Condo owners groups frustrated by more delays of Alberta dispute resolution body amid ‘urgent’ need

“Through our work to date, including your input, it is clear that in order to make such a system affordable for users, investment from government would be required for up‐front costs and ongoing operations”

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Alberta condominium owners groups say they’re disappointed and frustrated the government is delaying the long-awaited creation of a body that would help resolve condo battles out of court.

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Many have been calling for years for a tribunal that would hear disputes between neighbours, property managers, and volunteer boards, to help settle them, including through negotiation and mediation.

In March, Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish gave stakeholders the heads up that creating the alternative to Alberta’s courts is not at the top of the government’s list of immediate priorities.

He said his department will keep working to develop a court, but the delay boils down to costs.

“Through our work to date, including your input, it is clear that in order to make such a system affordable for users, investment from government would be required for up‐front costs and ongoing operations,” Glubish wrote in a March 24 email. It comes after the UCP held public engagements to help develop the late court 2020.

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Terry Gibson, president of the Condo Owners Forum Society of Alberta, told Postmedia news of the delay came as a “big disappointment.”

Gibson said they’ll still continue working constructively with the ministry, but getting new legislation written and enacted is a long process.

“We’ve lost years,” he said, adding it’s not uncommon during disputes for collective court costs to hit $100,000, but the adversarial process in a backlogged system often ends without a satisfying resolution for both parties.

“We’re very respectful of the fact that the government has to decide on priorities, but I think they’ve made a very poor decision here,” said Gibson.

‘It’s been urgent for a long time’: Condo Institute

The Canadian Condominium Institute’s North Alberta Chapter president Anand Sharma told Postmedia the province needs a tribunal, but it’s important it’s designed correctly to be affordable and accessible and doesn’t look at condo board volunteers with nuisance complaints.

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“It’s disappointing that they pulled the plug on it because that’s not the solution. The solution is to work through those (issues),” said Sharma.

“It’s been urgent for a long time,” he said, but now disputes are piling up.

Sharma said the institute has been advocating for a shared funding model, with some startup cash from government but ongoing funding from the condo community, and the benefit to taxpayers of less pressure on the judicial system.

In an emailed statement to Postmedia, Glubish didn’t offer a specific cost estimate, saying it would depend on the model. He said a user-pay system would be more expensive for users than the courts, but if the government covered all the costs, it would amount to millions of dollars every year.

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“Condo regulations and legislation are complicated, and that is why we have worked extensively with condo owners, condo boards, condo managers, and condo lawyers to tackle a long list of requests from the industry over the last three years,” said Glubish.

The idea of ​​creating an alternative dispute resolution tribunal has been up in the air since it was outlined in the Condominium Property Act of 2014, but with more changes still needed to implement a tribunal, the old provisions were officially repealed in 2021.

Next door to Alberta, British Columbia’s civil resolution tribunal began hearing disputes in 2016.

Last Thursday, Glubish introduced Bill 19, the Condominium Property Amendment Act, with the aim of helping condo boards better recover damage costs from owners outside of court so that the entire corporation isn’t left on the hook, a many move condo owner groups endorsed .

Glubish said in his statement the bill addresses several items on their wish list, and it should not have been delayed while work on the court continues.

In 2020, the Alberta government estimated 500,000 Albertans, or 12 per cent of the population, live in condos.

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