Condominium owners need affordable options for settling disputes with developers and property managers, says a Toronto MPP who is pushing for legislation to give them better protection.
Rosario Marchese, the New Democrat MPP for Trinity-Spadina, has brought forward a private member’s bill that calls for changes to the Condominium Act, including the creation of a review board that would allow condo owners to settle disputes outside of court.
"The fact of the matter is that the Condominium Act doesn’t have any consumer protection whatsoever," Marchese told CBC News.
"And so when people have a problem, they have to go to court to solve it. We think that’s incredibly unfair. "
Marchese said his proposed review board would act like a tribunal, allowing condo owners to take their disputes to a review officer. That’s a much cheaper and quicker alternative than going through the court system.
Condo owners tell of lingering disputes
CBC News spoke to a pair of Toronto condo owners who say they have faced lingering disputes they have been unable to resolve by going through the channels available to them.
Eva Wong moved into a downtown condo unit in 2009 and soon after noticed that her windows were leaking.
"They told us they were going to do an investigation (as to) what caused the situation," said Wong, describing what happened when she first reported the problem.
But according to Wong, nearly three years later, the problem has still not been fixed by the property manager, the developer or the condo board.
Concord Adex, the developer of Wong’s building, sent an email to CBC News saying it has a customer care policy in place that it uses when responding to deficiency claims. It said that it works with property management to inspect claims and if construction is necessary, it implements solutions "at no cost to residents and will continue to do so moving forward."
Hooman Rowshanbin told CBC News that he’s been living in a brand new condo unit in Toronto for six months. He said he noticed problems when first he moved in that have not been fixed, including a loud heater that he said is keeping him up at night.
"I've been emailing them and leaving messages for about six months and you know some of the smaller things they've fixed, but the heater, which is our biggest concern, they haven't made any progress in making it quieter," said Rowshanbin.
The developer, Streetcar, told CBC News that it has been "actively working with Hooman Rowshanbin to address his concerns since he first voiced them" and said that all but two of those issues "have been remedied to his satisfaction."
Streetcar also said that it agrees that there should be updated legislation for homeowner protection.
Bill would require property managers to be licensed
Marchese’s private member’s bill also calls for property managers to be licensed. "Some are good, but some are not so good. So we think they should be licensed," he said.
Dean Maher, the president of the CityPlace Residents' Association in Toronto, supports the licensing concept.
"Licensing property managers is actually a good idea," Maher told CBC News.
Maher said that a licensing system would take "the guesswork" out of the process of hiring a property manager for a building.
And such a system would ensure that condo boards "know they are getting good, quality property managers and they can avoid a lot of the issues in the court system, or having problems with their condo owners and the condo boards."
The bill also would extend the New Home Warranties Plan administered by Tarion — a private company that administers those warranties in Ontario — to include lofts that have been converted into condos.
Marchese has previously tried three times to amend the Condominium Act, which he said has not seen any major change since 1998, even though the province now has 1 million people living in condo units.
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But he believes the Liberal government is aware of the problems that condominium owners are facing and are under increasing pressure to act.
"We know the ministry is doing their own surveys and it’s all hidden from the public. They don’t share that with me, they don’t share that with anyone," he said.
"But we believe that whatever little survey they’re doing — however limited in scope — is revealing that there are problems."
Marchese is asking Toronto condo owners to join the debate at Queen’s Park on Thursday when his bill is reviewed.