Voting by Co-Owners

Section 51 (3) of the Condominium Act, 1998 deals with voting in the case of units owned by two or more owners, but Section 51 (3) is confusing. Section 51 (3) reads as follows:

Joint owners

The majority of the owners of a unit may exercise the right to vote in respect of the unit but the vote shall not be counted if there are two or more owners of the unit and they are evenly divided on how to exercise the vote. 

Here’s the problem: Suppose a unit is owned by two (or more) persons. If only one of those owners seeks to exercise the voting rights for the unit, it’s not clear that he or she has the right to vote. This is because a “majority” is more than half. Therefore, one owner (out of two or more) would not constitute a majority.

In my view, one possible solution is to pass a clarifying by-law stating that any one owner of a unit may exercise the vote (for the unit), and the provisions of Section 51 (3) will apply only if two or more of the owners of a unit decide to vote.

Bedbugs (Part 1): 5 Key Things to Consider to Reduce the Risk of an Infestation

We are hearing more and more about the risks of bedbug infestations. These risks are of particular concern in condominiums (and other “close communities”), because of the risk that an infestation can travel between residences. Here are 5 key things to consider in order to reduce the risk of an infestation:

  1. Depending upon the circumstances, the resident with the infestation may or may not be responsible. In general, we recommend that bedbug issues be treated as impersonally as possible – in order to avoid any embarrassment or shame that might delay a call for assistance.
     
  2. Consider sending a notice to residents and off site owners about:

    • the risk of bedbugs in a unit;
    • what bedbugs look like;
    • how bedbugs occur;
    • what to look for in their unit;
    • how often they should inspect their units;
    • any obligation pursuant to your condominium corporation’s rules to avoid the infestation of pests in the unit;
    • what steps they must immediately take to: (a) contain the infestation and prevent it from spreading to the common elements or other units, and (b) report an occurrence of bedbugs to the corporation;
    • state any consequences of not reporting bedbugs in a unit to the condominium corporation in a timely manner;
    • responsibility for the cost of treatment in a unit.
       
  3. Once an infestation is discovered, action must be taken quickly in an attempt to avoid the spread to other units and/or the common elements. If the unit is tenanted, be sure to communicate directly with the owner of a unit, in addition to the residents, since recovery of costs is typically against the unit owner, and they must be warned of the risks and kept informed of the problems in the unit.
     
  4. The board of directors and management could consider making a plan of action in advance of an infestation being discovered, in order to be able to act quickly, to address the following issues:

    1. What preventative steps will the condominium corporation take to warn residents of the risks of bedbugs?
    2. Will the condominium corporation arrange for treatment of a unit, or will owners initially be expected to eradicate an infestation in their unit? How will the cost of treatment be dealt with (keeping in mind the owners’ obligations under your declaration and rules, as well as their obligation to maintain and repair their unit)?
    3. What service providers will be used and what treatment options are available?
       
  5. The condominium corporation is typically responsible for the maintenance and repair of the common elements. Therefore, occasional inspections of the common element areas – including furniture, curtains, area rugs, carpets, around baseboards, and cracks in walls or other holes – are normally prudent, and might in some cases reveal the presence of bedbugs that have traveled from a nearby residence.

Selecting the Chair for a Meeting of Owners

The by-laws of most condominium corporations state who should chair meetings of owners. Most by-laws call for the corporation's President, if available, or alternatively the corporation’s Vice-President, to chair owners' meetings.

Occasionally, the persons listed in the corporation's by-laws as potential chairs for a meeting of owners may be unable or unwilling to act as chair. [For example, it may make sense to choose another chair for a meeting which has been called to consider removal of the President or Vice-President from the Board.] In these situations, the owners at the meeting can appoint someone else to chair the meeting.

This process starts by someone proposing a person as chair (in the form of a motion). There must then be a seconder in support of the motion. A discussion may follow, before the vote is taken. The motion is decided based upon a majority of the votes cast. If a majority does not vote in favour of the motion, another person can then be proposed and the process continues until a chair is selected.

Five Key Considerations in a ‘Condo Crisis’

For purposes of this blog, the term ‘Condo Crisis’ is intended to refer to any circumstance that could result in significant unexpected expense to the condominium corporation/the owners. Here’s my list of five key considerations when a condominium corporation finds itself in a ‘Condo Crisis’.

  1. Do the status certificates need to change? For instance, does the corporation have knowledge of circumstances that may result in an increase in common expenses/special assessment?
  2. Does the corporation need expert advice (like the assistance of an architect or engineer)?
  3. Should the corporation’s insurer, and/or unit insurers, be notified?
  4. Is it necessary or appropriate to involve the owners? Should notice be sent to the owners? Should there be a meeting of owners?
  5. Should the corporation consider claims of any sort? What is the limitation period for any such claim(s)?