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COVID-19 and condos, here’s what owners can expect during the pandemic

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COVID-19 and condos, here’s what owners can expect during the pandemic

While COVID-19 has impacted all facets of life, health and safety concerns have perhaps been the most pressing issue for condominium corporations. How have these boards reacted to the pandemic, and what can owners expect?

A. Amendments to the CONDOMINIUM ACT, 1998 (THE ACT)

Earlier this year, the government of Ontario passed a bill to amend the Act with several temporary changes to help condo communities more easily navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendments included:

a. Delaying annual general meetings (AGMs) if the deadline fell within the emergency period, or up to 30 days after the emergency period ended;
b. Holding and voting at owner’s meetings by telephonic or electronic means; and
c. Using electronic means to deliver meeting-related materials (such as meeting notices) to unit owners and mortgagees.

The emergency has ended and Ontario proclaimed Bill 195 and all the exceptions are gone. Your condominium board must hold its AGM with new deadlines, and in order to not contravene the Act by having too many people present in an AGM scenario, boards need to pass an electronic bylaw to have a virtual AGM.

This is something to check on in a new or resale purchase. That is why we have lawyers.

B. Cleaning

Cleanliness and sanitization have also become an important concern for owners and residents alike. A recent Toronto bylaw mandated that apartment owners:

a. Provide hand hygiene stations in all essential common area rooms that remain open (such as laundry areas);
b. Close non-essential common areas and other high traffic areas to be consistent with provincial restrictions, with these common areas remaining closed until provincial restrictions are lifted;
c. Add a schedule for the cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces in common areas (such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces and keypads), and disinfectants twice daily and when visibly dirty;
d. Comply with the schedule added to the cleaning plan; and
e. Post Toronto Public Health signage as recommended by the Medical Officer of Health.

While the bylaw applies only to apartment buildings, many condominiums have adapted similar guidelines to keep all individuals within their community safe. We encourage you to see what the condominium you are looking to purchase, new or resale, is doing to protect your safety.

C. Masks and face coverings and safe practices

Multiple municipalities have also recently passed bylaws that require individuals to wear face masks in indoor public spaces. If your condo has a rule in place about wearing masks in the common areas (lobbies, elevators, laundry rooms and stairwells) the owners and residents must follow the rule. Look to see if the condominium you want to purchase has a rule requiring the use of a face mask or covering.

Condo corporations should be installing washing stations, in order that you can wash your hands often as you go through the building, elevators, garbage room, lobby and other publically accessed areas. The condominium corporation should be taking steps to outline social distancing on the floor, regulating elevator use and numbers in elevators.

When buying resale, you should check to see what steps the condominium corporation has taken to protect the people who live there. For new-home buyers, look to see what the builder is doing to guarantee the safety of those buying. Are the halls wide enough? Are there enough elevators? What is in the bylaws and rules to protect the owner? Is the builder contemplating ensuring that the building will be COVID-19- protected and operated safely?

You have a voice. Lobby your board to take steps to protect you and to institute these protective measures. When purchasing new, tell the builder this is your concern and ask what they are doing. When buying resale, inquire about existing safety protocols.

Jayson Schwarz LLM and Jacqueline Moneta are with Schwarz Law LLP. To suggest topics for future columns or ask questions, visit schwarzlaw.ca or email info@schwarzlaw.ca.

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