Move will help make dispute process faster and cheaper
Disputes between tenants and condominium boards will soon be moved from Alberta’s backed-up court system to a dedicated dispute resolution process. Service Minister Manmeet Bhullar stated that this move the first of many expected changes to the 13-year-old Condominium Property Act will bring welcome relief to condo owners.
“Albertans have told us that too many disputes are ending up in long and costly court battles. Developing a more affordable and speedy way to resolve differences will help protect condominium owners and improve condominium living in Alberta” said Bhullar at an October 1 press conference.
The dispute resolution board won’t be established until the new condo legislation is tabled in the spring of 2014. Until then Bhullar has appointed a task force to prepare the necessary framework and regulations so that the board will be up and running as soon as possible once the new act is approved explains Service Alberta chief of staff Dave Prisco.
“We know where we want to go but there are some things that have to be figured out like cost” says Prisco. “The idea is if we get going on this now we can have it up and going in 2014.”
Prisco says large lawsuits are best dealt with by the court system but many of the smaller ones are prohibitively expensive to pursue in an already clogged system. “A lot of the disputes between tenants are about pets; parking; how you use common property…. If your condo levies a fine of $500 because your pet is two pounds overweight then court might not be the option for you right? You might need some cheaper alternative that’s quick.”
Speeding things up is the idea and Stephen Cassady president of the South Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute says a dedicated resolution process would be “a phenomenal step forward” but only one of many long-overdue changes to condo regulations.
“There’s no real good process currently. Independent mediation and arbitration isn’t used generally. It’s not a supported process which leaves the boards to combat their owners or the owners to combat their boards on an ongoing basis” Cassady says.
“There’s a ton of things to update…. We can talk about home warranty we can talk about insurance we can talk about the duties of the board we can talk about the rights of people who lend money to corporations the powers which the boards have in comparison the ability to raise funds for a reserve.”
The Condominium Property Act of 2000 is relatively young but Cassady says the major overhaul is needed because condo developments have skyrocketed. According to the Alberta Government there are 8000 condominium corporations in Alberta representing hundreds of thousands of owners and they now account for a third of all home sales in Calgary and Edmonton.