QUESTION : Dear Maria: I’ve heard of the new Condominium Property Act. What does it mean
ANSWER : Between July 2017 and February 2018, Service Alberta conducted consultations with condo owners, managers, legal and real estate professionals, and stakeholders from business and industry. Based on input received, they developed draft regulations that address how condominium boards govern themselves. Here are some of the areas that were addressed:
Voting procedures and general meeting notices
• Rental deposits
• Access to condominium documents
• Insurance requirements
• Financial considerations
• Reserve Funds
As you may or may not be aware the first-stage regulations took effect on January 1, 2018 and April 1, 2018. To read more visit servicealberta.ca/consumer-condominiums.
In June 2018, Service Alberta announced that they would be working on the next stage of regulations — governance and dispute resolution. I’m in favour of the next set of changes and agree that condo owners and management companies must structure themselves differently in order to meet the future demands of condo owners and the condominium corporations. However, I, like many in my industry, have a number of concerns with the draft regulations that I believe will hinder progress, and will ultimately cost the condominium corporations more money to enlist the
services of reputable management companies like, New Concept Management Inc., if the changes are adopted.
As an example and my personal opinion the draft regulations require the corporation to send a preliminary save-the-date notice at least 60 days before the AGM, not a problem in my mind, but it also allow owners to propose agenda items for the AGM after receiving the notice, followed by a 30-day final AGM notice, which must include a summary of ALL agenda items proposed by owners.
I would look at the impact this could have on a condominium corporation. Its hard enough trying to get owners to attend an AGM let alone having a list of additional agenda items that now will need to be included on the agenda and brought forward at the meeting. Can you image a 3-4 hour meeting instead of the regular 1-2 hour meeting …I cringe at the thought! I’m not saying that individual unit owners do not have a voice at the AGM they certainly do. But the agenda needs to be realistic.
Lets talk about fee based document management. Every condominium owner, potential buyer or mortgagee of a unit can make a request for certain documents to be provided within 10 days of receiving a written request. These documents are essential and give information on the financial stability of the condo, if there is any upcoming capital expenditures, Board decisions and so on.
The fee charged for a document can differ depending on the type of document and how much work is needed to make a copy. For example, estoppel certificates, letter of disclosure need to be created each time someone asks for one. It is also important to take into consideration photocopying, postage, envelopes, website fees-depending on how the copies are made, retention of the documents (condo corporations get a lot of documents) and essentially overhead fees to manage the documents. I do not believe that a management company should release these documents for free.
This is a topic that most fear talking about, but in my personal opinion and like many, I think it’s one that needs to have a voice in the condominium industry. Mental Health disorders are now reported to be the leading cause of non-fatal illness not only in Canada, but worldwide. What is mental health? Generally, this includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental Health is important at every stage of life from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
The affliction does affect young people, but it is more common among the older generations. Calgary has seen its aging population begin downsizing from the single-family homes to condo
communities. And with this comes increased risks for mental health disorders in multi-family setting. Condo boards and management companies will find that they will have to address mental health disabilities and psychological disorders among their condo residents as part of there daily tasks.
I understand that most managers are not trained and/or equipped in the area of dealing with mental health issues, but as managers, I think its important to understand and know how to address concerns with individuals facing mental health disorders
So what do you do as a condo manager or a board member and how can you help address the issue when it comes up?
Condo boards and mangers like New Concept Management Inc., should be proactive. Start with the least intrusive, least costly, and least heavy-handed measurers and work from there. I hear so many horror stories of condo managers and or board members who lack compassion. Well, I’m here to tell you that it simply doesn’t need to be that way. The old adage is true- you can
catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Being nice to nice people is great, but being nice to those who are not nice to you or have a hard time with basic communication skills is how the world becomes better. Here are some suggestions that may help go along way.
1. Be supportive — it doesn’t hurt or cost anyone to show some compassion towards one another. Kindness goes a long way even in the toughest of situations. Trust me, I know, it’s not always easy being a condo manager and I face a lot of challenges in my industry. In fact, I’m thinking about writing a book.
2. If someone has disclosed that they have a mental health issue. See how you and the board can accommodate their request. Every condominium in Alberta has a duty to accommodate an owner with a disorder, whether it is a physical or mental one up to the point of undue hardship and upon request. The obligation is set out in the Human Rights Code (the “Code”). The assessment of undue hardship is usually limited to considerations of any significant financial impairment to the condominium or health and safety concerns, but on rare occasions the courts have considered the
effect on the other residents.
3. Gather as much information as possible regarding the nature of the disability and the request for accommodation from the owner, caregiver or family member.
4. It goes without saying, but keep the information confidential. It should never be disclosed to outside sources like residents or other owners. It’s also as important to keep all communications regarding the request on file and not delay responding to the request for accommodation.
5. Most importantly, act in good faith in reviewing the request for accommodation and accept it unless there is legitimate reason for denial. You may want to seek legal council and or review the Human Rights Code.
6. Boards are infamous for setting policies and procedures that govern their condo. Why not set a policy on how you as a management company and board shouldrespond to requests for accommodations that deal with Mental Health Disorders or any Disability. I know we at New Concept Management Inc.; are in the process of developing polices to accommodate mental health disorders
Question : Maria, My condo board is involved in a number of ongoing disputes with owners that have dragged on for months and have cost the corporation a small fortune in legal fees. Now other owners are taking sides, and I’m worried about the discord this is causing. How can we get these disagreements settled?
Unresolved disputes are not only costly, they also take a huge toll on the people involved in them. They can turn one group of owners against another, discourage people from serving on the board, and reduce the quality of life in a condo community. In its recent review of the condo industry, Service Alberta has identified the urgent need for a condo dispute resolution tribunal as one of its priorities. Until the new tribunal is in place, though, most disputes that are not resolved by the parties themselves must settled by the Court of Queen’s Bench, which is a time-consuming, and expensive process.
The current situation could be much improved by the creation of a new condo tribunal that can make decisions about condo disputes quickly and inexpensively. However, even without a condo tribunal, there are many steps that condo owners, boards, and condo managers can take to reduce the risk of conflict and to resolve disagreements on their own.
For instance, it’s important that the rules of your complex are clear and everyone is aware of them. Ensure your bylaws are up to date and written in understandablelanguage. Develop written rules to address common issues, like parking and the use of common elements. Make all relevant information readily accessible to owners, preferably on a secure owners’ website. When everyone
has the same information, misunderstandings are less likely to arise.
Another important factor in preventing disputes is board education. Condo board members often manage assets worth millions of dollars and sometimes have to deal with complicated issues, yet many have no training in board governance or dispute resolution. All condo corporations need a board development plan to orient and educate board members and ensure regular turnover of
the board. As the board is ultimately accountable to the owners, it is also important to keep the lines of communication open between the board and owners,and not funnel all communications through the condo manager.
Even these measures can’t prevent all disagreements, of course, so it’s important to respect differences of opinion when they do arise and to try to understand them. If we dig deep enough into the reasons for a dispute, it may be possible to find “win-win” solutions that everyone can live with. This approach to settling disagreements is called “collaborative” or “interest-based”
dispute resolution. It encourages the participants to work together to attack the problem, instead of attacking each other. It also helps preserve relationships, which is an important benefit
when the dispute is between condo owners who are neighbours and co-owners of the common property. In contrast, traditional legal means of resolving disputes are “adversarial”, pitting the participants against each other to advocate for their own position and against the other’s. Adversarial dispute resolution requires the parties to argue their case in front of a decision-maker who decides who has the stronger argument — a “win-lose” situation. There is not much room for compromise, collaboration, or exploration of each party’s needs and wants. For this reason, adversarial ways of resolving disputes are not a good option in situations where the parties have an ongoing relationship, as they do in most condominium cases.