CAT Awards Enforcement Costs
As our readers will know, the jurisdiction of the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) has recently been expanded to include disputes about pets, parking, storage and related entitlements to indemnification / compensation. A recent decision of the Tribunal is welcome for two reasons: (1) CAT has upheld a weight restriction in a condominium’s Pet Rules; and (2) CAT has also awarded enforcement costs (payable by the non-compliant owner).
In the recent case of Peel Condominium Corporation No. 96 v. Psofimis, CAT ordered an owner to remove a dog that did not comply with the condominium corporation’s Rule restricting the weight of household pets to 40 pounds.
The Tribunal went on to order the owner to pay the following:
- $536 for delivery of a “legal letter” to the owner;
- $200 for Tribunal fees; and
- $3926.75 for legal fees for the CAT hearing itself (hearing costs).
CAT agreed with previous Court decisions which have stated that “it is not fair that other owners be required to pay for another unit owner’s unwarranted conduct”; and also noted as follows: “It was only after multiple, cost free, attempts to enforce compliance that PCC 96 was required to take steps that led to PCC 96 incurring costs.”
In relation to the legal letter: CAT said that it could award such costs as “compensation”, up to a limit of $25,000, pursuant to Section 1.44(1)3 of the Condominium Act. The decision includes reference to an indemnification provision contained in the Rules of the condominium… which stated that owners would be held responsible for costs incurred by the corporation as a result of a violation of the Rules. But the decision (to award the compensation) does not seem to depend upon that provision. The decision seems to say that this award of compensation was necessary to protect the other (innocent) owners from having to pay those enforcement costs. [I found this a little surprising, because CAT’s expanded jurisdiction makes specific reference to indemnification provisions of the sort contained in the Rules of PCC 96.]
In terms of the “hearing costs”: CAT said that (according to CAT’s Rules) such costs will only be awarded in exceptional circumstances. But CAT went on to say that exceptional circumstances existed in this case because the owner had “deliberately and repeatedly ignored the condominium’s numerous attempts to request his voluntary compliance”… and had done so “without apparent concern for the clear provision of PCC 96’s rules that would make him personally responsible for the condominium’s costs arising from his non-compliance”.
I guess I would have preferred to see a statement, in this case, that indemnification provisions (of the sort found in the Rules of PCC 96) are enforceable and therefore entitle a condominium corporation to recover all of its enforcement costs (including hearing costs) any time an owner (or occupant) violates the Rules, as long as the condominium corporation takes reasonable enforcement steps. In my view, that sort of finding is permitted by CAT’s expanded jurisdiction.
But this case is unquestionably a “step in the right direction”.
Still, one important takeaway from this case is as follows: Depending upon the urgency of the situation, be sure to give violators reasonable warnings and opportunities to correct the violation, before incurring costs (such as by engaging legal counsel or by taking other costly enforcement measures). Otherwise, the costs might not be awarded by CAT… even if you have a clear indemnification provision.
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