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What Ontario’s Step 3 means for condos

Ontario has announced today that it plans on moving to Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap as early as July 16.

In this blog post, we explore what Stage 3 will look like for condos in Ontario.

Overview

Step 3 is built on the old Stage 3 regulation (which included Green, Yellow and Orange restrictions).  These colour subdivisions have been eliminated and there is now only one set of rules under Step 3.

Ontario is anticipating to move all of its 34 Public Health Regions, in lock step, into Step 3 as of July 16, but, as was the case last time, some Health Regions may ask to stay behind in Step 2. It is best to check with your Public Health Authorities to see which step you fall under.

Since I know I’m going to be asked: the new Step 3 regulations apply to “business”, “places” and at times “organizations”. In our view, this confirms that it applies to condo corporations.

Ontario is set to enter Step 3 when 70 to 80% of adult Ontarians have received at least one vaccine dose and when 25% of them have received their second dose (like yours truly).

Let’s not forget that Step 3 is not “back to normal”. It is a step toward it.  We’re still not entirely out of the woods.

Masks

Face masks covering one’s nose, mouth and chin are still required in all interior common areas, with the usual exceptions related to age, health and disability. This applies to indoor common elements unless the corporation is able to ensure that a 2-metre distance is maintained. Masks are also required at organized indoor public event.

Corporations are well advised to maintain a mask policy to apply to while on interior common elements.

Public events and gatherings

Organized public events and gatherings continue to be regulated:

  • Indoor gatherings must be limited to 25 people;
  • Outdoor gatherings must be limited to 100 people (with some exceptions which are not relevant to CondoLand).

These limits expressly apply even if the gathering or events is held in a private dwelling or a condominium building. Some exceptions may apply if you hold your AGM at a venue such as a conference/convention centre, provided that the restrictions applicable to these venues are respected.  

There are exceptions for people of the same household (or a household and someone who lives alone).

Strictly speaking, micro corporations may be able to start considering indoor owners meetings (up to 25) but why not continue with virtual meetings?  They work very well and not everyone will feel comfortable meeting in enclosed spaces.

Screening

Condos must post signs at all entrances of their premises informing individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering and must actively screen anyone who works at the condo.  We have found that posting a QR code at your entrance (allowing users to screen themselves using their smartphone) is very easy and useful.  You can read more about it here.

Elevators

The Reopening Ontario Act does not regulate the number of users permitted to ride in an elevator – other than requiring those on interior common elements to wear a mask if they come within less than 2 metres of one another.  Having said that, this piece of legislation is clear that all public health guidance/recommendations must be followed.

The public health department of many municipalities continue to recommend that elevator capacity be reduced to a number allowing riders to keep a 2-m distance. If such a recommendation exists in your public health region, the condo corporation must continue to apply it. By way of example, both the Ottawa and Toronto Public Health Departments continue to recommend that elevator capacity be reduced to allow riders to keep a 2-m distance between them.

Recreational sports and fitness amenities

Condos can open both their outdoor and indoor sports and recreational fitness amenities provided that they comply with the following.

  • Users must be able to maintain a 2-metre distance;
  • Capacity limits have been lifted in early October.

[Frankly, we believe this to be an oversight. Capacity restrictions were lifted when proof of vaccination became required for commercial gyms. As proof of vaccination is not mandated by the province for condo gyms, condo gyms are now falling between cracks: benefiting from reduced precautions but not benefiting from the increased protection of vaccination check.]

  • Participants must be actively screened for COVID;
  • Tracing information (such as the name and contact information) of the users must be recorded and kept for a period of at least 1 month.  This info can only be disclosed to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and promotion Act;
  • There no longer appears to be a requirement to book your spot in advance, which appears to indicate that walk-ins are now permitted.  Still, our strong recommendation is that condos continue to require their users to book their spots ahead of time.  That is the easiest way to ensure compliance with all requirements and data collection for screening and tracing purposes;
  • Many additional rules apply to ‘spectators’ including the requirement to wear a mask.  The way we read this, your users should wear a mask unless they are exercising (or unless they fall within one of the usual mask exceptions).

As will be noted further below, the corporation is responsible to clean and disinfect any equipment it makes available to its users, as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. Corporations are well advised to continue to clean these regularly throughout the day – in addition to encouraging users to clean them before and after each use.

Please note that the above applies to fitness rooms, pools and water amenities (see below) and to recreational amenities (see below).

There are exceptions to the above but they don’t really pertain to condos as they deal with high-performance athletes, professional sports team as well as facilities providing services to children, youth, and mental health support.

Pools

Condo’s indoor or outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, wading pools and slides can open. There no longer appears to be a prohibition against steam rooms and saunas.

If you open your water facilities, you must abide by the rules listed above under the Recreational Fitness amenities.

Naturally, we recommend that you consider also implementing the following (in addition to the requirements applicable to fitness rooms):

  • Adapting the layout and access to your pool to facilitate compliance with  the regulation and other public health guidance;
  • Removing (or reducing) furniture;
  • Not providing any items to be shared by users (noodles and other floatation devices should be provided by the users themselves);
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting; and,
  • Having the users book their spot (no walk ins).

Washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms

Step 3 no longer prohibits the use of common washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities.  These can (but do not have to) open.  If you are going to reopen these amenities, you must ensure that they are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.

Still, corporations can opt to keep these closed and encourage instead the user of these amenities to change and shower in their units prior to using your pools/fitness rooms, etc.  It is a decision to be taken at the board level, which often turns on the resources they have to keep these rooms adequately cleaned and disinfected.

Multi-purpose indoor amenities

Indoor and outdoor multi-purpose facilities and recreational amenities can open.  Their capacity is limited to 50% of normal capacity or less to maintain a 2m distance between those present.  All other rules applicable to fitness rooms (see above) must be abided by.

While it is not entirely clear, it appears that some of these rules are slightly relaxed for outdoor recreational amenities.  The relaxed rules deal with tracing, screening and masks.

So, card, billiards or game rooms or other such amenities could open if you meet all of the other requirements (such as mask wearing, 2 metre distancing, capacity limits, etc).  Keep in mind that the fact you can open these, does not mean you necessarily should.  Condos can also be more restrictive and opt to keep those closed.

Outdoor amenities

The new regulations no longer provide for a restricted list of exterior amenities that can open. In my view this means that condo corporations can (but don’t have to) reopen their outdoor amenities.  Think of rooftop terraces, communal BBQs, garden areas, etc.

If you are going to reopen your outdoor amenities, you must abide by the following restrictions:

  • Limit the number of users to a number than can maintain a 2-metre distance but to no more than 50% of the capacity (and less than 100); and
  • You must post a sign in a conspicuous place confirming the maximum capacity.

Also, consider implementing the following protocols:

  • Advance (and preferably online) booking;
  • Gathering and keeping tracing information (such as the name and coordinates of the users);
  • Screening users for COVID symptoms;
  • Limit the use of these amenities to residents (without visitors);
  • Don’t provide any furniture or tools (such as BBQ tool) and don’t provide any other communal amenities (kitchenette, etc). Instead, users should bring their own furniture and tools;
  • Consider posting signs (and possibly floor markers) to direct traffic and remind users of social distancing;
  • Consider providing alcohol-based disinfectant by the entrances and disinfecting wipes; and,
  • While it is a good idea to insist that users clean/disinfect before and after each use, the corporation is ultimately responsible to clear and disinfect as required to maintain sanitary conditions.

Keep in mind that condos can be more restrictive and opt not to reopen these.

Safety plan

Safety plan have resurfaced and appear to be required for :

  • Recreational fitness facilities (only if organized sports take place);
  • Recreational amenities and multi-purpose amenities.

A Safety Plan should describe how the requirements under the regulation will be implemented, including by screening, physical distancing, masks or face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, the wearing of protective equipment and crowd controls.

It should be in writing, available on demand and should be posted in a conspicuous place where the users can see it.

Remote working

The new regulation appears to have removed the strict requirement for remote working (this does not necessarily apply across the board to all industries) but it does require staff and employees to wear a mask.

Naturally, if working remotely is feasible, it should continue to be encouraged.

Cleaning disinfecting

Condos must continue to clean and disinfect any areas, amenities or equipment that is provided to or used by members of the public as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.  This applies, naturally, to washrooms, elevators, high touch areas, mircom dial pads, gym equipment, etc.

Short-term accommodations

Short-term accommodations can proceed and are no longer limited to situations where there was a need for accommodations.  Keep in mind that your municipality or condo corporation may have restrictions on what short-term rentals can take place in your complex.

Essential services

Step 3 regulations no longer has a list of permitted essential services, per se.

Additional precautions

Condos must continue to comply with:

  • the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

Keep in mind that the fact you can open the above facilities, does not mean you necessarily should.  Condos can also be more restrictive and opt to keep those closed.

Finally, keep in mind that the above provincial conditions are the minimal requirement:

    • You should look up your local public health directives.
  • Condo corporations can always (and should) take additional precautions when reopening their facilities.  We developed, last year, a list of considerations to keep in mind when thinking of reopening your amenities.  While it is a year old, it still flag important considerations that come into play when condo corporations are looking into reopening their amenities.

Let’s not forget that Step 3 is not “back to normal”. It is a step toward it.  We’re still not entirely out of the woods.

You can review the Step-3 Regulations adopted under the Reopening Ontario Act.

We have updated our COVID Tool.

 

Updated on Oct. 30, 2021

 


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