Province Announces Second Emergency: How Will This Impact Condominiums?

The Ontario government has declared a second provincial emergency under section 7.01(1) of the Emergency Civil Management and Protection Act, 1990 (ECMPA). This decision was announced in light of the significant increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks and the imminent threat to the province’s hospital system and long-term care homes. The second emergency has been announced with immediate effect, and it will be in effect at the same time as the province-wide Shutdown that was announced on December 21, 2020.

What are the new restrictions?

The most significant change resulting from the second emergency is the government’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order to limit people’s mobility and reduce the number of daily contacts with individuals outside the immediate household. The stay-at-home order will be effective as of Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., and will require everyone to remain at home except for the following purposes:

  • Going to the grocery store or pharmacy
  • Accessing healthcare services
  • For work (where the work cannot be done remotely)
  • Exercising

Moreover, businesses will be required to ensure that employees who are able to work from home do so.

In addition to the stay-at-home order, the Province will also be implementing the following new public health restrictions as of today, January 13, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.:

  • Outdoor public gatherings and social gatherings will be restricted to five people (as opposed to the previous restriction to ten people).
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or a face covering in all indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open, and masks are recommended outdoors in places where physical distancing is not possible.
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and stores offering curbside pickup or delivery will be required to open no earlier than 7 a.m. and will have to close no later than 8 p.m. This restriction will not apply to pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants (for takeout or delivery), convenience stores, and stores that primarily sell food.
  • Non-essential construction will be further restricted (more on this below).

These measures are expected to be in effect province-wide until at least February 11, 2021.

The government will authorize all provincial offences officers (including the Ontario Provincial Police), by-law officers, local police forces (e.g. Ottawa Police), and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home order or do not wear masks indoors in places open to the public (with limited exceptions), as well as to businesses that do not enforce the requirements of the Orders issued under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 or the ECMPA. Provincial offences officers will also have the authority to close a premise where gathering limits are found to be violated and will also be able to disperse individuals who are gathering, regardless of whether the premise is closed or open (e.g., a park).

What does the second emergency mean for condominiums?

Based on what we know so far, condominium Boards and management will have to continue to be vigilant in ensuring their residents comply with the above-mentioned restrictions, in addition to the restrictions that are already in place as part of the Province-wide Shutdown [you can find out more about these restrictions from our previous blog here].

Fortunately, these restrictions (i.e., restrictions under second emergency and restrictions under the shutdown) overlap to a large extent as far as condominiums are concerned. Some of the key restrictions and requirements include the following:

  • In-person indoor meetings (both Board Meetings and Owners’ Meetings) will not be possible (at least for the duration of the emergency), given that indoor in-person meetings will only be possible between members of the same household.
  • Masks or face coverings will have to be worn by residents at all times when on the interior common elements (with certain exceptions as outlined here).
  • Indoor amenities will generally have to remain closed for the time being.
  • Residents can still access outdoor common elements or amenities (if open and / or available) to exercise – as long as the gathering limit of five (5) people maximum is respected, users follow social distancing guidelines (or mask-wearing as appropriate), and the condominium has sanitizer and other hygiene measures in place.
  • Non-essential construction and work projects will have to be delayed or avoided – at least for the duration of the second emergency. HOWEVER: We have already received questions from condo Boards asking how the second emergency will affect their planned renovation work (or work planned by owners). The government has outlined certain exceptions respecting construction, including for residential construction projects “where the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work that was started before January 12, 2021.” (please consult the full list of exceptions here)

Therefore, in our view, renovation and construction work in residential condominiums may proceed as long as the work was started before January 12, 2021.

That being said, we reiterate that condominium Boards are best positioned to understand the specific nature and unique circumstances of their condominium(s), particularly with respect to construction and renovation work. So, while the above construction and renovation work is permitted, Boards have the discretion to insist that the work be halted if they feel the work may not be safe to be completed at this time.

We will continue to keep you updated on these important measures (and their impact on condominiums)!