If you live in a condominium, at some point you may find yourself in the middle of a dispute. Dispute resolution in condo disputes, which we touched on in our recent blog post about The Condominium Act, can be a complicated thing. Not only do these disputes create discomfort between neighbours, which is a difficult issue when living in close quarters, but it can sometimes be difficult to determine the best course of action.
This blog post will outline the common steps in resolving condo disputes, including whether a dispute is better handled through the Condominium Authority Tribunal or the Supreme Court.
Refresher: What is a Condominium?
Condominiums or “condos” are communal living arrangements that are made up of different owners, each of whom owns a unit which they may either live in or rent out.
A condominium corporation, also referred to as a “condominium authority”, is a corporation designated to manage a condominium building. The condominium corporation is responsible for the day-to-day management of the condominium building and overseeing budgeting and governance.
Common Types of Condo Disputes
Condo disputes can arise due to a variety of issues, for example:
- Nuisances (including smoke and vapour, pets, noise, odours, and short-term rentals),
- Use of common property,
- Vehicles and parking issues,
- Condominium management (including enforcement and general management), or
- Condominium governance (including decision-making and access to records).
The Relevant Parties in a Condominium Dispute
Parties to a condo dispute may vary depending on the issue at hand.. For example, an issue pertaining to a nuisance would most likely involve two neighbours. In many cases, however, a dispute can arise between a condominium owner and the condominium corporation (or vice versa).
The Condominium Authority Tribunal
When parties seek to resolve a dispute, they may first look to The Condominium Authority Tribunal. This is an online dispute resolution system that handles dispute resolution for a variety of condo disputes in Ontario.
The Condominium Authority Tribunal is dedicated solely to condominium disputes and is designed to be accessible and user-friendly. Over time, the Ontario government has expanded the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear and decide disputes as an alternative to traditional courtroom hearings.
The Benefits of Resolving Disputes through the Condominium Authority Tribunal
There are several specialized administrative tribunals in Ontario, including the Condominium Authority Tribunal. While tribunal processes can look a little different than a courtroom trial, they are still a great option for individuals who are looking for alternative dispute resolution methods.
Administrative tribunals traditionally offer faster, cheaper, and more flexible resolutions to common disputes. They are also designed to be user-friendly, allowing parties to choose to proceed without a lawyer if they feel comfortable doing so.
The Role of the Condominium Authority Tribunal in Condo Disputes
Below is an overview of how a dispute may proceed through The Condominium Authority Tribunal. However, this process may look different depending on the unique circumstances of each case. For assistance in navigating a Condominium Authority Tribunal claim, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced real estate lawyer.
Guided Steps to Common Issues
The Condominium Authority Tribunal provides self-help resources for condo disputes. These resources are intended to help individuals navigate common issues and, potentially resolve an issue without engaging the Condominium Authority Tribunal.
As a first step, claimants should review the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s resources on Guided Steps to Common Issues to determine whether steps can be taken to resolve the issue without tribunal intervention.
Starting a Condo Dispute Claim
The Condominium Authority Tribunal’s involvement with a condo dispute starts when a party files a claim online.
The first step for a claimant filing a condo dispute is determining the type of dispute. The Condominium Authority Tribunal provides a helpful list of dispute types to help claimants categorize their dispute and determine whether the Condominium Authority has the authority to hear it.
From there, the claimant will create an online account and file their application. The Condominium Authority Tribunal website will guide claimants through the process of filing their applications by prompting answers to specific questions regarding the dispute.
Delivering Notice for a Condo Dispute
Once the Condominium Authority Tribunal accepts the claimant’s application, which will be confirmed by email, they must deliver a copy of the accepted application to the other parties involved in the dispute. Different delivery rules apply depending on the type of entity being served. For further information on delivery requirements, consult Delivering Cat Notices: A User Guide.
Once notice has been served on the parties, the claimant must notify the Condominium Authority Tribunal.
Negotiation and Mediation in Condo Disputes
Once all parties have joined the application, the Condominium Authority Tribunal will facilitate a collaborative approach to help the parties resolve the dispute. Starting with negotiation, the parties can message, exchange documents, and provide settlement offers virtually.
If negotiation is unsuccessful, the parties move on to mediation, wherein a member of the Condominium Authority Tribunal will guide the parties in mediation. The mediator has the flexibility to conduct the mediation in different ways depending on the parties’ needs. The mediator is a neutral third party that helps the parties clarify the key issues, understand their rights and responsibilities, and works with the parties to create possible resolutions.
Tribunal Decisions in Condo Disputes
If the parties fail to reach an agreement through alternative dispute resolution, they will move on to the tribunal stage. Here, a Condominium Authority Tribunal member holds an online hearing where the parties can present evidence and arguments supporting their position. If appropriate, parties can also call witnesses who can provide evidence about the condo dispute.
Following a hearing, the Tribunal will make a final and binding decision in accordance with the evidence and applicable facts and law.
What Happens if I Disagree with the Tribunal Decision?
If a party disagrees with the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s decision, they may be able to appeal the decision or file an application for judicial review.
Appellants must file an appeal within 30 days of the date of the Tribunal’s decision. To that end, it is important to consult with a skilled administrative lawyer as quickly as possible after the Tribunal releases its decision to assess your options and determine whether your appeal has merit.
What if a Party Fails to Comply with an Order or Decision?
Regardless of the decision the Tribunal makes, parties sometimes fail to comply with the terms of the order, for example, making a payment or taking a particular action. A party may pursue enforcement through Small Claims Court or the Superior Court of Justice if an order requires additional enforcement. However, the Condominium Authority Tribunal cannot help with this process.
To learn more about enforcing Condominium Authority Tribunal decisions, consult After Judgment: Guide to Getting Results.
Oakville Real Estate Lawyers Representing Buyers, Sellers, and Professionals
Whether you are looking to purchase your first home, or are looking to downsize, condominiums can offer the comforts of home with the added benefits of central living and building amenities. The skilled real estate lawyers at Campbells LLP can guide you through every step of your residential real estate transaction, from reviewing your agreement of purchase and sale, to negotiating on your behalf. In the event of a dispute during the course of the transaction, our lawyers are ready to protect your interests and advocate on your behalf.
Our firm provides a broad range of legal services to meet your residential and commercial real estate needs. To schedule a consultation with a member of our experienced real estate team, contact us online or call us at 905-828-2247.