So, Your Condo Corporation Needs a Lawyer – Now What?
Okay, right off the bat, we’ll be the first people to agree with you: the knee-jerk reaction most people have at the thought of needing a lawyer is one of cold, primal fear. Maybe we’ve all been watching too many Law & Order re-runs, but whenever there’s talk of needing to bring on a lawyerto help out with something, our minds instantly flash to tense court-room scenes where people’s legal troubles have their lives hanging in the balance. That, and Ice-T.
The reality of things, though, is that as a business, there are many instances in which your condo corporation might need the aid of a lawyer that won’t result in anyone facing 20-years-to-life for a crime they didn’t commit! Condominium laws can be tricky things to navigate, and to that end, we sat down and had a chat with David S. Cumming – an associate at McLeod Law LLP – to help clear the air and walk us through some of the preliminary questions you should be asking your lawyer, in the event your condo corporation needs one.
Why Might You Need to Hire a Lawyer?
The reasons your condo corporation might need to hire a lawyer are many and varied and encompass everything from the mundane to the more contentious. Some of the more common reasons include:
- Updating bylaws. This should be done on a semi-regular basis and is best accomplished with legal guidance. If your bylaws were updated sometime in the ‘00s or ‘10s, maybe give them a quick once-over – any earlier than that, and chances are, they’ll need a total overhaul.
- Dealing with developer deficiencies. This can be a prickly area, but one in which a condo lawyer will know exactly how to help you find the most effective resolution – particularly when costs start to soar.
- Insurance deductibles. If for example a pipe bursts, a toilet floods, or some other damage occurs in a unit that’s insured under the condo corporation’s coverage, the insurance will cover the repairs, but the condominium corporation may be stuck with a big deductible. Cumming told us depending on what the bylaws say, these costs can sometimes be charged back to the owner. This can be a hefty fee to pay, and the owner might want to dispute it, in which case a condo lawyer will be your new best friend.
- Bylaw enforcement. This is also known as “pets, parking, and people.” If for example you’ve got an unruly tenant or resident in your building who doesn’t seem to be understand the notion of “quiet time,” a condo lawyer can step in to help enforce bylaw adherence, ensuring everyone follows the rules (and gets a good night’s sleep!) going forward.
See? Bringing on a lawyer doesn’t have to be a scary thing. In fact, seeking legal counsel will almost always ease your pains, so long as you do your homework in advance and know what to keep in mind when considering legal help in the first place.
Getting Your Legal Ducks in a Row
Before picking up the phone and calling the first number you find with an “LLP” attached to the business name, Cumming highlights that there are a few things worth getting in order, along with some key considerations you’ll want to have sorted out. Be sure you’ve thought these details through in advance, and your experience working with legal representation will go swimmingly:
- First, make sure you’re working with a condo lawyer. Condo law is similar to tax law, as Cumming explained to us: it’s a very niche type of legal practice, and one that requires plenty of practice and experience to do right. If you’ve got condo problems, make sure you bring on a condo lawyer.
- Bring on somebody you can trust. Before you hire a lawyer, Cumming told us, be sure to ask yourself if this is somebody you feel like you can trust. You can base this trust off hours of online research or even just a gut feeling – what’s important is that it’s there. Your condo corporation’s going to be spending a pretty penny on this representation, after all, so it’s important that you feel confident your lawyer is acting in your very best interest.
- Be sure there’s no other way to reach a resolution. We just made this point, but it’s worth mentioning again: lawyers are expensive. Like, seriously expensive. If there’s any way to resolve things such as bylaw compliance issues without bringing in legal help, it’s always best to do so – both for your condo corporation’s bank account and for the condo community’s wellbeing itself.
- Determine the ultimate goal you’re after. The first thing a condo lawyer should ask you, Cumming informed us, is what you’re looking to achieve by bringing him or her on. Be sure you have an idea of how you’d like things to ideally end up and your lawyer do their best to get you get there.
- Things to get ready before you make the call. Gather together any supporting documents and evidence that relate to the issue at hand and be ready to discuss them. Having these documents ready ahead of time makes things easier for everyone (and potentially save you hours of legal fees in the long run).
If our conversation with Cumming is anything to go by, lawyers aren’t half as scary as they’re made out to be on TV – at least, condo lawyers aren’t! On a more serious note, though, we couldn’t be more grateful for the time David took to chat with us, and want to thank both him and McLeod Law LLP for all the trustworthy advice and information.
Still have some burning legal questions you’re looking to get answered? We aren’t lawyers here at Catalyst Condo Management, but we’ll be happy to help you out where we can and get you pointed in the right direction – give us a call today!