Province to Move into “Modified” Step 2 – How will Condos Be Affected?

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the alarming spread of the Omicron variant, the Ontario government announced, on January 3, 2022, that the province would be temporarily moving into a modified Step 2 of its “Roadmap to Reopen” framework. These latest measures build on restrictions imposed in mid-December (which we discussed in a previous blog), and seek to reduce transmissions and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The new restrictions will be in effect as of 12:01 a.m. on January 5, 2022, and are expected to be place for at least 21 days (that is, at least until January 26, 2022).

Does this Regulation Apply to Condos?

There is ongoing debate about whether this Regulation, in total or in part, applies to condominiums.

Generally speaking, the restrictions mentioned under Regulation 263/20 (made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19 Act), 2020) apply to businesses, places, events and gatherings.

It is not completely clear, based on how the legislation is drafted, whether places, events or gatherings include condominiums. 

As our readers will know, we have had this issue previously when reviewing the regulations related to screening and previous closures.  However, based on reviewing the information provided by the Government and public health authorities in various jurisdictions, condominium corporations likely qualify as “places” and “organizations”. As a result, it is our view that the most likely argument is that condominium corporations must comply with the Regulation, as applicable.

What Restrictions are Relevant?

Some of the key restrictions that are relevant for condominiums are as follows:

  • Social gatherings will be limited to 5 people indoors (previously 10 people) and 10 people outdoors (previously 25 people).
  • Indoor gyms, fitness and sports facilities are to remain closed (with the exception of professional athletes and elite amateur sports leagues) / outdoor fitness facilities may remain open, but must operate at 50% capacity.
  • Indoor meeting and event spaces are to remain closed (with limited exceptions) / outdoor meeting and event spaces may remain open with restrictions.
  • Indoor dining at restaurants, bars, or other similar establishments will be closed / outdoor dining (with restrictions), take-out and delivery will be allowed.
  • Businesses and organizations are required to ensure employees can work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on site.

We encourage our readers to consult the complete list of restrictions (which can be found here).

What Does this Mean for Our Condominium?

As suggested above, the new regulations impact many aspects of indoor amenities.   Given the various restrictions and exemptions, we cannot provide a blanket statement on all indoor amenities.  When considering whether an indoor amenity can remain open, it is important to carefully consider the regulations (including restrictions and exemptions) or consult with legal counsel.   Having said that, here are three types of condominium amenities, and how we believe the new restrictions will apply to each amenity:

AmenityHow the new restrictions apply
Gyms and recreational fitness facilitiesIn our view, the required course of action for condominiums at this time is to close indoor gyms and fitness facilities (including pools and saunas). Outdoor fitness facilities may remain open at 50% capacity and subject to other applicable restrictions (e.g., physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, etc.)
Libraries  In our view, indoor libraries in condominiums can remain open, subject to indoor gathering limits and other applicable restrictions (e.g., wearing masks, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning) must be respected.
Guest suitesIn our view, guest suites can remain open subject to indoor gathering limits and other applicable restrictions (e.g., enhanced cleaning, etc.)

Ultimately, readers must keep in mind that condominiums are meant to be self-governing communities and, as a result, condominium boards will have to decide whether to keep certain amenities open in light of recent restrictions and taking into account factors such as the number of residents, the nature of the community, the cost of enhanced cleaning, etc. Condominiums that wish to keep their indoor amenities open should carefully read the latest regulations or consult with legal counsel.

It is important to reiterate that, while condominiums cannot implement measures that are contrary to provincial guidelines, they can (and in many cases may find it safer) to adopt measures that are more restrictive.

Stay safe and stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in COVID-19 restrictions!