The Ontario Condominium Act has its new years resolutions ready for 2022. The most significant amendments—which come into effect January 1, 2022—aim to address “nuisances.”
Condominiums are always struggling with party, smoking and noise complaints. While the new changes won’t put an end to these issues, they may help expedite the resolution process.
The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT)
The CAT, Ontario’s online tribunal, helps resolve condo-related disputes in a quick, convenient, and less expensive manner.
The CAT currently accepts applications regarding:
- Condominium records
- Pets and animals
- Vehicles (including motorcycles, vans, trucks, trailers, boats and mobile homes)
- Parking and storage
- Indemnification or compensation charges (for charges related to disputes about the items above)
Owners, mortgagees and condo corporations have a right to file applications with the CAT for disputes about provisions in a corporation’s governing documents that deal with pets, vehicles, parking and storage, and/or related indemnification/compensation provisions.
Expansion of the CAT’s jurisdiction
On September 23rd, 2021, The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services announced that the CAT’s jurisdiction would be expanding at the start of 2022, giving it the authority to handle disputes involving nuisances, annoyances, and disruptions.
As of now, these issues are dealt with either through mediation, arbitration, or the courts. Not only are these dispute resolution options lengthy, but they can be very costly. Under the current rules, owners who rent out their units to disruptive tenants may be on the hook for paying court costs related to nuisance disputes.
The CAT is more streamlined, meaning disputes are resolved faster and, more importantly, the costs incurred are generally less.
The CAT operates under a six-step process. Each step can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months, depending on whether the parties can reach an agreement or not. The tribunal will make a legally binding decision for the parties if they can not find a solution on their own. Hearings are hosted online, making this process significantly more convenient.
Clearer definition of what constitutes a nuisance
The pending changes also lay out specific categories of nuisances. Revisions to Section 117 of the Condominium Act explicitly prohibit a condo resident from:
- Causing, either on purpose or as a result of neglect, conditions or activities in the condo units, common elements or assets, that are likely to damage the property or the assets, or cause an injury or an illness to an individual;
- Engaging in or permitting activities in condo units, common elements or assets, that result in the creation or the continuation of (a) any unreasonable noise that is a nuisance, annoyance or disruption to an individual in a unit, the common elements or the assets, or (b) any other prescribed nuisance, annoyance or disruption to an individual in a unit, the common elements or the assets.
Whether something is unreasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The prescribed prohibited nuisances, annoyances and disruptions mentioned in subsection 117(2) will be listed under Section 26 of Regulation 48/01. They include:
While the CAT will have jurisdiction over disputes related to nuisances, disputes concerning “dangerous activities,” listed under subsection 117(1) (i.e., activities that could cause damage to the property or the assets, or cause an injury or an illness to an individual) will not be heard by the CAT. Residents will have to continue bringing these types of disputes before the courts.
Determining whether there is a problem
If a case involving a noisy neighbour makes its way to the CAT, the tribunal would look at evidence like how frequently the resident causes excessive noise, the volume of the noise, the type of noise disturbance, when the noise occurs, etc. There is currently no standard to use for cases.
Residents must also keep in mind that no one in a condominium has an absolute right to silence. Regular household noise is permissible and likely will not constitute a nuisance.
Will these changes make it easier to evict tenants?
There was some initial concern that the new criteria could make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. However, these changes will not have a direct impact on a landlord’s ability to get rid of a current tenant.
Eviction matters are overseen by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which operates separately from the CAT. The role of the LTB is to:
- Resolve disputes between landlords and tenants through mediation or adjudication
- Resolve eviction applications
- Provide information to landlords and tenants about their rights and responsibilities under the RTA
In most situations, before a landlord can apply to the LTB to evict the tenant, they must first give the tenant a notice of termination that clearly explains why the landlord wants to evict the tenant. For some termination notices, the landlord must wait a certain number of days to file an application with the LTB so the tenant has an opportunity to correct the problem first.
If the tenant does not correct the problem and remains in the unit, then the landlord can file an application with the LTB. If the matter can be handled by the LTB, then a hearing will likely be scheduled. At the hearing, the board listens to the landlord and the tenant, then makes a decision based on the evidence presented.
It is possible that a CAT dispute may help strengthen a landlord’s case for eviction, but it wouldn’t be enough to demonstrate that the tenant should be removed from the unit.
Some tips on keeping the peace in a condo building
Having an accessible and affordable way to resolve nuisance issues is a positive for owners and corporations. However, it’s even better when neighbours can get along. Below are some ways condos can encourage better relationships between tenants:
- Ensure owners and residents have access to rules about short-term rentals, smoking, excessive noise, etc. It is often a good idea to have condo rules available on an online platform or storage system
- Encourage owners to speak to disruptive neighbours before coming to the manager or board. Sometimes, people simply don’t realize how loud they are being
- If a resident does request to submit a formal complaint, make sure that it is documented in writing
- Keep lines of communication open
- If the board or manager needs to get involved, make sure they are following any dispute resolution processes spelt out in their governing documents
- Make sure violations or infractions are handled in a systematic and fair manner. If tenants know that there are consequences for breaking the rules, they’re less likely to go against them
There will always be disputes between neighbours about noise, smoke and other things that come up when strangers live so close together.
The changes to the Ontario Condominium Act and theexpansion of the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s jurisdictionare intended to make the dispute resolution process more straightforward and accessible to condo dwellers living in Ontario. We will see just how impactful these changes are in the new year.