Changes to the CAT’s Jurisdiction Now in Effect
As some of our readers may be aware, the changes to the jurisdiction of the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) have come into effect as of October 1, 2020.
While the CAT previously had jurisdiction to deal only with disputes related to records, Ontario Regulation 179/17 made under the Condominium Act, 1998 expands the tribunal’s jurisdiction to include disputes over provisions contained in condominium Declarations, By-laws or Rules that have to do with the following:
- Provisions that prohibit, restrict or otherwise govern:
- pets or animals in a unit, the common elements or the assets (if any) of the condominium corporation;
- most types of vehicles (g. automobiles, trucks, snow vehicles, boats, devices used to facilitate the transport of individuals with disabilities, etc); and
- parking or storage of items in a unit, an asset of the condominium corporation, or the common elements, that is intended for parking and storage purposes
- Provisions that govern the indemnification or compensation of the corporation, an owner, or a mortgagee in relation to the above-noted disputes.
In addition, sections 132 (4.1) and 134 (2.4) of the Condominium Act, which are also in effect as of October 1st, ensure that parties who are involved in disputes falling into the above categories no longer have the option of bringing the dispute before a court or submitting it to arbitration or mediation. Put simply, the CAT is now the only forum available to adjudicate these types of disputes. However, it’s important to note that Regulation 179/17 explicitly places disputes arising from (i) dangerous activities in the units or the common elements (section 117 of the Condominium Act), (ii) agreements for common element modifications (section 98(b) of the Act), and (iii) agreements related to the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, outside the CAT’s jurisdiction.
While the recent changes to the CAT were made with the aim of making the system more accessible for members of the condominium community, the expansion of the tribunal’s jurisdiction gives rise to certain concerns. We have detailed our concerns pertaining to the non-recovery of legal costs in CAT matters in a previous blog. Those concerns can be summarized as follows:
The existing CAT Rules of Practice only allow the tribunal to order payment of legal fees (i.e. fees charged by a lawyer or paralegal) when there are “exceptional reasons” to do so. While parties have the option of being represented by legal counsel to help them navigate their disputes before the CAT (and this will likely increase with the CAT now handling more complex disputes, which will possibly require more expert evidence), the related legal costs might only be recoverable in exceptional circumstances.
But that begs the following question: What if the condominium’s governing documents say that the owner is responsible to compensate or indemnify the condominium corporation for its enforcement costs? Would that then give the CAT authority to order that the owner pay such costs even in relation to the CAT process (despite the CAT Rules of Practice)? No doubt the CAT will answer this question soon.
Ultimately, the effects of these recent (and important) changes will only become clearer with time – and we will be sure to keep you updated!