The 2017 amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) created the Condominium Authority Tribunal (“CAT”), an online tribunal that helps settle and decide condominium-related disputes in Ontario. Since its inception CAT has exclusively handled record related disputes between owners and condo corporations. It is expected that CAT will handle other owner-condo related disputes sometime in the future.
Our office had the pleasure of representing a few of our condo clients in CAT proceedings. So we thought we’d share some tips and “tricks” for managers and boards to avoid and handle record-related CAT disputes.
TIP 1: Don’t fur-get to respond!. Do not ignore a records request, even if the forms aren’t correctly completed. A corporation has 30 days to respond to a records request using the standardized board response form, outline the estimated fees for preparing the records (if applicable), and indicate any records that the Corporation will not disclose. Responding to a records request on the prescribed form and within the prescribed timeline may entirely avoid a CAT proceeding!
TIP 2: Purr-haps production? The 2017 amendments to the Act enhanced the “open-book” principle for corporation’s records. What does this mean for corporations? An owner is likely (not always) entitled to most records of the Corporation unless they are exempt from production pursuant to section 55(4) of the Act or for instance, solicitor-client privilege. Of course every case is different and there may be other instances where records could be reasonably withheld from an owner. When in doubt, consult your legal counsel.
TIP 3: Fur-ward to CAT: If an owner submits a dispute to CAT, the corporation will receive a “Notice of Case”. Once you receive the notice, the corporation must respond by joining the case on the CAT’s online system within seven days. If you fail to join the case, CAT may make an order without the corporation’s input or participation, which as evidenced in numerous CAT decisions, can lead to costs implications against the corporation, upwards of $5000. Moral of the story, join the case!
TIP 4: The CAT’s meow: The CAT process has three stages: negotiation, mediation and adjudication. In the negotiation phase, users will work collaboratively to try to resolve the issues in dispute, including providing settlement offers and exchanging messages. In the mediation stage, a CAT member is assigned as mediator to assist in clarifying the issues in dispute, help users understand their rights and responsibilities and suggest settlements to the parties. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the owner has an opportunity to move the matter onto the third stage, adjudication. At the adjudication phase, a CAT member is assigned to consider and render a decision based on all the evidence before it. Just like any type of litigation, settling in the early stages of the CAT process will help avoid corporations incurring avoidable costs.
TIP 5: Meta-fur-kitty speaking: The CAT Rules of Practice provide that every user or representative must check the CAT online system and their emails for communication related to their case at least once every business day, or as often as directed by CAT. The CAT member assigned to your case will also dictate deadlines for the submission of items in the adjudication phase. Failure to meet these deadlines can lead to costs implications against the corporation. Whoever is representing the corporation should keep a close eye on their emails and frequently access CAT for new updates.
For more information on CAT, its process and rules, please click here.