The Ontario government announced on July 13th that the province will be entering Stage 3 of the government’s reopening framework by the end of this week.
Businesses across Eastern Ontario, including the Ottawa, Kingston, and Leeds regions, will be able to move into Stage 3 as of Friday July 17, 2020. Under Stage 3, almost all activities can reopen (as long as they follow the appropriate physical distancing guidelines), and the restrictions on public gatherings will change in the following manner:
- Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people; and
- Outdoor gatherings limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people.
All indoor and outdoor public gatherings will continue to be subject to physical distancing guidelines (i.e. the requirement to maintain a minimum 2-meter distance between persons from different households). Moreover, despite the wide array of services that are set to resume, the following places and activities will not be reopening as part of Stage 3 (due to the likelihood for drawing large crowds and the difficulties with maintaining proper sanitation requirements):
- Amusement parks and water parks;
- Buffet-style food services;
- Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment following specific requirements;
- Overnight stays at camps for children;
- Private karaoke rooms;
- Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports;
- Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars;
- Table games at casinos and gaming establishments
What does this mean for condominiums?
Board meetings and AGMs
The most significant change to day-to-day condominium living as part of Stage 3 will likely be the increased limits on public gatherings. Over the past weeks, we’ve received many questions from Boards and Property Managers about the possibility of hosting in-person Board meetings and AGMs. In our previous blog on Board meetings, we advised that Boards could decide to hold in-person meetings as long as all physical distancing requirements were followed and as long as the Board made arrangements for any attendee (who so requests) to be able to attend the meeting virtually. Despite the increases in gathering limits as part of Stage 3, our view remains the same – for Board meetings, a Board could choose (but is not required) to hold in person meetings as long as physical distancing requirements are met and any requests for virtual attendance are accommodated.
The situation is somewhat different for AGMs. Under the government’s Framework for Reopening the Province, the new gathering limits apply to “all organized or spontaneous indoor and outdoor events”, and particularly to “higher risk settings where people congregate.” Further, the Framework instructs that only 30% of the capacity of a particular room can be filled by attendees for religious services/ceremonies, funerals, and weddings. While this directive does not explicitly apply to AGMs in condominiums, we believe it can be a useful guideline for Boards to consider when evaluating the possibility of hosting an in-person AGM under Stage 3. Boards must keep in mind that the objective of these directives is to ensure people’s safety and limit the spread of COVID-19 – risks that are accentuated by any large gathering such as an AGM.
Other key notes are as follows:
- For any in-person meeting, individuals are required to continue to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres with people from outside their households or social circles. Therefore, “in person” meetings are possible (indoors, up to 50 people; and, outdoors, up to 100 people) as long as the chairs are all spaced so that everyone (from different households) is at least 2 meters apart, and as long as the 2 meter minimum distance rule is also maintained while people are coming and going before, during and after the meeting.
- It also appears likely that face masks would have to be worn at any meeting held in a public facility.
- In addition, the limits (for instance, 50 persons for indoor meetings) could quickly be “used up” by co-owners, meeting guests, etc. So, in-person meetings (for now) are likely not to be an option for larger condominiums, or even condominiums with an average of 25-30 units in attendance, if more than one owner per unit plans to attend.
The bottom line is that Boards may find it safest, and most practical, to continue hosting AGMs virtually for the time being. Of course, the decision will have to be taken by each Board individually after considering the specific needs and characteristics of their condominium building (i.e. size of the condominium, Board’s ability to ensure that physical distancing requirements are met, etc.).
Another common concern has been the reopening of indoor amenities such as gyms and recreational facilities. While such amenities are permitted to reopen under Stage 3, the following conditions/guidelines respecting indoor gyms and recreational amenities must be met:
- The number of people allowed to access the amenities generally cannot exceed 50 people;
- Lower gathering numbers apply to some amenities (g. pools, tennis courts and rinks) – see our last blog on reopening swimming pools here.
- Physical distancing must be maintained, except when playing a team sport or as needed for personal training;
- The total number of people permitted in areas containing weights or exercise machines is limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of at least 2 meters;
- Equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between user sets or at the end of a game;
- Any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities made available to the public must be cleaned and disinfected frequently; and
- Certain amenities such as saunas and steam rooms are not yet allowed to reopen.
That said, the decision on whether or not to reopen indoor amenities rests with each Board. And Boards may ultimately decide that the safest way to proceed is to keep certain indoor amenities closed for the time being where the risk of virus transmission is increased. This is certainly a reasonable decision for a Board to make depending on their community’s particular circumstances.
Lastly, as mentioned in our previous blog, Boards may want to seriously consider implementing a policy of requiring residents and visitors to wear face masks on certain parts of the common elements. And we again stress that it’s up to each Board to decide whether or not to open any permitted amenity, having regard for safety and overall management of the common elements.
Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!