The Blog

REV IT UP…Electric vehicles may soon become the norm, is your condo equipped for it?

Dear Maria; I’m hearing so much talk about Electric Vehicles (EV) is this something that we as a Board should be considering?

Answer Lets face it, with the way technology is progressing these days gas powered vehicles are no longer the only option available to the ecologically-conscious, tech savvy individual. Electric Vehicles are climbing in popularity.

On March 26, 2018, the province of Ontario released new regulations aimed at facilitating the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in existing condos. Am I shocked? No! To my understanding the City of Calgary is  putting a strategy for electric vehicle in places. City data suggests that there are around 750 electric vehicles registered in Alberta and climbing.

Electric vehicles are cars that run off of electricity, instead of gasoline. They are powered by rechargeable batteries, which are charged by everyday electricity. Some types of electric vehicles also include a gasoline engine to extend the car’s maximum driving range. Charging stations are used to supply electricity to the car and can be built into someone’s home and can be found in public spaces.

According to the city, one of the objectives includes encouraging quicker adoption of electric vehicles to aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the City, the objectives
of the Electric Vehicle Strategy are to:
• respond to the growing demand for electric vehicle infrastructure and services,
• encourage/support faster adoption of electric vehicles to aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,
• build partnerships across Alberta to provide an electric vehicle charging network within the province that connects to other provinces or states,
• establish what role The City, partner organizations and the private sector should play in providing electric vehicle infrastructure and services, and
• increase awareness and create enthusiasm among the public and industry about electric vehicles.

In my personal opinion, it’s only a matter of time before Alberta adopts the same type of regulations that Ontario has and mandates that Alberta condos add a charging station in
their parking facility. With that said, should boards start talking about adding charging stations in their condominium buildings? Or remain in the past and ignore future expectations
of a changing world. Transportation is changing quickly, and charging a car rather than filling up the tank seems to be the way of the future. Something to consider! 

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THE HAZARDS OF POTTING SOIL FIRES : Butting out cigarettes in potting soil is a primary fire hazard

Question : Dear Maria; We’ve heard a lot about fires starting from balconies in condo buildings. What’s the main reason for this and how can this be prevented?

Answer: Over the last few years, fire departments throughout North America have reported a higher than average number of fires caused by potting soil and/or peat moss. Many of them from
smokers disposing cigarettes in their potted plants in the balconies of their condo apartments.

Here are some examples of large fire caused by potting soil catching fire in condominiums:
• Calgary – March 2010 – fire caused by a cigarette left smoldering in a flowerpot left 250 people displaced.
• Edmonton – July 2014 – fire caused by a cigarette in a flowerpot left 400 people displaced.
• Edmonton – May 2015 – fire caused by carelessly disposing of cigarette in flowerpot left 155 people displaced.
• Montreal – August 2016 – fire starting in a flowerpot left 30 people displaced
• Langley, BC – December 2016 – fire caused by a careless disposal of a cigarette butt left 100 people displaced.
• Calgary – May 2018 – large fire loss due to improper disposal of cigarette in a planter on balcony left 200 occupants displaced.

There are two main causes:
• Careless disposal of smoking materials
• Spontaneous combustion

The majority of smokers today light up outside where there are often insufficient ashtrays or receptacles for cigarette butts. Many butt out in any available container,
such as a patio planter. There have also been reports of fires where potting soil has self-ignited. This can occur if a plastic planter is left in direct sun, neglected and allowed to completely dry out. Fire departments advise that the chance of this happening is relatively low, however, if a potted plant is allowed to dry out and something hot is placed in it, such
as a cigarette, it will burn. Many people think that they can safely butt out in a plant or flowerpot; however both the plants and soils contain chemicals
that can ignite. A problem related to fertilizers in the soil is that they act as oxidizers that can accelerate combustion. Many potting soils on the market today contain less dirt and more organic substances that are flammable, such as shredded wood, bark, peat moss, styrofoam pellets and vermiculite.

Helpful prevention tips:

• Provide smokers with a designated smoking area, and provide proper receptacles for cigarette disposal.
• Advise smokers not to use any pots containing potting soil as an ashtray.
• Maintain planters, keep plants fresh and watered and check them frequently in hot sunny dry weather.
• Discard any dead plants in planters.
• Do not keep potted plants near combustible materials.
• Do not store bags of potting soil in direct sunlight and/or near any combustible materials.
• Avoid plastic containers – use clay planter pots whenever possible, as they may keep potting soil res better contained. Think twice before butting out. Credit for article-BFL Canada Insurance Inc.

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CONDOMINIUM PROPERTY AMENDMENT ACT (TAKE 2) : Here’s how parts of the CPAA can affect you

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.

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