Amending Condominium Bylaws or “Can I turn our gym into a Cat Café?”

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One of the tasks that I encourage condominium board of directors to consider from time to time is the review of their Bylaws.  The Bylaws create the rules on how a condominium corporation is to be run but it is often neglected because boards an intimidated by the magnitude project.   It is often easier to focus on an upcoming major repair or a dispute between neighbours than to improve a key part of your corporation’s governance. 
But it’s important.  Do it.  Even if it’s just because a lawyer told you to.
“But Marc – Why should we do this?  The board wants a better answer than ‘the lawyer told us to do this!’”
Okay – I’ll do a little better.  Here are three reasons to consider revising your bylaws:
You Have an Obligation to Enforce Your Bylaws – Section 35 of the Act clearly indicates that the board has a duty to enforce its bylaws.  If the board doesn’t do it, they can be accountable to the owners, including through section 99 of the Act, which can include an order for compensation. 
It could also create an enforcement problem for you in the future.  If you aren’t following the rules for one owner, why should any other owner submit to those same rules?
If you don’t like the bylaws, then try to change them.
The Bylaws May Not Represent the Views of the Community – On a number of occasions, I have run into situations where the board wants to do ‘x’, and thinks that that they can because ‘they are the board’.  Not only do they think they can do it, but the specific role or task has been performed a number of times in the past.  However, if you look at the bylaws, they clearly state that they shouldn’t or that they should obtain the direction of the owners to perform that task.  Now, this may not be a problem for most, but if you have one grumpy owner who does not like the action, they could (rightfully) hold the board to their obligations under the Bylaws.  Plus, there is that whole statutory duty thing that I don’t suggest messing around with.
The Bylaws are Missing Specific Authorizations – Sometimes the Act requires that certain powers or rights be authorized by the Bylaws.  Every major change to the Act usually considers some of these new or revised powers.  Make sure that you have the full complement of enforcement and collection powers available to you
“Okay, You’ve made your point.  But how do we even get started?  This seems like an overwhelming task…”
Involve Your Condominium Community – Have an open house forum to discuss the bylaws.  Do surveys to gather information.  Create a committee of volunteers who have an interest in the area.  While the board makes the recommendation that the owners may choose to adopt, there is no restriction in getting outside help. You are going to need a super majority of owners to pass the revised bylaws, so make sure you get them involved early.
Understand the Act – There is a process that must be followed to make these changes.  There are certain areas that you can create bylaws for.  There are changes to your fee structure that you may want to consider making.  Gather that information first.  And that ties into…
Get Your Lawyer Involved Early – Your lawyer may have a draft set of documents to start from, or can assist in focusing the changes that you want to make.  It can be more costly and time consuming to get to the end of the consultation process and then realize you need to rewrite your draft bylaws because a good chunk of the changes you want to make are contrary to the Condominium Property Act.  A lawyer who practices in this area can save you time and expense by helping out on the front end.
“Also – What can we change?  What types bylaws can we make or alter?  I have this great idea of turning our gym into a private kitten café for all the owners…”
The cat issue aside, you should probably take a look at section 47 of the Act.  It’s not the only place to look in the Act when drafting bylaws, but it provides you with a great starting point. 
On the I have to admit – the title was completely clickbait and the opportunity to post a picture of a cat.  The short answer on whether you could do it is my classic – “it depends”.  You would probably need to consider the type of change necessary to the gym space and the improvements necessary, any existing disabilities that would be affected by the cats in common spaces, and the general hoopla that would occur if this was ever seriously proposed by owners.    
For those of you interested in Cat Cafés – Check out this one article asking for one in Saskatoon:  http://www.ominocity.com/2014/11/25/can-someone-please-open-a-cat-cafe-in-saskatoon/
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