By NOUMAN KHALIL
For the first time in 10 years, Ontario’s condo owners see hope to enjoy better protection than ever in a well-trusted atmosphere.
At present condo owners are facing a complicated procedure to register a complaint, concern about the property or in case of a dispute with the management.
“Ontarians have fewer protections when they purchase a condo than people who buy a car,” NDP’s Trinity-Spadina MPP, Rosario Marchese, told Focus. “We need to increase the protections for condo owners by making sure property managers are licensed by the government by introducing good faith language in condo purchase contracts.”
To amend the 1998 Condominium, Marchese tabled three bills in the past five years, but all died because Liberals didn’t support them.
In May this year, the NDP MPP introduced his fresh fourth Bill 72 calling for reforms in the Condo Act. This time he hopes the Bill will get through, as the McGuinty government seems to be supporting it.
“I am glad to see that the government is finally acknowledging what I have been saying for the last five years,” said Marchese.
Under the Ministry of Consumers Services, a full review of the 1998 Condominium Act is currently in progress.
As part of the process, a review meeting was held at Toronto YMCA auditorium recently where Minister Margarett Best, while chairing the meeting, admitted the fact that condo owners are concerned about the governance, disputes, and other financial and management procedures.
Apart from Minister Margarett Best, the NDP’s Marchese and Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, more than 150 consumers and stakeholders took part in the meeting.
In the Peel Region, Mississauga Brampton-South MPP Amrit Mangat said: “Since the Act came into effect in 2001, the number of condos has increased rapidly, including in Mississauga and Brampton.
“We are currently reviewing the Act with stakeholders, owners and builders to get it right and ensure a balanced marketplace for everyone,” said Mangat.
Since 1998, condo owners have continuously been complaining about a lack of transparency in the system and alleging corruption, misuse of reserved funds and bad management.
Backing the owners, Marchese said: “Some of the most important problems condo owners face are bad property managers, delays and costs in resolving disputes with developers, shoddy construction and problems with purchase contracts.”
Asked about fears Bill 72 may end up in favour of builders instead of consumers, Marchese said: “The government needs to take it very seriously. My bill is the result of years of work with condo owners, not developers.
“In the case of the government consultations, we will not know how much influence developers have until the final recommendations are released,” he added.
There has been no finding of the review meeting as yet, but the findings report is expected to be complete by early 2013.
At present there are some 525,000 condo units in Ontario and about one million condo dwellers — and the numbers continue to grow dramatically.
Bill 72 seeks to:
• Establish a Condo Review Board for quicker, less expensive dispute resolution;
• Extend Tarion’s New Home Warranties Plan to cover conversion condos such as lofts;
• Simplify the process for installing renewable energy and other energy efficient technologies;
• Requires better noise protection standards for condominiums;
• Require that half of Tarion’s directors have experience in consumer protection and advocacy;
• Introduce the use good faith language in declarations (purchase contracts).
• Require developers and property managers to disclose conflicts of interest prior to performance audits.
• Provide training support to volunteer condo boards through the Condo Review Board;
• Require developers to deposit 0.5 per cent of the building’s value with the Condo Review Board until a condo board certifies that the condo was properly built;
• Ensure that developers can’t ask owners to move into a building before it is fully built;
• Provide a 5-year full warranty on all major structural components such as electrical, elevators, etc;
• Provide one vote per owner regardless of number of units owned;
• Require property managers to be licensed by the province;
• Extend developer responsibility for condominium fees from one to three years; and
• Require developers to disclose all previous business names used to construct condo projects.
By NOUMAN KHALIL