LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Tuesday 7 March 2023 Mardi 7 mars 2023
Report continued from volume A.
Private Members’ Public Business
Ms. Jessica Bell: I move that we debate the motion that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should expand the jurisdiction and enforcement power of the condo authority tribunal so the tribunal can hear, rule and resolve the issues that most impact condo residents, including condo board governance and elections, condo rules, property management performance, condo fees, maintenance and repairs, reserve funds, and short-term rentals.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.
Mr. Brian Riddell: Good evening, Madam Speaker—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The member for University–Rosedale. I’m sorry. The member who has moved the motion will start the debate.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you. I’m really pleased to be here. I want to welcome the Ontarians in the audience tonight. I know you’re directly impacted by this bill. It’s good to see you here.
There are 1.3 million condo residents in Ontario, and that number is growing, because more and more Ontarians are living in condos, and the trend to more dense urban living is projected to continue. Some of these buildings, especially in big cities, are now the size of small towns. Upwards of 2,000 people live in these buildings. Some of the members opposite, some of the members here live in these kinds of big buildings. But the amount of regulation that exists to protect these residents is very minimal.
Now, every single condo resident deserves to live in a safe and well-maintained home—that’s what I stand for; that’s what our party stands for—and many condo residents do live in safe and well-maintained homes. Some condo residents live in condo hell, and some condo residents are going to live in condo hell—they just don’t know it yet. This motion is for them.
It’s for Rani Pooran, an individual who contacted our office last year. She’s a Toronto condo owner that is stuck in a court battle with her property manager and her board of directors because of a flood that started in another condo unit and contributed thousands of dollars of damage to her own unit. So she had no control over it, but she’s the one that has to pay the price.
It’s for an individual called Michael Cohen who was in contact with the MPP for Toronto Centre’s office last year. He was living with his male partner near the Village in Toronto and was told by the condo’s management that he needed to get married or move out because the condo had a rule restricting occupants of one unit to people who were married. So housemates, same-sex couples—this condo building said no. Now, that is human rights discrimination, and it is allowed in Ontario today.
This is also for Charlene Aquilina, someone who lives in London, who recently contacted myself. Her new board president—this is a very disturbing story—fired the person and the company that was doing construction work on their condo in order to hire his own cousin to do the construction work. And then he turned around and forced all of the 300 condo residents to pay massive special assessment fee hikes to pay for the construction again and for the $500,000 lawsuit that the former construction company issued on the board. It has resulted in over 60 people who live in that condo selling because they can’t afford the condo fees—and guess who bought those condo units? It was the board president. He was buying them at a discount when someone couldn’t afford the special assessment fees that he unilaterally imposed upon them. That’s a story I heard two days ago—two days ago.
This is also for Shudeshna and her neighbours, who live in University–Rosedale. They contacted me recently because they’ve seen this issue in the news. They contacted me because they’re cold, because one of them has had no heat for eight weeks in the middle of winter because of construction issues, and they also feel unsafe because their building continues to be broken into, and when they raise this issue with the property manager, the property manager refuses to adequately deal with it.
This motion is for people like them as well, and for thousands of people like them. And we know these people, because they contact our offices. They contact your offices. I know they contact your offices as well. They are often furious. They’re distressed. They’re financially strapped, and they are also shocked to learn that in Ontario today there’s no effective regulator, no government agency and no tribunal that they can turn to to help them step in and fix the problem they face—because there isn’t.
In this world of vertical living, increasingly the quality of a resident’s life hinges on how well a building is built, maintained and governed. When a building is poorly built by a developer who cuts corners, is managed by an investor-heavy condo board with no personal stake in the longevity of the building, and is poorly managed by an unlicensed property manager, which is more common than you think, then problems arise and it is the condo resident who is paying the price. I think that has to change.
Ontario’s Auditor General reached the same conclusion. She and her team did a deep dive into the condo sector in 2020 and found this. I’m going to quote: “Ontario’s condo sector is poorly regulated” and “there is inadequate regulation and oversight over developers, condo property managers and condo boards.”
We reached this conclusion as well, and by “we,” I mean this government, the Liberals and us. We all sit on the public accounts committee, and we recently issued a joint report which I am very proud of. I’m very proud of that report that calls for reform to the condo sector. It calls for reform for the condo sector, because you get it and I get it, and the top legislative change that I believe we need to make is something that we’re debating right now, which is to improve and strengthen the condo authority tribunal.
That’s the purpose of this motion tonight. The reason why is because the tribunal should be a place where residents can go to have their disputes heard, just like the ones who are here tonight, just like the ones I described to you earlier, so that the issues can be resolved and enforced in a quick, affordable and fair manner, without having to go to court. Because when you go to court, it costs about $30,000 or more, and the chances of you winning are slim. No one wants to spend $30,000 going to court to get their property manager to properly maintain the party room in the basement. They just don’t. It’s not going to happen. It costs about $200 to file a claim with the tribunal, and if this tribunal, and it should be working properly—those tribunals should be heard in a quick, fair and fast manner so Ontario’s condo residents can live good lives in well-maintained homes.
The condo tribunal already exists, but we have an issue here, and the issue is this: The tribunal can only hear cases on a limited scope of matters—pets, odour, noise, storage and a few others. These are important, but in the grand scheme of things they are not the most common issues that residents face. The most common issues that residents face are poor building construction, delays in repairs, illegal short-term rentals, surprise hikes in condo fees, poorly performing property managers, unlicensed property managers, and condo boards that don’t hold frequent public meetings or run free and fair elections. These problems can wreak havoc on a resident’s life. Expanding the condo tribunal is what we’re talking about tonight, and it will provide tangible and practical help to people who are facing these issues in Ontario today.
This is what we’re talking about tonight. I do want to conclude by emphasizing that improving the condo tribunal is just one step in the road map that Ontario needs to take to ensure all condo residents have good protections. It’s a road map that was outlined in the Auditor General’s report in 2020, and it was also outlined in the public accounts committee report that was released just a few weeks ago.
I want to outline two of these things in conclusion. One is that it is necessary to strengthen the protections for buyers of condos by requiring developers to use a standard legal contract and to fully disclose accurate information about current and future condo fees. That is extremely important, and the reason why it is important is because no first-time homeowner wants the horror of turning the key in their front door for the first time and discovering they bought a home that is more expensive, smaller and lacks the amenities that they were promised at sale. And unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in Ontario today, and it should not be happening.
Number two, and this is also essential, is that the Ontario government needs to improve the performance of the two regulatory agencies that are responsible for overseeing condo boards and property managers, the CAO and the CMRAO. They’re big on acronyms, but they have very important responsibilities that they are not doing.
This is what should happen: If a resident has a valid concern, they should be able to call those regulatory agencies and have an impartial staff person listen to their complaint, investigate the issue and enforce the law if they find wrongdoing. That’s not what’s happening with these regulatory agencies today. What is happening, and we both know this, is that they don’t have the resources, the legislative power and the independence from the industry they are supposed to regulate to do their job well, and that needs to change.
So those will be some additional things that we are pushing for, but tonight, what I am hoping for is that we can do something for the residents that are sitting here tonight—for Rani, for Michael, for Charlene, for Kerri—for all the people who are facing condo issues through no fault of their own. We can do something tangible and practical to help them tonight. We can expand the jurisdiction of the condo tribunal so that they have a fast, easy, affordable place to go to have their issues heard and resolved. It’s about proper consumer protections, and it’s important that we do it.
The need is obvious. The recommendations are clear. The time for action is now. For the 1.3 million condo residents in Ontario, I urge you to support this motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
I recognize the member for Cambridge.
Mr. Brian Riddell: Good afternoon, Madam Speaker and honourable members. I am pleased to be here today to address a recent motion put forth by the member for University-Rosedale about several proposed changes to the Condominium Authority Tribunal. As you know, one of the ministry’s key priorities is to strengthen protections for consumers across many areas as they conduct transactions online and in-person, and as they make purchases, big and small, in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. We recognize that we have a responsibility to the people of Ontario who elected us. We know we need to serve them well, and that is why we are committed to protecting them when buying goods and services in Ontario.
One of the key ways in which we are honouring that responsibility is the Condominium Authority Tribunal, established in 2017 to give condo owners and corporations a mechanism to address certain common issues. The huge growth in condo development means that we must continue to review and update our laws and regulations to protect consumers in ways that haven’t been considered before.
Condos have grown to play a major role in housing options for millions of Ontarians, and condo communities offer convenient and transit-accessible living that caters to a broad range of lifestyles in Ontario. The vast majority of condominiums are well managed, maintained and meet the expectations of owners and residents. However, this rapid growth of the condo sector has led to challenges that sometimes negatively impact the well-being of condo owners and their purchases. It is important to keep in mind that as the market goes through growth and transformation, our province must also grow and adapt to ensure we meet the needs of this growing sector.
The CAT is the forum for condo owners and corporations to resolve certain condo-related disputes, such as disputes related to condo records, pets, animals, vehicles, parking, nuisances such as unreasonable noise, odour, smoke, vapour and other disruptions. Its operations are overseen and managed by the Condominium Authority of Ontario, or CAO, one of the administrative authorities, and self-funded primarily through assessment fees that the CAO collects each year from every condo corporation in Ontario.
Beyond overseeing the operations of the CAT, the CAO provides valuable resources for condo residents to help them understand their rights and responsibilities within the condo communities, and its jurisdiction is set out in the Condominium Act, 1998, and its regulations.
As a fully online tribunal, the CAT provides accessible and cost-effective processes for condo communities and the need to dispute and come up with a resolution. Our government is committed, in principle, to expand its jurisdiction so it can hear, rule and resolve the issues that most impact condo residents.
We will examine the areas suggested by the Auditor General and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. My ministry received the committee’s follow-up report and recommendations in November 2022, and we know that since the CAT started operating in November 2017, Ontario’s condo sector has continued to grow.
Today in Ontario, we have over 12,000 condo corporations, 980,000 condo units, with over 825,000 being residential units—and over one million condo residents in this province today. This means that approximately one in six Ontario households were living in a condominium in 2021.
Condos also represent about half the new homes being built in the province, in a housing sector worth almost $45 billion, employing more than 300,000 Ontarians. Our government is helping to build better infrastructure and move homes faster while strengthening and protecting our communities.
At the time the CAT began its operations, its authority was limited to disputes related to access to and retention of condo corporation records—the most common issues reported by the sector. Like the growth of the housing sector, the CAT’s jurisdiction has grown since its inception and is intended to keep growing, but by taking a careful, measured approach based on what we hear are the most common disputes in condo communities.
A phased approach is important to ensure that the sector has time to adjust to each expansion of the CAT’s jurisdiction; that the impact on condo communities is managed, as each expansion would increase the resources required for condo corporations to respond to an increased number of applications to the CAT; that the remedies the CAT can provide are appropriate for each dispute—and ensure the CAT’s operation is feasible.
It’s also important for our government to analyze the costs that might be incurred on the residents themselves by the CAT’s expansion. For example, with expanded jurisdiction, it would be likely that condo corporations would be brought to the CAT more often, and as a result, condo corporations would spend more time and money representing themselves. This burden could very likely then result in higher common-element condo fees for all condo owners in a building.
Our government remains committed to cutting red tape and strengthening protections for Ontarians with the biggest purchase of their lives—their homes. We want to ensure that the CAT continues to expand its jurisdiction to address condo challenges that people face today. This expansion needs to be done in a careful, considerate way, and it’s why our government cannot support this motion in its current form.
My ministry is taking a cautious approach as we continue to consult with the sector on what type of disputes are best handled by the CAT and what can be reasonably and effectively implemented, just as we did in 2020 when, after public consultations, its jurisdiction was expanded to resolve certain disputes related to vehicles, pets, other animals, parking and storage.
Furthermore, in January 2022, two months after the release of the Auditor General’s report, we again expanded the CAT’s authority under the Condominium Act by enabling it to resolve certain disputes related to nuisances, annoyances or disruptions, including those related to unreasonable noise, odour, light, vibration, smoke and vapour.
Through extensive consultations, we have learned that not all matters are appropriately brought to the CAT, but that some are best handled by courts or are required to be determined by a court.
Madam Speaker and honourable members, let me be clear: Our government supports the principle of expanding the CAT’s jurisdiction. We will follow through on our responses to the Auditor General of Ontario’s recommendations from the 2020 value-for-money audit report on Condominium Oversight in Ontario to expand the CAT’s jurisdiction.
Speaker, as I said, thoughtful analysis and consultation is needed to determine what other types of disputes should be handled by the CAT in our next phase of proposed expansion and what can be reasonably completed.
We must also listen to the condo residents as we expand, to ensure we’re making the right choices. Ontarians can rest assured that our government is empathetic to the experiences that some condo residents have undergone and continue to face, and we are working hard to address and alleviate the shortfalls that have been identified.
Our vision for the condo sector in Ontario is one in which the residents can live peacefully in their homes and have a strong, responsive dispute resolution mechanism available to them when issues arise. We will continue to work and listen to the sector to best determine how to proceed in amending the Condominium Act regulations to allow for the expansion of the CAT’s jurisdiction.
As I’ve outlined, while the member’s motion is very well-intentioned, we cannot agree to such a broad motion. There are many considerations at hand before a thorough reconfiguration of the CAT’s powers could be fully realized. We know that together we can do what is right for the many condo residents of Ontario and fulfill our vision for a strong, reliable housing sector that consumers feel confident in when buying a condo for the first time and continuing to live in one for many years. It has given us much food for thought as we continue to consult and implement ways to enhance protections for Ontarians who call condos home. We intend to continue to explore changes to adapt and evolve the CAT and its oversight body, the CAO, to continue to provide those same condo residents with strong, sustainable consumer protection legislation they can count on.
Under the Premier’s leadership, our government is laying the foundation for future growth, renewal, long-term economic recovery and prosperity by strengthening protections for Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: I want to thank the residents from my community who are here today in support of this important motion. My late father once told me that every day is a fight out there—fighting at work, fighting traffic, fighting issues—fighting and problems. So, when you go home, the last thing you want, the last thing you need is a fight. Well, here in Ontario there are over a million people and their families living in condos, and many of them are coming home to a fight. Maybe it’s with a condo board gone rogue. Maybe it’s with a property manager unwilling to do what’s necessary. Maybe it’s with a neighbour or unit affecting the quality of life of those around them.
Fighting and problems—the stress from these fights can be devastating. And where do these fights often end up? In the courts, at great cost and time. Condo residents don’t deserve this, and they need help. In my community, I started getting calls from desperate condo residents who were facing a special assessment fee of over $30,000, to be paid in mere days or face a lien—imagine that. I called the ministry and they told me that all the residents could do was go to court and fight. That’s what they did. And you know what happened? After $100,000 of legal fees, they had to give up. Many were forced to sell. Many had to take out high-interest loans if they wanted to stay. At best, these fights are frustrating and expensive. At worst, they are destructive and life-altering.
I’ve been meeting with condo residents and boards across my community and beyond, and they’re all asking for help and respect. They’re asking for better laws to protect honest and law-abiding condo residents. My NDP colleagues and I are working to make this happen.
Ontario’s Auditor General has weighed in on this and the need for condo law reform. One of her recommendations is what we are talking about here today: to expand the condominium tribunal, expand the tribunal so issues can be handled quickly, fairly and affordably. We owe this to over one million Ontario condo residents, and today we have the chance to make it happen.
I’m counting on this government to stand up for condo residents, to give them the respect and protections they need—to do the right thing and pass this motion to expand the condo tribunal. Let’s get it done today.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate? The member for Cambridge.
Mr. Brian Riddell: We aren’t disagreeing with you, but we want to—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Oh, sorry. Excuse me, the member for Cambridge. I made a mistake. I’m going to give the floor to the member for Toronto Centre.
MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam: Thank you very much, Speaker. It’s an honour to stand in the House today to speak on behalf of the good people of Toronto Centre, and also to express and lend my support to this very important motion that expands the accountability in Ontario for condo dwellers.
Condominiums do play a very important and growing role in our housing market in Ontario, and it’s largely because this government has decided to let the construction of condominiums rip. So, now we have our market being largely supplied by condominiums as opposed to family-size rental units or even purpose-built rentals. Because of this, many more tenants now live in condominiums.
Tenants have rights around maintenance and repairs. Tenants who have concerns have to be able to address these concerns with their owners. These owners now have to deal with condominium boards. It’s much more complicated than just purpose-built rentals.
There are more agencies involved, which now also means there are more opportunities for miscommunication, as well as possibilities for conflict.
The Condominium Authority Tribunal should be a place where residents can go and have their disputes heard. This can help us resolve conflict in a much faster, cheaper and much more accessible manner. But it doesn’t happen that way, because there are limitations to the tribunal as it stands right now. That is something that this bill will correct. The failure of the Condominium Authority Tribunal—not resolving the most complex and most common disputes—is a problem and is a very clear omission.
Forcing the owners to go to court to resolve those conflicts can be very difficult. It’s expensive. It stressful. It’s arduous. And there’s a much more lengthy process.
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I look forward to supporting this motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I want to thank the MPP for University–Rosedale for bringing forward this important motion. The NDP stands for consumer protection and we stand up for condo residents.
Ontario’s Auditor General in 2020 concluded that the mandates given to the Condominium Authority of Ontario and the Condominium Authority Tribunal do not sufficiently protect condo owners against common issues. It’s disturbing to think that many of the 2015 amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998, have not yet been proclaimed into force. Earlier today, the minister for MGCS stated that they were still in consultation. This is what they said years ago, and up to today they are maintaining the status quo.
Broadly, the existing model for the condo sector does not provide effective consumer protection. Charlene is a great person in my riding who has been through hell with her condo. Not only did she encounter the problematic situation with the board president, as pointed out by my colleague from University–Rosedale moments ago, and which I related earlier during in question period today, but she also experienced the publication of her name on the CAO’s website without her consent. Charlene was also concerned about her condo board’s election and she doesn’t feel safe around another board member. Tonight, we have a chance to help people like Charlene and give her peace in a place she deserves to feel safe—her home.
I think everyone can agree that the condo authority and tribunal should serve condo owners, not lawyers, consultants, managers and developers. Access to justice has always been a concern for Ontarians. In our system, too often those with deep pockets can access representation while others may not. It seems odd that a condo owner, through their own fees, may be paying for a lawyer to represent the board in a case against their own self. They’re actually paying for the fight against themselves. Let’s fix this unfairness. I urge my colleagues to pass this motion tonight.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Chris Glover: I want to thank the member from University–Rosedale for bringing forward this motion to expand the mandate of the Condo Authority Tribunal.
In my riding of Spadina–Fort York, 80% of us live in high-rise buildings and there are issues with condos: disputes between residents and disputes with boards. Currently, the main recourse for many of these disputes is to spend tens of thousands of dollars on court fees.
There is an alternative; there is the Condo Authority Tribunal. But the challenge with the Condo Authority Tribunal is that, currently, its mandate is limited to pets, parking, expenses and management disputes.
This motion would expand the mandate of the condo authority tribunal to include board governance and elections, condo rules, condo fees, reserve funds and short-term rentals.
A condo is often the biggest purchase of a person’s life, and it can be a nightmare. I’ve heard from residents in my community about reserve funds of millions of dollars that were used in one year without proper accounting or transparency, about board elections that are conducted unfairly, about conflicts of interest with boards awarding contracts to companies connected with board members.
The motion follows on the Auditor General’s investigation in 2020. She called for better consumer protections for Ontario’s 1.3 million condo residents and recommended expanding the condo authority tribunal. Ian Thornton in my riding says, “We have requested transparency. The board will not even answer.” Marlene Shiff, another resident in my riding, says she is asking for greater transparency about expenses from her board and questions the fairness of the board election process.
Personally, I love living in a condo. We organized concerts in the courtyard during the pandemic. We have a social committee, and after the last potluck dinner a bhangra dance broke out. But in any living situation there are going to be disputes, and that’s why we need a quick and fair dispute resolution mechanism, and this motion to expand the mandate of the condo authority tribunal will help to achieve that.
I want to thank my colleague the member from University–Rosedale for bringing forward this motion. I’m disappointed to hear that the Conservative government’s not going to be supporting this motion today. I think that’s a real blow to all the condo owners and residents across this province.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Joel Harden: Nice to see everybody this afternoon. This is an important subject. As the member from University–Rosedale has said very clearly in this motion, a condo is almost a wild west right now when it comes to key and crucial rights that people have as owners of these condos.
I want us to imagine, to think about the outrage that’s in our communities right now about the cost of living, the high price of food, the extremely high price of gas, of all of the necessities of life given the inflationary environment we’re in right now. But imagine that, in a single day, you receive a notice of a 15% fee; or imagine if, in a single day, your major way in which you got about your community, from your condo to your employment, was a bicycle, the bicycle room being closed, shuttered without any notice, without any understanding of why that was happening. These are things that happen all the time in Ottawa Centre when I talk to condo owners. It’s not right.
If you make a significant investment in a condo, that’s your home, that’s your investment, and the contract that you have with the building owner is exactly that: It should be a contract. There should be two parties to it. It shouldn’t be a dictatorship where one person gets to decide access to your amenities, arbitrary fees you pay. Speaker, when I talk to condo owners in Ottawa Centre and they tell me what they pay in condo fees alone, it resembles the rent I used to pay once upon a time as a graduate student in this great city—$500, $600, $700, $1,000 in additional costs to something you’ve already purchased; 15% surcharges; amenities closed with no notice. This is not a democracy. When one is party to a contract, there are two sides of that contract, and when one side of that contract is abrogating the rules of that contract, there should be immediate due process and redress to those legitimate complaints, and we do not have that right now for condo owners.
If we want to have a flourishing environment where people can buy a condo, can make that great investment, can live in transit-friendly communities, they should have immediate access as well, not just to transit and all the great amenities of urban life, but to justice—to justice and to remediation of their complaints.
I want to thank the member for University–Rosedale for putting this forward. Let’s get behind this today. Regardless of what we were told to vote on coming into this place, let’s support condo owners.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The members has two minutes to reply.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you, Speaker. I want to thank the member for Cambridge, the member for Humber River–Black Creek, and the members for Toronto Centre, London North Centre, Spadina–Fort York and Ottawa Centre for speaking to this bill.
I must say, I’m angered and saddened by the government’s decision to indicate that they’re going to vote down this motion tonight. I can imagine that there are some unethical developers and some condo boards that have gone rogue, and some unlicensed property managers who are thinking to themselves, “Ah, phew.”
I’m also thinking about the 1.3 million residents who just want to live in a home and don’t want to have to think about making sure that their condo room is maintained, that there’s not flooding in their home, that they can go to an AGM once a year and understand what their condo fees are going towards.
And I think about the people who took the time to come out here tonight. I’ve heard your story. Many of you are very financially worried. Some of you are fearful that you’re going to lose your homes. It must be very hard to watch us down here and see that there are some members who are not going to be voting to support you tonight.
I can say this: We are not going to stop advocating for protections for condo residents. I hear this government give platitudes and assurances that, “We have it under control. A cautious, careful approach is necessary.”
It’s our job—it’s my job and it’s your job—to hold this government to account and say, “Where are the timelines? What’s the plan? Where’s the funding? On what date are you going to allow certain matters to be heard at the tribunal?” Because we’re waiting, and we want action.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
MPP Bell has moved private member’s notice of motion number 27. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
Those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): All matters related to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1837.