses from previous years, and if so, why does the Board not use that money to deal with the deficit. Or is this a one time issue, or has the condominium had this issue before? If so, then the Board needs to start charging higher maintenance fees.
But yes, if an owner refuses to pay the special assessment then any costs incurred by the condominium to ensure the owner pays the maintenance fees can be charged back to the individual unit.
Of course, this is one area that the Condominium needs to improve. Prior to the implementation of the Special Assessment, the Board should be required to hold a special meeting of the owners to explain the rationale behind the special assessment, what other options exist and why they are not being done, and to answer any questions the owners may have. The meeting is not to approve the assessment, that’s the Board’s job, but the meeting is to allow the owners to know what is happening in their community and why other options are not acceptable in this case (it also forces the Board to look into other options, such as using accumulated surpluses, a line of credit, bank loan, or in the case of a special assessment for a specific project a different payment plan to pay for the work – such as paying a smaller amount per month rather than a larger lump sum less often.)