The Hamilton Spectator
Condo residents need protection
This week, the Ontario legislature’s public accounts committee released a stern report calling for better consumer protections for Ontario’s 1.3 million condo residents.
This joint report, written by Conservative, NDP and Liberal MPPs, is the committee’s official response to the auditor general’s scathing investigation into the condo sector in 2020.
The auditor general concluded Ontario’s condo sector is poorly regulated and there is inadequate regulation and oversight over developers, condo property managers and condo boards. It found condo residents have little recourse if they encounter problems with their condo home.
Our offices receive many calls from furious, distressed, and financially strapped condo dwellers who are shocked to learn there’s no effective regulator, tribunal or government agency that can step in and help fix their problem.
The most common problems condo residents face include poor building construction, delays in repairs, illegal short-term rentals, surprise hikes in condo fees, poorly performing property managers, and condo boards that don’t hold frequent public meetings or run free and fair elections.
These problems can wreak havoc on a resident’s life.
More and more Ontarians are living in condos, and the trend to more dense urban living is projected to continue. Some of these buildings are the size of small towns, housing upwards of 2,000 people. They need better regulation. In this realm of vertical living, the quality of a resident’s life hinges on how well the building is built, maintained, and governed. When a building is poorly built by a developer who cut corners, managed by an investor-heavy condo board with no personal stake in the longevity of the building, and poorly maintained by a unlicensed property manager, problems arise — and it’s the condo resident who pays the price.
The public accounts committee’s report provides a clear road map for what the Ontario government should be doing to strengthen government oversight of the condo sector.
The report recommends expanding the Condo Authority Tribunal, so residents can have their disputes heard and resolved in a quick, affordable and fair manner, without going to court.
No one should have to spend $30,000 in legal fees just to get their condo board to hold a fair election or compel a property manager to fix a broken elevator.
The tribunal can only hear cases on a limited set of matters, such as pets, noise, odour and storage.
The committee’s report calls on the government to strengthen protections for buyers of condos by requiring developers to use a standard legal contract and fully disclose accurate information about current and future condo fees.
No first-time homeowner wants the horror of turning the key to their front door for the first time and discovering they bought a home that is more expensive, smaller and lacks the amenities they were promised at sale — but that’s exactly what’s happening in Ontario today.
It’s also essential that the government improve the performance of the two regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing condo boards and property managers, the Condominium Authority of Ontario and the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario.
If a resident has a valid concern, they should be able to call these regulatory agencies and have an impartial staff person listen to their complaint, investigate the issue and enforce the law if they find wrongdoing. This is not how these regulatory agencies are operating today.
The need is obvious. The recommendations are clear. The time for action is now.
To improve the quality of life for the growing number of Ontarians that call a condo their home, Ontario’s legislators must take this report’s recommendations and make them law.