Gerry Hyman has another article for the Toronto Star. I want to discuss three of the questions that were raised:
First, this question:
QUESTION: Were all members of condominium boards required to take the new training courses by the end of 2017?
ANSWER: No. The regulations provide that a person shall complete the training courses within six months of the earlier of the day that the person is elected or appointed to the board.
I have an issue with this. While I agree that training should be required – and it should include what is offered through the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) – I do think ongoing training above and beyond the minimum should be required as well. This is especially as the training is currently valid for seven years after completion.
Now for the second question I want to discuss:
QUESTION: Our board has a quote for $85,000 to change the colour of the garage doors. Can the board spend that amount without the owners’ permission?
ANSWER: The board is obligated to carry out required repairs and replacements of the common elements without notifying or receiving the approval of the owners. Changing the colour of the garage doors is not a necessary repair or replacement.
But is it an alteration, or improvement, that the corporation may only carry out in accordance with Section 97 of the Condominium Act? That section permits the corporation to carry out such an alteration, or improvement, without owners’ approval if required to do so under a Mutual Use Agreement — or if, in the opinion of the board, it is necessary to ensure the safety or security of persons using the property or the corporation’s assets. As well, it permits the corporation to carry out the alteration if the estimated cost will not exceed the greater of $1,000 or 1 per cent of the common expense budget for the current year.
Otherwise, the corporation must send a notice to the owners describing the proposed work, give an estimate of the cost and state how it proposes to pay the cost. It must specify that owners have the right within 30 days of receiving the notice to requisition an owners’ meeting to vote on the proposed work. The requisition must be signed by at least 15 per cent of the owners. The corporation may only proceed with the work if a requisition is not received within the 30-day period, or if the owners do not vote against the proposed work.
If the doors need to be replaced due to age, then yes the Board should be changed (i.e. this is being done for a mechanical reason as the doors may begin to breakdown if not replaced.) However, as for the colour of the garage doors, the Board should be required to put this to a vote of the owners. Cosmetic work should always be done with the input of the owners, not on the Board’s own choice. It is a shame that the recent changes to the Condominium do not require cosmetic work to be put to a vote of the owners as this Board has demonstrated that it is following the word of the law, but not the spirit of the law.
Lastly, I want to discuss another major issue in condominiums:
QUESTION: During our annual general meeting, can an owner make a motion to dismiss the board?
ANSWER: No. The Condominium Act provides that at a meeting of owners, no vote shall be taken on any matter other than routine procedure unless that matter was clearly disclosed in the notice of the meeting.
Under the recent to the changes to the Condominium Act, the owners can request items to be added to the Agenda for the AGM, but there is no requirement, unless a requisition is received, to add any item to the Agenda if the Board chooses not to do so. Plus, as the Board can still hold a large number of proxies, even a majority of units represented at the meeting, even if the owners get the item added to the Agenda there is a good chance that the Board can simply vote down the item with their proxies.
The Act needs to be amended to limit proxies to no more than two per person (or better still the people from a single unit can only hold two proxies combined, so a couple cannot hold four proxies between themselves). This limits the Board’s opportunity to squash the will of the owners.
Plus, to remove a director from the Board requires a majority of all owners to agree. Why should a few owners be able to elect a director, but so many to remove the same director? Election of directors should be done by a majority of votes cast (like other motions) instead of by plurality (i.e. first-past-the-post), and the removal requirement should be reduced to either a majority vote of those present at the meeting, or a 2/3 vote of votes cast. This means that sufficient owners agree, but owners who do not attend the meeting do not have any bearing over the final results.
I also believe that motions made at the meeting should be valid. For one, if an owner chooses not to attend the meeting, who’s fault is it that the owner wasn’t at the meeting? It is not the fault of those who took the time to attend. Plus, if the By-laws are amended to dictate when the meeting is held (i.e. the second Monday in June), then everyone knows when the meeting is going to be held for any time into the future (i.e. it will always be the second Monday in June unless the By-law is changed.)
The Condominium Act needs to be amended to allow for the owners, not the Board, to make the final decisions on how their condominium, and their community, is run. That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the democratic thing to do.