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Ontario begins rolling out new condo-board regulations

The overhaul of Ontario’s Condominium Act was enacted in 2015, but only now are its regulations and administrative bodies being set up.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Names of Ontario condominium directors will be listed in a public database under new regulations unveiled this month, as the province begins to implement a new law to protect unit owners in the booming sector.

More transparent access to the identity of directors will make it easier to detect problems such as the scheme first reported by The Globe and Mail last May, in which a group of people tried to seize control of at least six Toronto condo boards and their multimillion-dollar budgets.

Spotting such electoral patterns was difficult because, currently, obtaining the names of directors of a condo where one does not reside requires purchasing a status certificate at a cost of $100.

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The province is also rolling out two new administrative authorities this fall, with a tribunal to settle disputes about access to condo records, mandatory training for board directors and a licensing plan for property managers.

"The changes will improve condo governance," Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said on Tuesday.

The overhaul of Ontario's Condominium Act was enacted in 2015, but only now are its regulations and administrative bodies being set up.

"Until this point, if you wanted to find out who is the director of a condo corporation, it's very difficult. It's not like business corporations that have filings," said lawyer Denise Lash, whose Toronto firm specializes in condo law.

Even unit owners seeking records from their own building could face resistance from unco-operative managers or boards, said Jennifer Campbell, one of the new directors elected this month at Toronto's Five Condos tower. The previous directors left amid allegations of proxy irregularities, overspending and poor management.

"Residents should have full access to all material corporate records without undue restrictions or delay – this is a failing of the current legislation which does not impose specific timelines or streamlined requirements," Ms. Campbell said, adding that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

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Ms. Lash said the regulations – which would require condo corporations to file four different types of reports, called returns – will create more responsibilities for property managers and may result in higher fees.

There will also be a $12 annual fee per unit to finance the new Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO), the body that will help owners and will manage the registry database of condo corporations.

While unit owners will face higher fees, "it's going to save their investment," Ms. Lash said.

The CAO is expected to be in operation by September. The other administrative body, the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO), which will license condo managers, is scheduled to be operational by November.

Also starting in November, directors will have to complete a mandatory online education program, Ms. MacCharles said.

With more than 1.5 million Ontarians now living in condos, better corporate governance doesn't just benefit unit owners, it's "a massive step to doing things correctly to protect our cities and communities," said Stephen Ilkiw, founder of the consultancy CondoHive.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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