Specific Legal Issues

November, 12 2020 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By BRIAN HORLICK, BRADLEY CHAPLICK

Unit Owner Entitled to Lost Rental Income Due to Corporation's Unreasonable Delay

From the Fall 2020 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

It is Not Discriminatory to Other Residents to Accommodate a Resident's Religious Needs

Estanol v. York Condominium Corporation No. 299, 2020 ONSC 298 (additional reasons: 2020 ONSC 1235) – condominium corporation liable for damages (lost rental income) for failing to repair common element water leak in a timely manner

The applicant, Ms. Estanol, purchased a townhouse unit in the respondent condominium corporation in August 2017 as an investment property.

A brief summary of the critical facts are as follows:

The 2018 Leaks
On July 5, 2018, heavy rainfall led to water penetration through the roof, into the attic and bedrooms. There was also water entry in the basement, under the garage slab, and under the porch.

In August 2018, after the corporation failed to act, Ms. Estanol arranged for her own contractor to re-install missing vents on the roof that caused the roof leaks. This resulted in the corporation accusing Ms. Estanol of making unauthorized repairs to the common elements. However, the corporation later reversed its position. The corporation's initial response to the basement leak was to claim that Ms. Estanol was responsible for repairs to her own unit. The initial engineer's report obtained by the corporation was based on a visual inspection, and no water penetration tests were conducted.

Ms. Estanol was then advised that the question would need to be put to the board of directors for consideration, but the issue was not discussed by the board until January 2019.

The Holmes Report
In October 2018, unsatisfied by the board's response, Ms. Estanol provided the property manager with a Mike Holmes Inspection Report. Based on water penetration tests, the report confirmed waterproofing problems in the foundation under both the front porch and the garage. The report recommended permanent repairs, but the corporation did not follow these recommendations. When the corporation finally accepted some responsibility (in January 2019), it made only temporary repairs, which were not successful.

At the June 2019 court hearing, Ms. Estanol believed that the water penetration issue had been resolved until fresh evidence after that hearing revealed that the leaks had persisted.

In August 2019, the corporation obtained its own expert report confirming the conclusions in the Holmes report, but the corporation had still not implemented a permanent repair by the time the court's decision was released in January 2020.

The Reasonableness Test
The court cited precedent cases of Ryan v. York Condominium Corporation No. 340 and Weir v. Peel Condominium Corporation No. 485 in applying a fact-specific test of reasonableness to determine whether the condominium corporation had satisfied its statutory duty to maintain and repair the common elements.

The idea behind a "reasonableness" test is that so long as the board of directors can demonstrate that it acted reasonably (for example, by following the advice of qualified experts), the court will not second guess the board's decision-making.

The court considered the relationship of the parties, their contractual obligations, the cost of the required work, and the benefit to all parties if the repairs are completed as compared to the detriment which may result from the failure to undertake repairs.

The court then determined that the delay in responding to the leak was unreasonable. The court reasoned that water penetration is a serious issue requiring immediate remedial action which should be in the range of months, not years.

The court also refused to consider the corporation's argument that the applicant was a "difficult" owner as an excuse for the delay, i.e. that the applicant had allegedly "cried wolf " in the past, which made the corporation skeptical of her claims.

The Damages Award
The court ordered that Ms. Estanol be reimbursed for the cost of her roof repairs and expert reports and ordered the corporation to repair the basement leak.

The court also awarded damages for loss of rental income ($3,500.00 per month) for the duration of the unreasonable delay.

Ms. Estanol's claim for additional "aggravated" damages was unsuccessful since the corporation's conduct was not found to be oppressive when considered in context of the difficult relationship between the parties, and the barrage of complaints made by Ms. Estanol.

This case also dealt with a status certificate dispute arising from when Ms. Estanol purchased her unit, which we have omitted from this case summary in order to focus on the water penetration claim.

The Takeaway
Water penetration in condominium buildings is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. When dealing with investment properties, a unit owner may be entitled to lost rental income resulting from a condominium corporation's unreasonable delay in effecting repairs.

Shvarstuhk v. York Region Condominium Corporation No. 570, 2020 HRTO 41 – application by a unit owner alleging discrimination relating to the installation of a Sabbath elevator is dismissed

The applicant, Mr. Shvarstuhk, commenced an application at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ("HRTO") alleging religious discrimination, among other things. Mr. Shvarstuhk identified himself to the HRTO as being Jewish.

The owner alleged that he was discriminated against and suffered reprisals for speaking out against the condominium corporation's plan to install a Sabbath elevator. The owner also alleged that the Sabbath elevator installation contravened the Condominium Act, 1998.

The HRTO held a summary hearing in which the application was dismissed, as there was no reasonable prospect that the application could succeed.

What is a Sabbath (or Shabbat) elevator?
It is an elevator that operates automatically and continuously during the Jewish Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). It typically stops at each floor of the building without the need to press a call button or a destination button.

The purpose of a Sabbath elevator is to satisfy the religious observance of some Jewish people to abstain from operating electrical switches on the Sabbath. HRTO concludes that it is not discriminatory to install a Sabbath elevator.

The HRTO dismissed the application because the owner could not point to any evidence of actual religious discrimination. The applicant owner was opposed to the Sabbath elevator, and had campaigned against its installation because he believed that it was not kosher. He also claimed that the Sabbath elevator was costly to install and operate. The owner went on to argue that forcing him to pay for the Sabbath elevator (indirectly, through his common expense payments) violated his religious rights.

The HRTO rejected these arguments, concluding that the Sabbath elevator had been installed in order to accommodate other residents' religious needs. None of the applicant unit owner's allegations, if true, amounted to religious discrimination against him.

The Takeaway
This case stands for the helpful proposition that it is not discriminatory to other residents to accommodate a resident's religious needs. Complaints of this type, i.e. that accommodating one religious request discriminates against all others, may well be familiar to condominium managers and boards of directors.

Condominium managers and board of directors should take comfort in knowing that Ontario's courts and tribunals will support condominium corporations that properly accommodate religious requests.

Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 476 v. Wong, 2020 ONCA 263
– 10-day period between giving written Notice of Lien and registration of Certificate of Lien calculated by excluding the day the notice was sent and including the day the lien was registered.

Mr. Wong is an owner of a unit in the corporation who had fallen into arrears of payment of his common expenses. The corporation sent a written notice of lien to Mr. Wong by registered mail on January 21, 2014. Ten days later, on January 31, 2014, the corporation registered a certificate of lien against Mr. Wong's unit.

Mr. Wong argued that the 10-day period between giving written notice of the lien and the registration of the lien had not been met and that the lien was therefore invalid. The corporation argued that the 10-day notice period had in fact been met and that the lien was valid.

The question to be decided was how to calculate the 10 days.

Section 85(4) of the Condominium Act, 1998 sets out that "At least 10 days before the day a certificate of lien is registered, the corporation shall give written notice of the lien to the owner whose unit is affected by the lien".

The motion judge held that s. 89(3) of the Legislation Act, 2006 governed the calculation of the notice period. This section sets out that "a reference to a number of days between 2 events excludes the day on which the first event happens and includes the day on which the second event happens even if the reference is to "at least" or "not less than" a number of days.

Accordingly, the motion judge excluded from the notice period the day the notice was sent being January 21 and included the date the lien was registered being January 31. This left 10 days of notice, which satisfied s. 85(4) of the Condominium Act, 1998.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the motion judge, setting out that s. 85(4) of the Condominium Act, 1998 describes the period between 2 events that must occur for a condominium corporation to obtain the full benefit of the lien contemplated in s. 85 of the Condominium Act, 1998. The 2 events were: (1) the giving of the notice of lien; and, (2) the registering of a certificate of lien.

The Condominium Act, 1998 further describes the minimum number of days that must elapse between the two actions. As such, the court was of the view that it was appropriate to interpret the notice provision in s. 85(4) of the Condominium Act, 1998 as excluding the giving of notice and including the registration of the certificate of lien in accordance with s. 89(3) of the Legislation Act, 2006. Costs were awarded against Mr. Wong in the amount of $16,800.

Editor's Note:
The court considered the relationship of the parties, their contractual obligations, the cost of the required work, and the benefit to all parties if the repairs are completed as compared to the detriment which may result from the failure to undertake repairs.

The court considered the relationship of the parties, their contractual obligations, the cost of the required work, and the benefit to all parties if the repairs are completed as compared to the detriment which may result from the failure to undertake repairs.


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