Ontario introduces new laws to protect condo owners

Toronto construction site. Stock photo by Getty Images

Ontario’s 1.3 million condo residents can sleep a bit easier as the Ontario government prepares to enact new laws to improve consumer protection, dispute resolution, warranties and other sore spots.

The new Protecting Condominium Owners Act amends the existing Condominium Act and New Home Warranties Plan Act, as well as creating the Condominium Management Services Act. Among the key changes are improvements to transparency and clarity for residents.

Ontarians are snapping up condos at lightning rates, but there’s widespread grumbling about complex rental agreements that allow developers to conceal surprise fees and other obnoxious clauses.

On the consumer-protection front, the new laws will: 

  • Provide clearer rules to prevent surprise fee hikes and unexpected charges.
  • Require developers to provide buyers with an easy-to-read guide on condo living.
  • Empower the government to create rules for standard disclosure statements and other documents.

Also in the accountability vein, expect new guidelines for how condo boards are run. New rules would make it easier for any condo owner to participate in meetings and call for board votes. Board directors must also complete certain training requirements.

A recent Ontario court case provided some wry guidance on how not to be a terrible board director, such as:

“A reasonably prudent director… would not make the Board dysfunctional, would not promote antagonism and dissent on the Board, and would not threaten other Board members. A reasonably prudent director would not put his own economic interests ahead of the legitimate interests of all categories of unit owners.” 

Learn about the law: Buying a new or resale condominium

But hey, it’s nice to have some concrete training in place.

Another key change comes in the formation of a new dispute resolution mechanism. Specifically, the newly minted Condo Authority would act as a delegated administrative authority to hear complaints and enforce the legislation in place.

These delegated authorities typically fund their activity through industry service fees, and the Condo Authority will too, at a rate of “about $1 per unit a month.”

With the legislation’s commitment to transparency, that vague estimation of a new monthly fee is a little worrisome, but if there’s a problem, you could lodge a complaint… with the, er, Condo Authority that, er, enforces that law.

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