- Quarantine rules: Can corporations enforce it and to what extent?
- Access to the building and to units: move in/out; deliveries, in suite renos...
- What to do with short-term rentals and guests suites?
- Collecting fees, special assessments and liens
- Auditor and budgets during the crisis
- Sandy Foulds (Wilson Blanchard Management)
- Katherine Gow (ACMO)
- Rod Escayola (Gowling WLG)
- Denise Lash (Community Association Institute (Canada) /Lash Condo Law)
- Jason Reid (National Life Safety Group)
- Graeme MacPherson (Gowling WLG)
- David Plotkin (Gowling WLG)
Rod: Good morning everyone. My name is Rod Escayola and I'm a condo lawyer with Gowling WLG. I'm also the editor of the Condo Advisor blog. I'd like to welcome everybody to this very first webinar on the Coronavirus pandemic and it's impact on condominiums. Now we're envisioning this to be the first of a series of webinar which, for now, we are planning on holding on a weekly basis, or as required. Same time, same channel, same people. The situation is fluid. It's evolving and so we'll see how it goes. But there's clearly a need for information and I say this mainly because of the massive response we've had to our invitation. That's why we had to split you in two because there were too many that could be accommodated at once.
So what we've done here, as a result or to respond to this epidemic crisis, what we've done is we've constructed an industry wide crisis prevention cell and I've invited a couple of experts out there and will invite some more as required. I've invited them to try to get together and put some information for everybody to be able to sort of navigate through these difficult times. So, I'm going to start by introducing the members of this crisis prevention cell. I'll call your name and I'll ask you to introduce yourself with a sentence or less. We have Denise Lash.
Denise: Thank you, Rod. My name is Denise Lash. I'm the founder of Lash Condo Law and I'm here also representing CAI Canada.
Rod: Okay. Thank you. Sandy Foulds.
Sandy: Hi. I'm Sandy Foulds, the Executive Director of the Hamilton office of Wilson Blanchard Management and I'm also the current Vice President of the Golden Horseshoe Chapter of CCI.
Rod: Okay. If I could ask Katherine to introduce herself.
Katherine: Good evening everybody. Katherine Gow. I am a career condominium manager, proudly an RCM and I'm representing the Association of Condominium Managers on here today.
Rod: Okay. Jason Reid, please.
Jason: Good evening everybody. My name is Jason Reid. I'm the Senior Advisor for a consulting firm, National Life Safety Group. I have significant experience in business continuity, applying it to critical infrastructure and I look forward to speaking with you today.
Rod: Thank you, Jason. Graeme MacPherson.
Graeme: Hi there. My name's Graeme MacPherson. I am an associate with the condominium law group at Gowling WLG.
Rod: Finally, David Plotkin.
David: Hi everyone. I'm David Plotkin, an associate at Gowling WLG. Are you able to hear me guys?
Various: Yes. Yup. We can here you.
Rod: Okay. Thanks everybody. I'd like to thank the people you've just heard. I'd like to thank you for all jumping in on such short notice and accepting to share your knowledge. We are sort of figuring things out, all of us collectively, as things evolve. As I said online today we'll have up to 500 registration and right now we have 180 on the line. With so many participants you have to understand that we will simply not be able to answer every question. We will not be able to tackle every issue. This is going to be, today, 30,000 feet birds view of the situation. We're going to try our very best to tackle the more urgent, the more important, the more pressing issues but by no means can this replace you seeking advice from your advisors. Be it a lawyer, your manager, your security provider. We're going to provide as much information as we can but you have to keep in mind that every situation varies. It's different. It's a fact specific case for each one of you. Whatever we're unable to do today we hope to do it next week. I would ask you not to turn your microphones and not to turn your cameras on necessarily because people will see you. The microphone is muted but if your camera's on we can see you. And we can see what you're wearing. Hopefully you put on your best Sunday dress. There's a chat function for those of you who are familiar enough and those of you who want to use it. Graeme is going to be trying to sort of monitor the chat function but I really urge you to focus on the presentation, more so than on chatting, or more so that sending an email because we may not get to it. But it's up to you. Graeme is going to try to monitor this as we go.
Now, there it is. We've covered that. Let's dive in, if I may. Now, I won't spend much time describing the situation that got us all reunited today. Everybody's watching the news and unless you've lived under a rock you know what's sort of unfolding, but suffice it to say, that on March 8 the World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus a global pandemic. Yesterday in Ontario our Premier declared a state of emergency and as a result of that the Province is prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people, closing indoor recreational centers, theaters, concert venues, place of worship, schools, daycare and so on and so forth, and many Provinces have followed suit. Some of them were ahead of Ontario such as Quebec. Now you have employers who are sending people home. You have employers that are asking staff to work remotely. The purpose of that, it's quite required, the purpose of that social distancing is to sort of try to flatten the curve, as everybody sort of refers to. The issue may be this, that the social distancing is being imposed on the public space, its pushing everybody back home. In the case of condominiums there's 12,000 condominiums in Ontario, give or take. There's 1.5 million Ontarians that are living pretty much on this space of a postage stamp. One on top of each other, so that public distancing that we're putting on public spaces, may be potentially compromised on the condo side. What I mean by that, I mean what's the point of closing a public gym if you're going to have your fitness room continue to provide services to 500 occupants or so. That's the purpose of today's conversation. Not to cause panic. Not to create panic. Don't do what I'm just doing. I'm just licking my fingers to flip my pages.
Various: - laughter -
Rod: Don't do that. The objective is not to create panic. The objective is to try to help condo corps to deploy reasonable measures that will help our 12,000 communities. Okay. Graeme do you want to share, quickly, some of the stats that we've gathered. Let me put the stats on and if you can share those, talk about that a bit.
Graeme: Yeah, happy to. As you'll see we've collected some statistics through the Condo Advisor website but I'm just going to briefly take us through. If you don't have it we can make this presentation available. What we're seeing, in general, are that for the most part, looking at about 80%, people are concerned. Either somewhat or very concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in the complexes that they live in. In turn, not surprisingly, people are also of the view that I assumed my neighbours share my concern. Here is where we get one of our most resounding responses to the question of, "Do you think your condo corporation should be taking precautions with respect to the spread of this virus?" and the answer is a resounding, "Yes." When it comes to what people are aware of in terms of who's been infected in their complexes, for the most part it appears that we have another resounding answer here that people are not aware of any infection cases in their complex. Now that does not necessarily mean there are none, but it does mean that either there are few or what there are, are currently undiscovered. In terms of what precautions different corporations have taken to deal with this.
Rod: Actually, Graeme, if you don't mind we'll park that.
Rod: We'll get back to this when we talk about what kind of precautions managers can take so I'll just park that for a second.
Graeme: Thanks so much.
Rod: Very good. What we're going to do. We're following an agenda. Hopefully some of you have printed that. We're going to dive in now in the legal section, and I promise to keep it short, because really what you need is practical advice, mainly from your managers. We have two managers extraordinaire on the line so we're not going to keep them quiet for too long. But let's just talk about the legal risks and, Denise, I'm wondering if you can maybe start by talking about disclosure obligations.
Denise: Okay. That's what I want to talk about. I want to discuss owner's disclosure, a visitor disclosure and what steps the corporation should take with respect to those two items. I want to emphasize, firstly, that condominium corporations are not medical facilities and boards and managers should be careful in assuming the role of a health provider. This is a really difficult issue and Jason Reid, who's on this webinar, and I've had this discussion. We know that we're in unchartered waters so there's a lot of things that we don't know. For now, what's important, is that we take guidance from our public health officials and the different levels of government.
Let's get into the disclosure requirements as to an obligation for an owner, or a resident, to disclose whether they've been recently travelled, on a plane, or whether their in self-isolation, or whether they've tested positive for COVID-19. You can not force a resident, or an owner, to disclose that information to management or the board, as to any physical condition, or whether they've travelled abroad. Even if that information was made available to the corporation, you cannot prohibit a resident from coming into the building, or who've travelled and you think they may be susceptible, to enter the building and go into their unit. They have a right to enter into the building, unless there is some kind of government directive, that as a corporation you cannot prevent residents and owners from coming into the building. What should corporations do? We're recommending that you notify residents that if they have tested positive for COVID-19 that they should advise management on a confidential basis by phone or email. This would only be for the purpose of assisting the resident, for example, with deliveries to their unit. Management and the corporation should be careful not to take on any other role. Not as the health provider, health advice, but only with respect to that limited role. You should not notify residents that a resident has been diagnosed with Coronavirus unless you are able to reasonably confirm the diagnoses is true, from the resident directly, or from a co-occupant living with them, or from the public health official who has notified the board or management of such diagnoses. In no circumstances should you rely on rumors or unofficial sources. When you disclose to the residents you should not disclose any information about where the resident is located or who the individual is. Not even to the board members. Management gets this information, it's for management only, for the purposes that I mentioned. This is private and confidential information. There may be reason why security, who has to make a delivery to the unit outside the unit, may need to know that they have to do so outside the unit but you don't have to give them any information. The corporation should also notify residents that if they've travelled abroad that they should follow public health guidelines for self-isolating for 2 weeks. I would not recommend the corporation request that those individuals advise management that they are in self-isolation. Management cannot be expected to monitor all the units that have been self-isolated, nor does the corporation want to assume that responsibility. This is a public health issue where directives will come from the government as things progress.
In terms of visitors, corporations should not be screening visitors at this point in time. I say at this point in time because there may be a point in time in which it is important to take further action. As of today that's what we're recommending. Remember, we're not in a shut-down situation now. There's no government directive on this. Visitors also have no obligation to disclose this information on entry and if they refuse what should management do? Is it managements role to escort them out? To not let them in? What we're recommending is that signage be placed at the front desk and notification be sent to residents about their obligation to ensure that if visitors are entering onto the property that they follow the protocols established by public health.
Rod: Okay. Wonderful, Denise, for bang on time wise because that's going to be our biggest challenge today is to make sure that we stick to our time. That's great. Well done. Thank you. Let me add to this. Along the lines of condo's obligations, and why we're talking about all of that, because obviously we're sort of a hybrid space and a public space. Under the Condominium Act, condo corporations are mandated to manage and control the common elements. For people to get to their units they have to go through common elements. Our duties, the condo's duties and the corporation's duties and the board's duties, are to manage the assets and the common elements. Not to manage individuals and certainly not to manage a health public crisis or an endemic. Your job is really to manage the common elements. Now having said that, to go to the units, as I said you need to go through the common elements, so one of the challenges that we face is this. Is that within our duty to manage the common elements we also have a duty to take reasonable precaution to ensure the reasonable safety of those individuals, accessing the premises, as under the Occupiers Liability Act, in Ontario. So that means we need to take these precautions, these steps, to ensure that pretty much anybody that will set foot on common elements, in the elevators, in the lobbies, will be somewhat protected. But, I mean, how can we do this in light of the current situation, especially in light of the situation were we don't control where people have gone, who have travelled and who has washed their hands and so on and so forth.
In light of that, you have take to take in our view, and that's our recommendation, you have to take some reasonable steps. Some of the reasonable steps could include communicating with the owners. Because the way I see it is this, if there was a flare up in the building, and if in fact, suddenly, everybody on the 9th to the 12th floor got contaminated, a question could be asked of the corporation, "Well, what have you done?" And if the answer is, "No, nothing, it's not our job." you're placing yourself at risk. Communicating to the owners a certain level of precaution is what we're recommending. Putting hand sanitizers close to the lobby, close to the elevator, and so on and so forth. Shutting some of the common amenities. Shutting down the gym. Shutting down some of these amenities which are common elements where people would congregate otherwise. Those are all steps that you can easily take which would improve the level of safety for everybody else that is involved. We're going to talk about this in detail a bit more as we move along. Those are the kind of precautions that we have in mind. Now we recommend at this stage to sort of ensure, as much as feasible, a certain level of general safety. And of course, the key one is, you have to increase your cleaning and disinfecting protocols. We won't be able to clean the elevator call button every time somebody presses on it. But you certainly should be doing your due diligence, and you should really work harder then you would normally, at keeping all of these areas clean. The hallways, the door knobs, the door handles, the elevator, the call button, the garbage shoots and so on and so forth. That's sort of the legal sort of overview. David, I wonder if here you could take about 2 minutes to talk about employees and how does this situation sort of overlap, or interplay, with corporations having employees.
David: Sure. Thanks, Rod. On this I think the first question you're asking is really who are we dealing with. Is the person an employee of the corporation? Is the first question. Are they employee of management? Then the questions are then about management's role. A lot of questions are coming up now about employees call in sick. What are the obligations there? Employees call in, they have to take care of a family member. One really interesting extension of the Employment Standards Act that happened recently was the Provincial Ontario government put out a new directive that they're going to be amending, retroactively to the end of January, the Employment Standards Act to cover more reasons for which someone can take a leave from their employment. For example, someone who needs to be home in quarantine, if they are sick. If they need to be home to take care of someone who's sick. If they need to be home, even to take care of children, for childcare that daycare's not available now. The question is, if someone comes to you and says, whether it's one of the employees of the corporation, and says, "Okay. I can't be here anymore." The automatic response is not necessarily, "Oh, you need to be here. You have an employment contract with us." It's really to try and figure out, be it with legal counsel or any other advisor, what role that person actually is playing in the corporation and can they be accommodated in any way and, if not, what type of reason are they coming to you with to seek leave from their employment. If they're coming to you and they just say, "I have a general fear of COVID-19 and it's coming for me.", that's not probably enough for them to just be able to go home, despite the request of government now for everyone to self-isolate. Until this changes, until there's the Emergencies Act, for example, is invoked or if there's other sorts of requirements from government, just saying I have a general fear of getting this disease is likely not enough. But if they do fall into one of those categories, either under the Occupational Health and Safety Act or under the Employment Standards Act, that's now been extended, you might want to address each specific situation with counsel to try and figure out how do we accommodate, how do we fill gaps, what types of leave are available, if they need to be off for a long period of time can we lay them off so that they are eligible for EI. A lot of this will depend upon your contract with them as well. What type of stipulations are in the contract for sick leave and other such programs. This is a topic all on its own. I'm going to throw it back to Rod on that.
Rod: Thank you, David. I would add this, maybe, is that in the meantime, so while in and of itself the general fear of the Coronavirus would not, generally speaking, be sufficient for an employee to say I'm not going to go to work. An obligation that the employer would have is to put in place precautions and measures to ensure, as much as possible, the reasonably safety of this employee. You do this by providing training. You do this by providing masks, if required. Gloves, if required. You do this by telling your owners not to go unnecessarily, and engage face to face, the super or the concierge. You can put in place precautions that will minimize the risk to the employee and by creating a safer environment. Then you reassure this employee and it's more difficult for the employee to, I guess it's easier for the employee to want to continue and assist you and help you. Okay. Let's move on because we're running out of time. I'd like to move on to the next, a kind of precaution, Graeme if you can maybe, I'm going to bring back the slides now. If you can talk about the kind of precautions that we have seen corporations take so far. Let me see if I remember how to do this. I'll do this and I'll put the slides back up. Okay. Graeme.
Graeme: What we're seeing in terms of the responses we've got are that the main steps that have been taken, most popular, was that the cleaning that's been taking place of common areas has been taken up a notch. Signs have been posted warning residents and occupants about what's going on. Similarly, notices have gone out to owners. What we're also seeing is events in party rooms or certain amenities, like you were saying, the gym earlier, are being closed. In some corporations we're seeing hand sanitizer stations being set up.
Rod: Right. So, the fact that you see these, I mean, this shows you what have some done. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to do it.
Rod: This is a good picture of what has been done out there. What about hand sanitizer? Can you tell us a bit more about that, Graeme?
Graeme: In terms of hand sanitizer, we know at least 43% of our respondents either hadn't before or have it now. An additional almost 13% are planning on getting it. In terms of general trends, taking this data for what it is, is that hand sanitizer seems to be in place or planned to be in place, in over half of condos. Obviously, one issue that is going to be presenting itself, and this is actually something that I'm seeing in the chat that somebody's brought up, is that hand sanitizer is a hot commodity right now and due to hoarding and looting behaviours that you can sometimes see, it can either be hard to get your hands on, or once you have it, somebody with sticky fingers might just take the whole thing. In terms of what you can do about that it's the same risk you run with anything in the common elements. You have to rely on your security systems as best you can and hope that owners and occupants will band together to work through the crisis without behaviour like that. But that is definitely a practical issue that might be faced.
Rod: Okay. Thanks so much. Now onto the management section of the agenda. I'm going to start with you, Katherine. I'm going to give you a couple of minutes, maybe to talk about the level of service. How this crisis is affecting the level of service that is provided to owners?
Katherine: ... ... ...
Katherine: I think one of the key things
Rod: There you go.
Katherine: Can you hear me, alright?
Katherine: I'm sorry. I've closed the video just to make sure that you can hear me well. I believe a number of the condominium corporations have, at this point in time, moved to delivering services under a different model. By that I mean the manager working remotely, closing things like the amenities to residents. That is, of course, in service of ensuring that they keep the common elements clean and sanitized on a very regular basis. Closing the amenities, as Rod had mentioned earlier, is also in service of ensuring that residents can observe the social distancing practices that have been recommended by public health organizations. What I do think the next steps are and how we continue forward, given as David had mentioned, the fact that we have fewer employees as time goes on, either because of self-isolating behaviours, or frankly they're staying at home to care for children who aren't in school, is a reduced staffing load. If managers and their boards haven't already, then talking about what their priorities are in a community and how best they can service those needs, I think those are next step considerations. I know all of the managers that I work with and, by extension, managers that I communicate with on a fairly regular basis through ACMO, are also trying to accommodate, as best they can, folks who have let the management office know that they are self-isolating and for a variety of reasons. That's on compassionate grounds so that they can stay home and stay safe, and the whole intention of everybody staying home and staying healthy, is to prevent the transmission within the community and also ensure that the health care system can service the needs of the people who are sick, and very sick. One of the biggest gifts you can give your community, as a property manager, is to communicate often and to give folks a sense of power. That comment, I think it was Graeme who mentioned finding hand sanitizer these days is difficult. It comes from a place of the people in our community trying to find normal, trying to find a sense of control. We can help them by communicating forward, one, how great the community is. How people are looking out for one another and how people are taking seriously the advice of health care professionals in order to make sure the community stays safe.
Rod: One of the questions that came up, Katherine, and I'm going to put you on the spot here, is what about accessing units. Our managers still required to access units? Twofold, are managers accessing the units and maybe contractors accessing the unit? Maybe somebody has an ongoing renovation project. How do you tackle that on, right now?
Katherine: It is a source of discussion amongst communities that I'm aware of. Whether they ask their residents to stop in suite renovations, and that's to try and lessen the burden of visitors coming to the community. It might be something that those condominium corporations decide to do on a going forward basis. If someone is self-isolating I would recommend that barring an emergency, flood, fire, risk of human life, there is no need to enter into the unit and to put staff members, or others, into peril of any kind. If you are still doing things like routine maintenance in the suites, irrespective of whether someone is or is not reported to have self-isolated, do make sure you are observing, what is called by the World Health Organization and other public health groups, universal protections. That's of course lots of hand washing before and after. Sometimes things like disposable gloves and footies can be helpful. And, of course, social distancing. You're looking to give the contractor, the escort and the suite owner a lot of space in the suite so that you're more than a meter away. Again, if you look actively at the size of the units you're entering into, I think this also gives you some guidance as to whether or not that's something that can or needs to be done right now. As property managers what you're balancing are the risks to damage, to units and to the common elements. For instance, if you have a sink backup it's not something that can wait for a couple of weeks. It's something that's going to need to be attended to. But if it is something that can be put off, it's not an active water leakage, perhaps you have that discussion about scheduling it for another time.
Rod: Wonderful. Thanks so much. Something else that came up in the questions that are popping in, is that if you have a volunteer program, where you sort of encourage some owners to help other owners that have needs and so on and so forth, and what we've recommended is if you're going to go that way, you want to make sure that you provide enough information for people to make a decision as to whether or not, and to what extent, they want to participate. It needs to be very clear that they, those volunteers, would also need to put in a place a heightened level of hygiene and avoid going into units unless it's required. People want to help but you want to make sure that they don't put themselves at arms length. I'm going to move onto Sandy now. Sandy, maybe you can talk about social distancing and hygiene and how managers are tackling that. Because, I mean, there's a lot of people coming in and out of condos. There's a lot of meetings that need to take place. Sandy, what kind of guidance can you give us?
Sandy: Sure. Before I get into the hygiene and social distancing, I do want to reiterate the points made by the attorneys. As boards it is critical to remember that you're the body empowered to make decisions for the community. To assist you in the role WBM, and our parent company, hosted a webinar last week and are participating today to help you establish a framework to make those critical decisions. If there is at any time that boards should be relying on professional counsel and local health authorities to guide their processes, it is now.
Personal hygiene is being stressed over and over again, throughout every media report we hear. This is exceptionally important in our high density condos. Residents have a personal responsibility to take preventative actions. With hundreds of residents touching door knobs and elevator buttons consistently throughout the day it is not realistic to expect cleaners to have every surface perfectly sanitized all day long. We cannot stress how important it is for condo residents to diligently wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face after touching any surface. Many condos have already set up permanent sanitizing stations throughout the high traffic areas of your buildings and that's great. If you haven't done so it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to find any at this time. But I would hope that supplies will start to become available again in the very near future. If you have them ensure that they are placed in the high traffic areas, inside your entrance doors, at the elevators, on the main floor, garage levels, and any other areas that you feel are important in your specific buildings. Managers and boards do need to work together, closely with your cleaners, to ensure you're getting as much extra cleaning of high traffic areas as possible. This is why it is so important to close your extra amenities, such as party rooms, pools, hot tubs, saunas, change rooms, gyms, game rooms, barbeque areas, guest suites and any others that are in your buildings. Owners may want these amenities to stay open so that they have something to do during these next few weeks of possible isolation. But as board members you need to act responsible to protect the health and welfare of all of your residents by closing these facilities. Social activities scheduled should be postponed in accordance with government requirements for numbers currently permitted to congregate. However, this number is decreasing daily so jump ahead of the curve and simply postpone gatherings for now. It is for the health and safety of your residents, and in many cases, the larger elderly population of your buildings.
A very serious concern we're also discussing now with our managers is a Plan B for your cleaners and supers. What happens if they are quarantined or become sick and are not able to work? It will depend on each building's circumstances but please start thinking about it and preparing for it. We'd much rather you're prepared for these contingencies than scrambling at the last minute. Today we have actually heard of one of our buildings that board members were actually helping out with the daily cleaning. Because their cleaner, who was a direct employee and their only employee, has respiratory concerns and can no longer work for fear of catching COVID-19 from the many snowbirds who are now quickly returning to the building and are in self-isolation. Deliveries is another concern for both high-rise and low-rise buildings. We expect there will be far more food deliveries now as restaurants are closing down. But please don't expect your security staff to be the ones to deliver these around your buildings. It's not their job. If the recipient is healthy they should be required to come down, get their food, get their deliveries. If they are not, consider the food delivery person going up to the door and leaving it in the hall outside of the unit entrance. Not having contact with the person involved. Owners should also consider minimizing unnecessary deliveries and non-essential visitors to your units, at this time. Social distancing is a new concept to us all but it really is now our reality. Please make sure that any guests have no symptoms and have not travelled recently. These are exceptional circumstances that are requiring exceptional measures to be taken by all levels of government, including our condo boards. Thank you.
Rod: Okay. Thanks so much for that, Sandy. One of the questions that came up is whether small condo corps are held to the same standard as bigger condo corps. It's going to be a case by case. You're going to have to balance all sorts of sort of competing resources and interests. Obviously look at the density of your condo. If it's a spread sort of townhome complex the risk would be perhaps lesser and a requirement to enter units and to commute over common elements would not exist. So you have very, very different sort of situations when you're looking at townhomes versus if you're looking at a 500 unit tower downtown Toronto. Also, look at geographically where you're located. You have to put into the equation. Don't be overly confident that the fact that there hasn't been a case in North Bay doesn't mean that nobody's affected and nobody have travelled to or from North Bay. I'm sorry if I'm using that example. It's the first thing that came to mind. You have to put all of that into the equation and ultimately the question will be whether or not these directors have acted reasonably. Have acted in line with what other reasonable directors would have done. So your level of what's required of you will vary tremendously depending on your own situation.
I'm going to turn the microphone again to Katherine, if I may, and I'd like Katherine to, you've raised the importance of communication and maybe you can elaborate a bit on that. Specifically, maybe the kind of the communications or the set up you should put in place to communicate with directors in these very stressful times.
Katherine: I think there are probably three main communication pieces that managers are undertaking currently. One of them is amongst managers and their staff. The second is amongst managers and the boards at the individual condominium corporations where they work and as Sandy so rightly pointed out, who are the ones who are going to make the decisions, tough ones admittedly, for each of their communities and then the third is for the residents. Again, these are fast moving items, fast moving restrictions and changes are happening all of the time. By now I'm hoping that everybody has communicated some of the universal precautions, some of the differences in terms of how they are affecting service. I believe for most, if not all, management companies were moving to not have foot traffic, to try to prevent some foot traffic at our concierge desks as well, and to protect staff members in that way, and to hold meetings electronically where they need to happen, and as Sandy referenced earlier, to postpone or defer meetings until after the current social distancing measures have been waived by public health administrations. The final piece of communications is of course to residents so they know what to expect, in terms of what is open and what is closed and what that timeline might be like. As Rod has mentioned it might be to understand or try to facilitate some buddying up of suites with an elderly neighbour, for instance, or something like that. If we can affect those connections between people we might try to do that. I think that would be really helpful. The third piece with residents that I think is really important is to set up or establish a bit of a routine in communications. We've all talked about the fact that these are unusual, uncertain, unchartered waters that we're in and committing to a regular cycle I think helps folks understand that we're taking in questions, we're processing how best to apply them to our individual communities and then we'll commit to getting back to you. Whether that's daily when things are changing really quickly or weekly as time progresses. I think people are amazing. They can deal with an awful lot when they know what to expect. If you commit to and are diligent about maintaining this good constant stream of communications it will be really appreciated by your homeowners.
Rod: Wonderful. Thanks so much. One of the questions that came up online following Sandy's information was whether condo corps could prohibit owners from receiving visitors. Because the suggestion was that, and I think Sandy's suggestion was, that each owner is responsible to take all precautions and ensure that they don't get infected. At this stage, and I think this is clear, a corporation cannot prevent owners from receiving visitors. Cannot prevent a snowbird from returning home. Cannot prevent a delivery from taking place, for now. If things evolve we'll have a chat later on. The suggestion was not that the corporation will start policing, whether unit 306 is entitled to receive their in-laws, or is entitled to receive the nurse that's taking care of them. We're not at that stage yet and we don't have the jurisdiction or the authority to prevent that, at this stage. I think this is a good sort of segue to you, Jason. You may be able to elaborate a bit on what I just said. If you disagree with what I said you've got to be loud and clear. I'm okay with that. But if you could talk about that but also you could talk about there's one group of people we haven't talked about communicating with and those are the contractors. The corporations, we have all sorts of contractors, we have people that come in to deal with all sorts of services that we're required, maintenance and so on. How do we ensure that these people continue to return? What kind of communications do we have with them? Jason.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Your contractors really support your operations and they're an extension of your operations. We focus quite often on the superintendent, the concierge, the security staff, administrative staff but I think it's important that number one, we, as the property managers and the board, send a communication to our top 3 or 4 service providers and say number one, we rely on your services. Number two, you're aware of the current concerns going on in the community. Number three, you're not sending anybody that has been under travel restrictions or is under self-quarantine for the reasons underneath what's been posted on public health websites. I would caution anybody from kind of regurgitating them in their communication versus suggesting that your trades meet those requirements. Those are the only trades and service providers that are permitted on your property. You are well within your right to do that within that reminder. I think it's also important to understand that you have a requirement to engage those trades because they quite often help you with your building operations. For example, every 30 days you have fire code requirements that your staff just simply can't meet. So your service provider has to come very 28 days to your building and complete some fire code requirements. You want to make sure you're engaging them to say, "Hey, listen. Make sure you're taking precautions so that you can continue to service my building and make sure you're not sending anybody who's in contravention of the public health guidelines." I think that's very key. You also get that in writing and documented. That's another step that corporations are doing to keep their communities running and keep their communities safe.
Graeme: I think I'll just jump in. One thing that corporations should probably be aware of with respect to tradespeople and any contractors they have, we are in times now, as everybody has said, where people aren't necessarily showing up to work and corporations may be running into issues of contractors who are either planned to start a renovation or a project, or are in the midst of one, may feel that they can no longer send anyone there. In terms of how to respond to that it's going to very much depend on what the terms of your corporations agreement with these contractors are. It's important for corporations to be aware that we may well be in a time where something called force majeure clauses have been invoked. Those are something that find their way into a lot of contracts that typically say in events of mass destruction or an act of terror or a big disaster, that that should be an out to get out of the contract. I think the kind of hot word tonight has been that we are in unprecedented times so how this will shake out, we're not entirely sure but it's worth noting that we may very well be in a time where those clauses can be relied on.
Katherine: Can I say just one more thought there. I think what we need to do is be rational and considerate as well of attending to the most important of priorities. I'm really glad, Jason, that you mentioned in particular the requirements under the fire code. Health and safety and compliance of the fire code are going to be some of our biggest priorities. Sometimes in condo land we can forget about those priorities. The physical security of the building, the physical safety of people because we're very concerned about to a degree, and I want to make sure, because I'm speaking to so many board members currently, that that remains fore of mind. As much as we want all of our contractors to live up to all of the terms that we would on a regular day, there are also some contracts that we may have that, as corporations, we might want to look at the terms and we might want to speak with our contractors about stopping that work during this time. I do believe there will be a lot of discussion, a lot of negotiation but things that can't be sacrificed are fire and life safety and security of the building as a whole.
Rod: Graeme, can you maybe tackle the question of quarantine and who can enforce it because I keep seeing it come up on the chat channel. I guess the point blank question to you would be can the corporation enforce self-quarantine or is it even its job to do that and similarly can management, or should management, police self-quarantine? So we have, let's say, the snowbird that came back home and he's checking his mailbox. His or her mailbox. The question that keeps coming up is to what extent can we go and enforce that? Can you just maybe tackle this?
Graeme: Yeah and the answer is an unequivocable that, no, that boards or management do not have the authority to impose quarantine on people. As have been said, we're simply not at that stage yet where even the government has enacted powers to impose quarantine like that. At this stage, what corporations can do, are take steps like putting up hand sanitizers where available or closing certain amenities like the gym, that are places that by necessity involve touching the same things that people before you have already touched. Putting up notices, putting the onus on owners to take some responsibility and do what they can to all work together and try to contain the spread of the virus. At this time the answer is an unequivocable, no, corporations nor management can impose a quarantine on someone.
Rod: Alright then. And sometimes people mean well. There's a snow bird that came back home at my condo, recently, and he said, "I'm going to go to the gym at 5 in the morning when nobody's there just to make sure that I minimize risk of being in contact with people." Well, I know that wasn't the proper answer. In fact, the easy way to deal with that is to close the fitness room. And that's what took place. They closed the fitness room so this person won't be there at 5 or at 4 or at 6. Jason, I'll get back to you in a minute because a question that keeps coming up and, I mean, hindsight is 20/20 but one of the questions that comes up is how do we prepare for that and what kind of precautions can be implemented now, despite the fact that we don't know what's around the corner? Can you help us with this a bit? A kind of plan that should be in place? I'm talking safety and security requirements. How do we ensure that we maintain that?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. As an example, right now, property managers are tasked with their teams in complying with, right now Ontario fire code requirements on both a daily, weekly and monthly requirement. Every day I have to have a documented check that my sprinkler room's been checked. Every day I should have a documented check that my fire alarm system is functioning as required. Those are two daily fire code requirements in almost every condominium in Ontario. What I suggest that we start planning for is what our core critical things that we are checking on a daily basis? As an example, what's my critical infrastructure? I want to make sure my generator is powered in the auto position and ready to respond, kind of every day. I want to make sure that my fire alarm system is functioning and I've checked that sprinkler system every day. I want to make sure my CCTV system is recording. Those kind of daily checks are things that we should start amalgamating, right now, if you haven't done it already. And then look at cross training your superintendent, if you have a live in superintendent. For the simple reason is there is going to be a time where your floor concierge or floor security guards that operate on daily basis, are not going to show up. Whether they're not showing up for no matter what the reason is, whether it's because they can't get to work, or they are ill, or the entire concierge team has fallen ill, there is a time where you're going to be at zero man power and the condo corporation is going to have to make some tough decisions on I have no staff but there are 2 or 3 things that I should be doing every 24 hours to make sure the integrity of the building is maintained.
Rod: Okay. Wonderful. Thanks so much. Now I'm going to go back to you, Denise, for another short sort of legal chapter here. Corporations, one of the things they do is they have meetings. Board meetings that need to go on. There's decisions that need to be taken. Then there's AGM's, owners meetings. Maybe I'm going to start with asking you, Denise, if you can shed some guidance. Help us shed some light on AGM's and whether or not we have to cancel them. Do we hold them? If we hold them what precautions should we take? Where do we stand today, because this is changing by the minute.
Denise: Yeah, you're right it's changing by the minute. So last week if anyone read some of our blogs that we did, our position was very different than it is today. We had the government mandating the limiting of gatherings to 250 and know we've got 50 and I suspect that we may see a change where we get down to 10 or fewer. With this in mind, we are recommending that corporations postpone their AGM's. Definitely for March and possibly into April and just see how it goes. I think what the question I am hearing all the time, in the past since this all started, was what do we do about the 6 month requirement to have our AGM within the fiscal year end. I think most of us are agreeing that we've got this overriding concern about the safety of the residents. If that's the case, there's good reason to postpone the AGM. I don't think that's an issue but I think that it's time that corporations consider postponing their AGM's. Another question that I'm getting is, "Well, if we do postpone our AGM what is the requirement for notice and preliminary notice? Do we have to start the process again?" The answer is, yes, you have to start sending out your preliminary notice and asking for candidates. I also want to make this clear that it's not just annual meetings but there are bylaw meetings. There are also turnover meetings. Turnover meetings require that they be held within a certain period of time. My same comments apply to turnover meetings. We're dealing with the safety of residents. I'm not too worried about the timelines under the Act.
There's been a discussion about electronic voting. Some corporations have the ability to do electronic voting but not all do. There are a few condominiums, and I know I've been involved with a few, that considering to do their meeting through electronic voting. The issue there is that electronic voting is just voting. It's not having an online meeting so under the Condominium Act you still require a place to hold the meeting. I spoke to a client today. He was speaking of a creative way of doing that. Sending out a notice of meeting saying that it's in the common area amenity room but nobody is to show up. For your own safety don't show up to the meeting. You can vote electronically. You can vote by proxy, and I'll talk about that in a minute, but don't show up to the meeting and what we'll do is we'll do a Skype, or kind of a Zoom meeting or something similar to what we're doing today. It's not an official meeting because the Condo Act doesn't allow us to do this, but it's a way we're communicating and then we can do electronic voting. People are trying to be creative. My concern about that is first of all, if you have proxies, you have a proxy holder that's appointed and where does that proxy holder ... Actually, the proxy holder has to show up to the meeting. It's a little bit complicated. It can be done but again, our recommendation is unless it is an urgent meeting for some reason, having the meeting and doing it in this sort of creative way, especially if there's some controversial contentious issue, may not be a good idea to do. Because what you don't want is 6 months from now some owners to challenge the validity of the vote that took place. l think what we need to do is corporations need to look at this in the future as a way of moving forward with their meetings. But as of now what we're recommending is postpone your meetings. You may want to just wait until April to see how things are before postponing those.
Rod: Okay. Thanks so much. I would add something to what you said, Denise. I think it is possible to hold a meeting on paper or by proxy or electronically. That sometimes happens when, think of a case where your voting on a bylaw. You didn't get the quorum at the meeting then some proxies come in later on and then you sort of recall the meeting, but really in the room you only have the proxy holder and whoever is counting the votes. I think it's possible to hold an AGM remotely provided that somewhere the meeting is taking place via it by proxy or whatnot. Now, having said that, what's crucially important I think is to convey to the owners what's happening and why it's taking place the way it is. Because owners may actually think that you're just about to take over the world. This is what's happening. You're behind closed doors and that's clearly not what's happening. Then you may want to reduce that meeting to what is essential. Thanks for this, Denise, because that was the heavy lifting. With respect to board meeting it's a lot simpler. It's a lot easier. I mean, under the Act presently, you can hold a board meeting remotely. Be it by phone, be it by Skype, it's got to be in such a way where people can interact live. It can't really be just by email but you could do it by Skype, you could do it by teleconference, you could do it by phone, you could do it with Facetime. Now, the trick is this though, every director has to agree. So there's a bit of a question as to what happens if one of the directors does not. So you don't need a bylaw, by the way, you no longer need to have a bylaw to be able to hold more meetings electronically, but everybody has to consent. So the question may be what do you do if one or two don't consent? I mean, these are unprecedented times and I would say that if a director was to be obstructionist and was to block these meetings from proceeding, for no good reason when every other sign points towards we need to have a meeting and we need to do it electronically, I would question whether this director is actually acting in good faith, and whether that director's meeting their obligations under the Condo Act. To act diligently, honestly, in good faith and so on and so forth. I really urge directors to be flexible and to be more open to allow business to continue without putting people at arms length. Very quickly, because we're running out of time, Denise, well actually we're entirely out of time, is what do we with a requisition meeting? How do we handle that? Because there's no penalty if you don't hold the AGM within the 6 months but there are clear consequences if you don't call and hold the requisition meeting within the 35 days.
Denise: Yeah, and I also want to mention, I don't think now's the time for corporations to start passing rules. Because as soon as you start circulating the rules you're giving owners an opportunity to have a requisition and then you're just posing all those issues. I think what the board should do, once they get the requisition and assuming it's valid, so that's the first thing, notify the requisitionist that as a result of the Coronavirus and the safety concerns of the residents, the board intends to call the meeting. We will call it as soon as we are able to. What you want to do is avoid that situation where the owners are going to say you're failing to call it so we will call it. I think if you send out that notice, I think that's a reasonable position to take, and the board will still maintain control over that requisition meeting. Of course, you could try to get consent, and if you get consent of the requisitionist that solves your problem.
Rod: Okay. Very good. So, we're pretty much out of time and I'm sure that there's tons more questions out there. We tried to answer some of them as they popped up live on the chat channel. We've also had a look, we've received nearly a hundred questions from you folks before the meeting and we tried our best to address them. But within an hour it's nearly impossible to solve every problem. Especially in such a fluid situation. What we do propose we do is this, is we're going to meet again, next week, same time, same channel, same people and, again, we'll offer two different sort of time frames for the early birds and the later birds because otherwise we risk overloading our channel. We're going to have maybe another opportunity to speak again, and to present more information, and to address either more changes in this situation or more questions that you may have that you may want to send our way. At the end of the day though, as useful as I hope you found this presentation to be, it is crucially important that you rely on your advisor, ask questions. Call your lawyer, if it's a lawyer that you need assistance from. Call your security advisor. Call your property managers and try to get some real time information because the situation is evolving. Now, what I've done here and let me see if I can do this while I speak. I can't do two things at once. Is what we have done is we've added a tab to the condo advisors website, let me bring you there. At the very top right corner you will see that we've added a tab, it's called Webinar. So this is where you're going to find information about our next webinar. You can go there to condo advisor, click on this and if you do it's going to bring you to the next webinar, which is already sort of tentatively scheduled. You'll see the topics that we want to cover and it also allows you to register if you want to listen in again. You need to register again because we're going to send you another login sort of code, or a link, and so if you want be part of the discussion next week, please feel free to go in and click on the webinar. If you have any questions that you want send our way everybody around the table is more than willing to try to answer any questions.
Graeme: I'll just say too, in the meantime, I've been watching the questions as they've come into the chat. We haven't, like Rod said, been able to answer all of them, but these are all written done and tracked. We'll get to them next week or the week after or whenever time permits.
Rod: Okay, last round of people, maybe. Denise, parting words of wisdom?
Denise: Well, we don't know all the answers so when you're asking us for opinions, just like what I said today, you're going find others that may take a different position. This is all new to us so we're just doing the best we can based on our experience.
Rod: Thanks so much. Jason, any parting words?
Jason: Yeah, listen, I put myself in the position of a resident in any high rise building or condominium. I want know, throughout all this, that the building is going to continue to have the high standard of code compliance and safety and security, and I'm above all going to be safe in my home. I would finally address, I've seen a couple of questions regarding assembling a volunteer group to work in the high rises. It does represent some concerns. If it's done through a board member, or through the corporation, you can accept some liability by running that volunteer group, and it's been done on several times through the emergency management community. In fact, emergency management communities have got in trouble with running volunteer groups. So, just be careful. If they're spontaneous within your building, fantastic, but if it's run through the corporation be careful.
Rod: Okay, and Sandy.
Sandy: I'm just going to reiterate what I said earlier. Everyone needs to exercise great hygiene now, if you never did before, wash your hands constantly. Every time you touch anything have sanitizer, women in your purses, and just keep very careful with social distancing.
Rod: Okay, Katherine, anything to add? I think we may have lost her. No I need to go on YouTube. Go ahead, Katherine.
Katherine: ... ...
Rod: I have to mute you, Katherine, I'm sorry but you're not coming through clearly right now. I'm sorry about that. Some difficulties and hopefully we can fix that before the next presentation. So, thank you everybody that joined in. I see that many of you have hung around until the end. Thank you so very much and be safe. Be happy and maybe we'll talk next week. Thanks so much everybody. Good night.
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