Introducing The “Condominium Authority Of Ontario”

Did you come to TRB today, hoping to crack your knuckles and type comments in the form of a spirited debate?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Nothing gets the blood boiling quite like new government regulation!

As of September 1st, 2017, the “Condominium Authority of Ontario” was established, with a mandate to improve condominium living.  How they do this, as is often the custom, is by collecting fees that they’ve made mandatory for all condos in the Province.

I’ve gone through life with both a devil and an angel on my shoulder.  Let me present two opposite arguments about the COA, and you decide which has more merit…

CAO

Canadian Association of Orthodontists (CAO)

Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO)

Canadian Academy of Osteopathy (CAO)

Canadian Association of Optemetrists (CAO)

There are already too many CAO’s to count.

Can’t we just skip this?

Do we really need the Condominium Authority of Ontario?

Many people, believe it or not (and that was sarcasm), would answer a resounding no.

In fact, one of the administrators in my office asked me to blog about this topic, because the maintenance fees in her condo are going to be increased this year, in part, due to the mandatory fees that the government of Ontario has implemented in her condo, along with every other.

So what is the Condominium Authority of Ontario?

Contrary to what you might have heard, this was not part of the Liberal government’s 16-point “Fair Housing Plan” announced back in April.

This was part of Bill-106, passed in 2015.

Bill-106 was an Amendment to the now-ancient Condominium Act, 1998, and also goes by the name Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015.

From that act, two regulatory boards were born:

1) Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario
2) Condominium Authority of Ontario

It’s the second one that we’re concerning ourselves with today, for the purposes of this debate.

Directly from the CAO website:

The Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) is a newly established organization that aims to improve condominium living by providing services and protections for condo owners. These include:
*easy-to-use information to help owners and residents understand their rights and responsibilities
*mandatory training for condo directors
*resources to help condo owners and residents resolve common issues
*an online dispute resolution service through the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT coming November 1st, 2017)

As you would expect, nothing is free in life.

From the section entitled “FEES” on the CAO website:

After a public consultation process, the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) has now set its fees. Overall responses to the proposed fee amounts were positive and the CAO has carefully considered all feedback provided.
Fee amounts for the annual Assessments to condo corporations have been confirmed, and for each of the three stages within the Condominium Authority Tribunal, as set out below.
All condominium corporations in Ontario will be required to pay annual assessment fees to the CAO. The assessment amount is $1 per month (i.e. $12 per year), per voting unit, and will be paid by condominium corporations. Condo owners may be charged based on the condominium corporation’s declaration and by-laws.
This fee will support the CAO in providing:
  • information and self-help resources about condominium living
  • mandatory online training for condo directors
  • tools and guides for resolving common condo issues
  • access to the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT), a new online dispute resolution forum with exclusive jurisdiction to handle certain condo-related disputes
  • a public registry containing information on all condo corporations in Ontario, for increased transparency (once required by regulation)
Condominium corporations will receive a package from the CAO in early September which will provide details on how corporations can register and pay their assessments. Initial assessments will cover the period from September 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, and are due to the CAO by December 31, 2017.

If you require more information, feel free to check out their website: www.condoauthorityontario.ca

So what do you think, folks?

Yay or Nay?

Before you cast your vote and have your say, let me present two arguments; one in favour, and one against, based on the conversations we had in my office on Wednesday and Thursday.

 

FOR:

You’re suffering from chest pains, and you go to Emergency at Sunnybrook Hospital.

After going through the motions – triage, the duty nurse, and seeing a resident, you finally meet up with the doctor who tells you that you need immediate open heart surgery, as your life depends on it.

You trust him.  He has well-trimmed sideburns, his eyes are blue, and he’s wearing Sketchers underneath his scrubs.  Anybody that wears Sketchers is okay in my books.

After being wheeled into the operating room, you jokingly say, “I guess you’ve done this before a few times, eh Doc?”

And just as the nurse puts the mask over your nose, he says, “Actually, no.  I have absolutely no formal training, and I’m in no way qualified to perform open heart surgery.”

Every condominium in the city of Toronto has a board of directors, most of them with FIVE directors.

There is absolutely, positively zero qualification needed for this job.

You could be an 18-year-old who was home schooled in the den of a condo on the 9th floor, put your name in the hat for the open “Vice-President” position, and one poorly-attended vote later: volia!

Now, you’re in a position of authority over the physical and financial well-being of 500 residents of that condominium.

You can barely read, and an “8” looks a lot like a “0” to you, but you’re expected to look over the condominium’s financial statements, and decide on a course of action for the building.

Legal, financial, accounting, engineering.

The idea is insane.

And yet, probably more than half of all board members in Toronto condos are unprepared, and unqualified for the position.  Most of them learn on the fly.

How did this come to pass?

Why was this allowed to happen?

Ah, yes!  The Condominium Act, 1998.  A poorly-written, already-out-dated piece of legislation that is almost two decades old.  To rely on this in 2017 is like hooking up your 28.8 kilobaud modem and expecting to connect to Rogers.

Yes, there are lots of cases where out-of-date legislation continues to be relied upon.  I mean, a “well-regulated militia?”  Seriously?  We’re relying on legislation from when it took an experienced soldier 35 seconds to load a musket and fire one shot, and comparing it the thirty A.R.-47’s in Jimmy-Jo’s basement?

We don’t want to be like that, right?

So we make changes, we roll with the times, we update things that are out of date, and the creation of the Condominium Authority of Ontario is exactly that.

The COA will, first and foremost, require mandatory training for anybody who wants to serve as a director on a Condo Board.

And who among you thinks that this isn’t a good thing?  Give me one reason why this isn’t necessary, and far beyond due?

Secondly, the COA will help to resolve disputes in condominiums, of which there are many.

The amendments to the Condominium act from 2001 provided measures for resolution dispute through mediation and arbitration, but it didn’t work, because it was too complicated, time-consuming, and the parties in the dispute rarely followed through.

But this time around, the COA will provide online dispute registration, and has established the Condominium Authority Tribunal to oversee disputes and, if the case warrants it, provide legally binding decisions after hearing each case.

This is similar to the Ontario Landlord & Tenant Board, and I can’t imagine anybody thinks the establishment of the OLTB wasn’t necessary, given the wild-west-like conditions that exist in major rental markets in the province.

Last but not least, and perhaps sometimes the most simple solution is the most helpful, the COA has established a website that has answers to just about every question a condo owner could ask, about their rights and responsibilities, condo management, meeting and voting, by-laws and rules, the condominium’s financials, etc.

So many people end up buying into condominiums, with no idea how they work.

Whether these people use the COA before or during their time living in a condominium, there’s no denying that the COA will help tens of thousands of Ontario condo owners, and truly improve condominium living for all.

AGAINST

When will it end?

The government meddling in free markets, and the government creating regulatory boards; I don’t know which one is worse.

This is a classic Liberal government move in their patented 5-step program to creating government jobs and revenue streams.

Step 1: Identify a “problem” that really never was one.

Step 2: Believe that you are the moral authority on everything in society today, people need you to govern them in all areas.

Step 3: Propose a solution that involves the government enacting new legislation.

Step 4: Invent a new regulatory board, which creates more government jobs, at inflated salaries, with benefits, that the taxpayers will be on the hook for.

Step 5: Essentially find another tax for an already-overtaxed population, and disguise it as some sort of “fee,” that really goes to pay for the above-mentioned new jobs, as well as provide a surplus to draw from.

Is that about right?

It’s simple math, folks.

$1 per unit, per month, every year, forever.

How many condominium units are there in Ontario?

How much money is the government going to pocket for this?

And for what?  Do we really think that the Ontario government is going to, as they put it, “improve condominium living?”

Do they have time for that?  Didn’t they just become the biggest drug-dealer in Canada?

Who asked for this?  Who knocked on the door of the Ontario Legislature, and asked, “Can you please take control of the condominium industry in Ontario, oversee us, govern us, tell us what to do, and charge us a fee for it?”

Folks, this is just the beginning.

This is the proverbial “foot in the door” for the government, who will probably follow up with new fees, new charges, and maybe create new boards for apartments, home-owners associations, and juts about everybody right down to the homeless guy living in a cardboard box.  I mean, even he needs a website with FAQ’s, right?

The government’s press release, and claims on their website, are laughable:

After a public consultation process, the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) has now set its fees. Overall responses to the proposed fee amounts were positive and the CAO has carefully considered all feedback provided.

No kidding, eh?

The government is considering feedback?  Like on the gas plants, public hydro, minimum wages, mandatory provincial pensions, city toll roads, et al?

Overall responses were positive?

Who did this poll: Angus or Reid?

I’m sure when you’re only polling old women who answer the phone at 5:45pm, hoping one of their children is finally calling to catch-up, you’re probably going to get a “Well I think that’s a fabulous idea, Sweetie,” possibly followed by, “And by the way, my nephew is single…”

I can’t stomach the thought of a case being heard at the new Condominium Authority Tribunal.

If it’s anything like the Ontario Landlord & Tenant Board, where they side with the tenant every time, I can just imagine a resident complaining that her condo won’t accept keys for her cleaning lady, when it’s well within that condominium’s rights to establish their own rules and by-laws, only to have the Tribunal force the condominium to hold this woman’s keys.

Truth be told, we have absolutely no idea where this is going.

And I don’t think the government does either.

They’re going to take the reigns, but they don’t know how tightly they’ll grip them, or where they’re taking the sleigh.

The nerve.  Honestly.

To use the words “authority” and “help” in the same sentence is counter-intuitive.

“We are a newly established organization with authority under the Condominium Act, 1998, created to improve condominium living in Ontario by delivering services to help serve and protect the condo community.”

Right.

You have “authority” that has allowed you to charge for these “services,” that no one asked for, and via this authority you will, as you say, “help.”

Time to buy a house.

Except, I’m sure the Housing Authority of Ontario (HAO) isn’t far behind…

Alright, there you have it, folks.

Two opposite takes, both clearly extremes, but what can I say – it makes it a bit more interesting.

Why be benign and tread the middle ground when you’re going to argue both sides of the coin?

Yes, I’m sure there’s a happy medium somewhere.

But I don’t think we’re looking at a “yes/no” with qualifiers.  Most of you will either like this idea, and see the need for condominium director training and dispute resolution in a city where people constantly grovel about where they live, or see this as the government handing themselves more power, and creating another source of government revenue, that’s hidden within a new fee.

Have your say below.

12 Comments

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  1. Sanya says:

    Just to say, I stumbled upon this blog, been going through the posts and appreciate the straight talk, please keep it up.

    Whether or not the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer, to add to the acronym list) is actually effective, I’m glad there is something (anything!) happening FINALLY to recognize the sheer madness of the condo oversight, or lack of thereof (yes, I own one, not because I want to but because that’s all I could afford to buy). Toronto is a condo city. These buildings are here to stay and multiply, and yet… no one thought that hey, maybe they should be managed by semi-knowledgeable professionals?! CAO – you have my support for now.

  2. Condodweller says:

    It’s done therefore it’s futile to discuss the merit of its existence. The question now is how useful it is going to be and at what rate is the cost going to increase? As for whether or not the government is the right “man” for the job is debatable, however, how many times have we complained about self governed industries? Look no further than Tarion.

  3. Marie says:

    Another boondoggle. I have yet to see a single new agency created by the Wynne Liberals that has helped anyone other than the lucky folks who get cushy new government jobs and the Liberals themselves patting themselves on the back.

  4. Joel says:

    The website is a good idea and they could do an online training module on there. I think the overall cost of this could have been minimal and easily done without creating a new fee.

  5. anonymous says:

    yup another cash grab – by the way, this is just the latest tax on tax coming in for condo owners – remember the HST arrival – that raised every maintenance fee in the province by 6 % a year, and the impact of this will be an additional percentage point at the start. Oh, and the board training they will provide – you can bet there will be a fee for that as well. Look at the history and do the math – 10% or more of your fees are going to taxes that were not there 10 years ago. That’s how you squeeze money out of non profit corporations. Lovely.

  6. tT says:

    It’s a cash grab. Classic Wynne.

    Read the fine print and the dispute resolution is about records, that’s it. Every other dispute brought forward is to be solved by “self directed dispute resolution” by reading up on common problems on their site. Bravo.

  7. Alex says:

    I would be very surprised if they actually turn out to be useful, so I’m gonna say this will probably end up being another government screwup where the star does an expose in a year or two on how they collected a ton more money than they actually need and spent it on inflated salaries or consultants.

  8. Ralph Cramdown says:

    Never mind all that, let’s talk about the logo. That is SOME bad. My guess is a well-connected high school kid somehow got the graphics contract, because there’s no way that came from a professional.

    1. Ralph Cramdown says:

      Upon reflection, I think the logo is a perfect visual metaphor for the condo construction industry in Ontario. Everything between the foundation and the roof is hand-cut, mis-measured and poorly designed and fitted.

      1. Sarah says:

        can we have a ‘like’ feature on these comments. Ralph you just made me LOL

        1. @ Sarah

          Absolutely. I’ll put that into motion, and as is the case with any home renovation in Toronto, this will also take longer than it should, cost more, and disappoint… 🙂

      2. Paully says:

        Yep! I’m adding a like to that comment too!

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