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Off-site condo owners should be reachable

It's up to off-site condominium owners to provide up-to-date contact information in case of emergencies and to receive compliance notices, says Toronto condo lawyer John De Vellis.

"There are two big problems with off-site owners," says De Vellis, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP. "One is that it's often difficult to get a quorum for an annual general meeting because the owners who don’t live in the building don't bother showing up."

The bigger problem, he tells AdovcateDaily.com, is when off-site owners don’t leave current contact information, it makes dealing with compliance issues very difficult.

"The corporation is supposed to keep owners apprised because if they don't and try to get compensation for legal costs later, the owner may argue they were not aware of the issue and could have dealt with it had they known."

Under the Condominium Act, for such things as condo owner meetings, owners must give consent to being contacted by email by the condo corporation. But compliance notices can be sent by email without formal consent from the owner, De Vellis explains.

"If you have someone's email address — even though it’s not technically authorized electronic communication for official Condominium Act notices — you can send the message from a compliance perspective," he says.

If an owner wasn’t advised, they could claim they would have dealt with the compliance issue if they had known about it, he says.

"So, we always advise our condominium clients to inform the owners right away," De Vellis says.

"Owners are required under the Ontario Condominium Act to provide an address for service," he says. "If they don't, then that's on them. Having said that, it’s always better to be able to contact the owner because they can often deal with things easier, such as a problem tenant."

If the owner is not capable of immediately responding, then they should appoint someone with a temporary power of attorney to deal with any emergencies or compliance concerns, he says.

A growing issue is tenants subletting condos as short-term vacation properties, often without the knowledge of the unit owner. De Vellis says most condos have rules preventing short-term rentals, and the condo declaration typically specifies that units are for single-family use.

"There's a cottage industry where people don't put up the capital to buy the unit, they just sign a long-term lease and then sub-let the unit on a short-term basis," he says. "And they turn a profit while the owner is often not even aware of it because they live in another jurisdiction.

"That's a big problem so it's important the owner leaves contact information so condo officials can inform them," De Vellis says. "If they don't, then the condo corporation may have no choice but to start legal proceedings, which ends up costing the owner a significant amount of money because the declaration normally makes the owner liable to the corporation for any costs incurred as a result of a breach."

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