Assessment of Legal Fees for Lien

We recently responded to an owner’s assessment of our legal bill in relation to a lien.

We had registered a notice of lien against the owner’s unit, on behalf of a co-tenacy association. The owner then sought to assess the legal bill (which had been included as part of the lien amount) before an assessment officer/assessor.

A lawyer’s client (in this case, the condominium corporation) has the right to arrange for assessment of the lawyer’s bill under Ontario’s Solicitors Act. The Solicitors Act also says that any party who is liable to pay a legal bill (in this case, the owner) can also arrange to have the bill assessed by an assessor.

In our case, the assessor confirmed that our legal bill was reasonable. But the assessor went on to say that the owner was not liable to pay the legal costs, and therefore assessed the legal bill at $nil.

We appealed the assessor’s decision to a judge, and the judge overturned the decision. The judge said:

  • The assessor had no authority to determine whether or not the owner was obligated to pay the legal costs. The assessor could only assess the legal bill. In other words, the assessor could only determine the reasonableness of the legal bill.
  • The assessor’s finding that the legal bill was reasonable was accepted and the bill was accordingly assessed in its full amount.

The decision in Aiello v. Nelligan O’Brien Payne can be found in Superior Court File No. 13-57411.