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The moment your condo board encounters an owner dispute – you want a resolution pronto. Conflict and disagreements can lead to legal battles and more time and money spent. The Condo Authority of Ontario (CAO) provides support to condo owners and board members to help create happier, healthier condo communities. Not surprisingly, one of their busiest roles is helping condo communities resolve disputes. To speed up the dispute process, the CAO launched an online dispute resolution system. It’s called the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT).
Here’s all the important facts every condo board should know about the CAT, the online dispute resolution system.
What Does the Dispute Resolution System CAT Do?
The CAO provides as much information as possible to help condo owners resolve common issues such as noise, odors, pests, parking, etc. However, when CAO recommendations fail to help, users can now file an application with the dispute resolution system CAT.
The new system, CAT – ODR, makes it easier to resolve disputes, with the best interest of the condo community in mind. The CAT is the first fully online tribunal in Canada. More affordable than seeking legal routes, it can often avoid a long, drawn-out process. Although completely online, the CAT still offers a team to answer questions and walk people through the process. It produces legally binding decisions based on the Condo Act.
How Does the CAT – ODR System Work?
CAT-ODR allows users to file their applications online. The dispute resolution system then sends an electronic Notice to the applicant who sends it to the parties involved. They then use the system to join the case. From there the complete resolution process takes place online. Applications include the following areas:
• Pets and animals
• Parking and Storage
• Indemnification or compensation for the above
The user-friendly interface of the dispute resolution system uses clearly marked tabs to manage disputes including:
- A message centre for discussion between parties, or parties and the mediator
- Documents tab for people to upload and share information
- Settlements options tab, to share and accept settlement offers
- A questions and requests tab for help from the CAT members
- At the second and third stages a few more tabs appear to accommodate the changing needs of users.
The Dispute Resolution Process
The system provides three stages to manage disputes:
Stage 1 – Negotiation
At this stage in the process, the participants can submit discussions, share settlement offers, and choose to accept offers. Either party can submit a settlement offer, but once submitted it becomes binding. Because of this, settlements should state all important details to avoid misunderstandings. For example, parking complaint settlements should not be made without a review of the condo bylaws, rules, and regulations. Once accepted, all parties receive a copy of the settlement agreement and that’s that. However, unsettled disputes automatically move to the next stage – Mediation.
Stage 2 – Mediation
During the next stage in the dispute resolution system, a CAT mediator steps in to help the parties come to an agreement. They post their suggestions on the Settlement offers tab. Here, the users review their ideas and share their feedback. However, at this stage, only the mediator can upload documents on the settlement tab. Parties communicate with the mediator and can no longer speak directly to each other unless the mediator allows it. The mediators try to either:
- Resolve the issue with a Settlement Agreement outlining the resolution requirements OR
- Use a Consent Order limited to the legally authorized solutions mediators can request
Ideally, users accept a settlement offer, closing the case. If not, the case goes to the final stage – Tribunal Decision.
Stage 3 – Tribunal Decision
Next in the dispute resolution system, a CAT member oversees an online hearing. Both sides present their case, and then the CAT member comes to a final decision. Three more tabs appear:
- Written Hearing: Works the same as the message board allowing users to present evidence.
- Witnesses: Allows witness to present their case by written statements or via teleconference.
- Schedule: Shows all event dates such as document posting times, when witnesses appear, and other steps scheduled for the tribunal.
Once the mediator reviews the information, they submit their decision to all parties. All users must comply with the settlement. If compliance is not met, you can file with the CAT to get a new order for compliance.
Dismissal via Dispute Resolution System
Cases can be dismissed for the following reasons:
- Your issues are outside the CAT’s jurisdiction
- You missed the required deadlines
- You did not follow the CAT’s instructions
In the last two cases, you can re-file your case. However, for cases outside the CAT’s jurisdiction, you should seek legal advice.
Finding effective, efficient dispute resolutions helps keep condo boards and owners satisfied. CPO Management Inc, the property management company specializing in condo management services in Toronto is here to help. We provide support to condo boards across the GTA and help avoid conflict and effectively deal with any disputes. For more information reach out to us today.