Human Rights Apply in Condominiums

Gerry Hyman has another article for the Toronto Star.  Let’s look at some of the questions:

The first question is:

QUESTION:  An owner in our condominium broke his wrist and needed help tying his shoes. Staff helped him, but when the property manager found out, they were forbidden from assisting the owner. Does the Human Rights Code apply to the condominium corporations in regard to discrimination against the disabled?

ANSWER:  Yes. Condominium corporations are obligated under the Human Rights Code to accommodate a disability of a unit owner affecting the owner’s occupancy of accommodation. Permitting staff to assist in tying the owner’s shoes was a reasonable method of accommodating his disability and preventing an injury resulting from tripping due to the untied laces.

I also do not see what the issue is here.  The staff only need to take a couple seconds to help the owner, and it’s not like it will be a long term issue.  There appears to be more going on in the condominium than just this.  The Human Rights Code applies in condominiums, and this is not a big issue or costs any money for the condominium.  So, the condominium could get itself into a lot of trouble if the Board does not correct the situation and fast.

Another question raised was:

QUESTION:  Our 45-year-old condo building has wall-to-wall windows in the units. The board is proposing replacing the windows and borrowing up to $8 million to do so. Many owners do not want the corporation to go into such a debt. What are the options?

ANSWER:  It appears that the existing windows haven’t failed, and failure would require the corporation to replace them in accordance with the Condominium Act.

The window replacements will constitute additions, alterations or improvements (which I will refer to as alterations) and may only be carried out by the corporation in accordance with Section 97 of the legislation.

To proceed, the corporation must send unit owners a notice describing the proposed alteration, set out the estimated cost, indicate how it will be paid and specify that owners have the right within 30 days of receiving the notice to requisition a meeting to vote on the alteration. The requisition must be signed by at least 15 per cent of the units who are entitled to vote.

The corporation may proceed with the window replacements if owners don’t requisition the meeting or if they don’t vote against the replacement.

My. Hyman is missing an important fact.  If the condominium’s Engineer says that the windows need to be replaced then it is not an ‘alteration’ – the Board is legally required to complete Reserve Fund work.  At 45 years old, the windows likely need to be replaced – plus if you wait until the windows all start having issues then you risk floods in the condominium.  Floods will not only inconvenience owners and residents, but it also wastes a lot of time and money.  It is better to replace the windows before they become a problem, especially if the Engineer is recommending the work.  I do not know why Mr. Hyman is missing the point on this.

And finally this question:

QUESTION:  Can my husband and I both stand for election to the board of directors — and both serve if we are elected?

ANSWER:  The Condominium Act states that a board of directors may make bylaws governing the number, qualifications and election of the directors. A bylaw, however, must be reasonable to be valid and enforceable. A court could hold that a bylaw preventing two persons residing in the same unit, or a husband and wife from serving on the board at the same time, is clearly unreasonable.

Of course, if the owners want to elect a husband and wife to the Board of Directors then there is nothing wrong with this.  While a court could hold a By-law preventing a husband and wife from serving on the Board at the same time to be unreasonable, the By-law has to be approved by the owners to begin with and as such the courts may also accept that the owners wish this restriction and thus say it is reasonable – especially as it creates a potential conflict of interest and the Condominium Act allows the condominium to create quantitations to serve on the Board.

So, in the absence of a By-law, both the husband and wife can run for the Board.  However, it should be up to the owners, and not this couple or the Board, to decide whether or not the couple are both elected.  This is another reason why I want to see proxies curtailed in condominiums – it puts the owners clearly in charge of who is and is not elected to the Board.

On a side note, if the couple are elected to the Board then the couple needs to declare a conflict of interest at the start of each Board meeting.  This makes sure everything stays above board and ensures that there are no claims that the couple is doing anything other than a good job for the condominium.

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