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dt_toronto_geek
2007-Dec-08, 13:32
Peril lurks deep

Many older buildings urgently require lots of major work but lack the savvy, gutsy boards needed to get it done

Dec 08, 2007 04:30 AM
Donna Laporte
Real Estate Reporter


If you find a suspicious package, you call the police. The bomb squad will react swiftly to minimize the danger. But what if your building is the ticking time bomb?

There are no condo police.

"Major tragedy is going to have to happen before government will wake up and recognize that people who are running these buildings ... should become licensed to qualify," says Andrew Wallace, a property management veteran. He cites inoperable fire safety systems, crumbling balconies and underground parking garages putting people at risk – not to mention leaky roofs and windows making day-to-day living miserable.

Will a balcony railing give way or a chunk of concrete break off and strike someone below?

Wallace, 78, has been appointed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as an administrator for three of five condominium corporations in crisis in the Greater Toronto Area; two more are under administration in Hamilton and Kitchener. An administrator steps in to replace a board of directors that has become so dysfunctional their action – or inaction in many cases – imperils the corporation.

"I resigned from a corporation once in Mississauga, because bricks started to fall off the building," Wallace says. The board of directors had ignored his advice to seek tenders from three engineering firms.

"Once (property managers) have the brains to call in the engineer, they're off the hook," says Wallace, but many don't because it will upset the board and owners and managers fear they'll get fired.

Wallace now runs a consulting firm and teaches a course in condo law at Humber College. But increasingly his phone is ringing to solicit his administration services.

It's widely believed that many more of the 4,000 (mostly residential) condo corporations in the GTA should be taken over, but the victims lack the financial resources to go to court. Unit owners suffer in obscurity as their buildings deteriorate around them.

The troubled buildings tend not to be the tony inner-city highrises, presided over by urban professionals and qualified property management firms. They're usually the ones built during the local infancy of condos, when the concept was seen as an alternative to rental apartments. Some are conversions of old commercial buildings.

They often house people at the low end of the socio-economic spectrum, predominantly in the older suburbs amalgamated into Toronto a decade ago.

The situation has echoes of the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States, whereby loans were given to people least able to afford home ownership.

"We had people go into condominiums in the 1970s with $99 down," says condominium lawyer Audrey Loeb, who acts for dozens of condo corporations. She says that many owners lack a basic understanding of how a condominium works and that those corporations as a whole often suffer from an absence of good governance.

"We have people administering $2 million budgets who have no idea of what it means to be a board member," says Loeb, who practises condo law at Miller Thomson LLP and helped revise the original Condo Act. "They don't know what their jobs are; they don't know the law; they don't know the condominium documents; they don't understand how to read financial statements."

The situation is often complicated by factional infighting among community groups and competing interests – pitting those on fixed incomes against investors, people with cash flow versus those who have lost a job, transients versus long-time tenants.

Incapable of finding a consensus as costly repairs become urgent, even well-meaning boards become dysfunctional. Directors become unwilling to raise maintenance fees of people who can't afford to pay more, and the few with the courage to try are often turfed.

Without proper cash flow, the corporation spirals downward, utility bills mount and contractors put liens on the building for unpaid work. One 321-unit condo under administration has unit values of $50,000 to $75,000, and common fees of about $800 per month. The owners now are collectively faced with repaying a $4 million loan for a variety of urgent repairs.

Experts sounding the alarm say the problem is rooted in provincial legislation that allows unsophisticated, untrained people to manage the affairs of multimillion-dollar corporations. There is no oversight of either managers or boards.

Wallace says, "As one manager said to me, `Don't worry about it Andy, there's no Condo Police.'"

"Condominiums are private, self-managed entities," says Greg Dennis, communications adviser for the ministry of government and consumer services.

He says that the Condo Act was set up to provide remedies for dispute resolution, including mediation, arbitration and finally, the courts.

Of the lack of direct oversight, Loeb says, "I don't think government did it maliciously. I just don't think they understood the consequences of what they were doing."

From Day 1 there was never an obligation to set up a savings account for repairs, Loeb says. That was rectified in the most recent Condo Act (2001), which requires condo corporations to set aside reserve funds. But it left many older condos playing catch-up.

"Not only do we have buildings that are in desperate need of repairs, but we have people who are the least able to afford to pay for it," Loeb says.

The job of conducting reserve fund studies generally falls to engineering firms. However, boards unhappy with one firm often shop around for another with less onerous requirements. Interpretations of the lifespan of particular common elements can vary widely.

Engineer Gina Cody, of Construction Control Inc., estimates she has done "thousands" of reserve fund studies since 1984. She says she knows of condos that, when faced with deferred maintenance costs in the millions, opt to do little more than change boards, change engineers and change lawyers.

"If you're living in a house, if your roof leaks, you put a bucket underneath and you live with it, because you can't afford it," Cody says.

But in a condo, a leaky roof can lead to lawsuits from a neighbour below – often the same person who voted against fee hikes, she says.

The province also doesn't license property managers. "Anyone can hang out a shingle," Wallace says.

When a management company or manager undercuts a competitor that charges more because it has the proper checks and balances in place, owners are vulnerable.

Industry veterans say many have no idea of how extensive the bloodletting is because financial records are often missing or inadequate. (Condo corporations have unlimited liability, so theoretically they can't go bankrupt.)

"It's disturbing beyond belief," says auditor Stephen Chesney, whose firm Parker, Garber & Chesney LLP Chartered Accountants audits more than 300 condominium corporations in the GTA.

He has been appointed by the court to inspect the records of several corporations under administration to determine their financial status. In almost every case, recordkeeping is woefully inadequate.

His advice to owners? "Wake up."

Alarm bells should ring for boards if there are no audited statements, no invoices to back up purchases, missing contracts, questionable purchases and cheques made out to cash. Owners should follow up if there's no annual meeting or if the board or manager won't communicate with owners.

"No matter whose fault it is, there's always somebody around that could have done something about it and in many cases they don't," says Chesney, who thinks there are "many more" condos in this situation than we know.

David Morrison, of Morrison Financial, agrees. Through CondoCorp Term Financing, a division of Morrison Financial, he has lent more than $100 million to condo corporations across Canada, many in the GTA, and some of which are under administration.

"I believe the pattern that we are seeing in some of these is going to be replicated in the future, in much greater numbers," Morrison says.

But even if an administrator is requested, he says, there are "good-faith, intelligent judges unwilling to interfere with the political rights of the people."

Other judges are not fully educated about condominium corporations and how they run, Morrison says, and he predicts things will get so bad that Ontario will need a specialized condominium tribunal. He foresees law firms and administration firms that will do only this.

He and others also expect some condos to be under permanent administration.

Morrison is also predicting that some buildings will wind up in such states of disrepair that owners will abandon them, developers will buy them, refresh them and turn them into rental properties.

Morrison says he is worried about the group of people whose cost of entry into condos is under $200,000 today. "I'm very worried about that group and there's thousands of them."

Engineer Paul Belanger, of Belanger Engineering, says his firm does about 40 reserve fund studies a year. He says each component of a building has a finite life.

"Windows often get treated as a discretionary expense," he says. More troubling are anchorages for precast concrete panels on exterior walls, which erode over time and are costly to remove, he says.

He calls them a "ticking time bomb" because you can't see them.

He wonders about balconies built in the 1980s with salt in the concrete to enable work to continue in cold weather (the Canadian Standards Association outlawed the practice in 1990). "Can we nurse a building along forever?" he asks. "One day there's going to be a condo that takes a wrecking ball. The only question is when?"

WHAT INDUSTRY VETERANS SUGGEST

Condo industry veterans want Queen's Park to tighten rules for running condos. Not all agree on what needs to be done, but here is a sampling of their ideas.

» License property managers.

» Hire paid professionals to sit on the board of directors and make good business decisions.

» End discretion for how much is contributed to a reserve fund for future repairs. The norm is 10 per cent. Many say it's not enough.

» Sanction condo boards and property managers who do not comply with the Condo Act.

» Charge each unit $1 a month to fund an ombudsman's office to oversee condo corporations. It would ensure an annual filing by all corporations to include audited financial statements, the status of maintenance, the status of the reserve fund and filing of a changes in management companies.

» Step up enforcement by municipalities to ensure buildings converted to condos are up to snuff.

» Step up enforcement of municipal work orders.

beaconer
2007-Dec-08, 13:53
Thanks for that. Great article.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-08, 15:09
I think this is one of the most important articles ever posted on this forum. It should be mandatory reading for all of us who have purchased condos.

(It's especially meaningful for me, as I attended my first condo AGM this past week.)

dt_toronto_geek
2007-Dec-08, 16:05
Thanks, I thought it was relevant for anyone thinking of buying or who owns. I sat on a Condo Board in my last place so I know how inept some Property Management firms are (we went through 3 companies before we got it right) but it surprised me to learn how incompetent and dysfunctional some Boards are.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-08, 16:30
I'm relieved that we seem to be avoiding a lot of the problems mentioned in the article. There seems to be some animosity between our board's five members, but I think in the end they get things done, and regardless of how they get along, they all seem genuinely concerned about getting things done right. We re-elected the auditor, who also seems very good.

My only concern is that my friend, who has sat on at least one other condo board, tells me that in a new building the first thing you want to do is get rid of the property management which was put in place by the developer. In our development, that hasn't happened, and the PM is quite friendly with the developer. We'll definitely have to keep a close eye on this...

Observer Walt
2007-Dec-08, 18:00
This is indeed a good article. Thanks for posting it.

In my work as an appraiser I have seen a few of these situations. On too many condo boards, people are re-elected time after time, whose main objective seems to be to keep the fees down. Too many owners mistakenly think that keeping the fees down somehow indicates good management.

An improvement has been in place since the present Condominium Act came into effect in 2001, requiring a reserve fund study for every condo project and provisions to fund any deficiencies. This requirement removes some of the discretion which used to exist which led to grossly inadequate reserve funds, which in turn led to the nasty surprise called the "special assessment". But several more changes are definitely needed, as the article points out.

beaconer
2007-Dec-08, 18:26
I've never sat on a condo board of directors, but it is the most thankless job, considering the responsibility that is required coupled with lack of gratification recieved.

In the half dozen AGM's that I have been to (two seperate condos), justified or not, unit owners always have this tinge of inherent distrust against their own board, and it always ends up being this tense, semi-inquisition, grilling bitch fest.

From my experience, most condo unit owners (with the exception of the condo board and relative few active owners) don't offer much in contributing to the well being and governance of their condo, or are unwilling to be part of the solution, which actually compounds the problems.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-08, 18:34
On too many condo boards, people are re-elected time after time, whose main objective seems to be to keep the fees down. Too many owners mistakenly think that keeping the fees down somehow indicates good management.

If I understood correctly at our AGM, one of the board members mentioned that they raised our maintenance fees 30% in the first year. It was a hard choice for them, but because of it, we have a more adequate reserve fund now (development is only about 3 years old).

dt_toronto_geek
2007-Dec-08, 18:46
I've never sat on a condo board of directors, but it is the most thankless job, considering the responsibility that is required coupled with lack of gratification recieved.

In the half dozen AGM's that I have been to (two seperate condos), justified or not, unit owners always have this tinge of inherent distrust against their own board, and it always ends up being this tense, semi-inquisition, grilling bitch fest.

From my experience, most condo unit owners (with the exception of the condo board and relative few active owners) don't offer much in contributing to the well being and governance of their condo, or are unwilling to be part of the solution, which actually compounds the problems.

Boy did you ever nail that dead on!

interchange42
2007-Dec-09, 19:59
Here's a related article from The Star:

How one corporation is rebounding

Court appointee helps Etobicoke townhouses on long road to recovery
Dec 08, 2007 04:30 AM
DONNA LAPORTE
TORONTO STAR
Andrew Wallace is a court-appointed administrator for three condo corporations in the GTA. He sat down with the Star to detail how he is turning around a 296-unit condominium complex in the Finch and Kipling Aves. area.

It is a cautionary tale.

YCC08 – the eighth condo corporation registered in the old City of Etobicoke – consists of 38-year-old townhouses.

When Wallace, a consultant with about 40 years of experience in property management, stepped in to replace the board of directors on June 9, 2006, the reserve fund totalled just $800 and the operating fund had $400.

"If this had been a business corporation, they would have been bankrupt," he says.

The corporation owed Rogers Cable $120,000 and the City of Toronto's water department $300,000.

Almost no maintenance had been done for years. Roofs, windows and basements were leaking and most of the street lighting in the complex did not work.

After several attempts at turfing out the board of directors in 2005, owners succeeded in electing a new board in November that year.

That board levied a special assessment of $1.2 million to be collected by the end of 2006. But more than 100 unit owners were paying less than $100 per month toward it.

The board also fired the property manager, hired a paralegal as property manager, then fired him.

Such was the situation when a unit owner applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to ask that Wallace be appointed as administrator. Wallace immediately set to work. With virtually no money in the corporation's accounts, he placed liens on about half of the units for unpaid maintenance fees and enforced the urgent collection of the special assessment.

Many of the mortgagees (lenders) stepped in to pay the outstanding amounts. Usually in these cases, costs are added to unit owners' mortgages.

Once common fee collection improved, Wallace was able to pay the outstanding cable bill.

He also negotiated with the city's water department to resume regular payments, plus pay an additional $10,000 a month toward arrears until the end of 2007. Then he will revisit the plan.

Turning to structural matters, he tackled the roof repairs first, in order of severity.

So far, 160 roofs have been repaired and street lighting restored.

Next on the list are window repairs, followed by basement leaks.

By Nov. 23, 2007, he had $138,000 in the operating account and $75,000 in the reserve fund.

To establish a full financial picture, Wallace asked the court to appoint an inspector to investigate the corporation's records.

The inspector's report showed the last audited financial statements were for 2004, a clear contravention of the Condo Act. Although there was a cumulative deficit of more than $280,000 at the end of 2003, common element fees had been cut; substantial money was borrowed from the reserve fund to finance the operating deficit, also forbidden by the Condo Act.

The inspector also found that in 2006, under a newly elected board, many cheques were written out to "cash," and several were cashed and endorsed by board members, purportedly for legal or management fees. Normal procedure is to write cheques directly to suppliers, with invoices to back them up.

None was supplied. Wallace is trying to recover those monies.

He also appointed an auditor to prepare financial statements for 2006, to allow the corporation to begin the 2007 fiscal year with accurate balances.

Wallace convened an owners' meeting Jan. 30, 2007, to elect new directors to shepherd the corporation under his direction.

The board's makeup – nine members with terms expiring at once – is "a recipe for disaster," Wallace says. Some directors don't show up for board meetings, which makes it difficult to conduct business.

So, at the annual general meeting, which was to be held Nov. 29, he was hoping to confirm a bylaw to reduce the board to five, with staggered terms. The bylaw needed to be confirmed by 51 per cent of owners present; then it would be registered on title. Not enough people showed up for a quorum. The AGM will now have to be rescheduled.

The next day, Wallace was back in court to request he be kept in place as administrator for six months "to allow the new board the privilege of running the place."

The judge adjourned the motion to May 30, 2008, meaning Wallace continues as administrator. In the coming year, owners can expect fees to rise to continue to build up the reserve and operating funds.

Wallace says he feels sorry for owners, who are caught in a trap. "Most of the people I've dealt with are pleasant people," he says.

Observer Walt
2007-Dec-09, 22:35
A cautionary tale indeed, and another good article.

I have visited the condo complex in question (9 Kendleton Drive). It has a bit of a shabby look, but actually is far from the worst. In fairness, it also suffers a bit from its location, not far from the Jamestown Crescent housing project, one of the more crime-ridden areas in north Etobicoke.


"Most of the people I've dealt with are pleasant people,"
They may be indeed, but they are detached from the reality of the situation. How can they have an AGM, with the condo clearly in crisis, and not have a quorum show up?

Condo dwellers have to be aware of what's going on. It doesn't necessarily mean serving on the board of directors, but at least read the notices that come around, attend the Annual General Meeting, and ask questions if something doesn't seem right. The lack of audited financial statements is a hugered flag.

dt_toronto_geek
2007-Dec-12, 20:15
See "Atria Developments", "Navhar properties", "Gykan" (all the same family, last name Jain) for a real treat in very poorly constructed condos and conversions.
I had a building inspector and a fire inspector take a look at my condo, the fire Marshall laughed out loud, and the building inspector covered his ears and eyes, stating that he didn't see or hear anything, and walked out.
The issue was the airflow between suites and common areas...a fire hazzard. Nothing has been done, nor will be done, until a fire occurs, and the insurance company rejects the claim.

Doesn't the City or fire department clear engineering plans to ensure they meet fire code before they are constructed or modified? Further, if the fire department has safety concerns they should be addressed to the developer prior to occupancy.
I dealt with the fire department in a condo related situation. Their code is really tough and I can assure you they didn't take no for an answer so the developer had to rectify the situation. Quick.

investor
2007-Dec-13, 18:19
A developer CANNOT even sell a condo that has not been inspected or approved by the various departments of the city.

I was told by a city of Toronto building inspector (i'll give you his name privately if you want) that there is indeed a problem here, but there's nothing they can do about it, since the building has already been registered as a condo. He suggested that if I wan't this fixed, I should hire 'good' lawyer, since I'd be up against the citys lawyers.

I'll never buy a condo in this city again...

BTW, these developers are still going strong.

In addition to the stipulation that the city hold a set of building plans (as built), the plans they hold for this building are incorrect...I know this because I had to pay for a copy of them, from the city.
There is no interest by the board of directors, the management company, the city nor the original developers to rectify any of this.

If the building doesn't comply with the Fire Code the city can issue orders to comply and then ultimately shut down the building (or issue other stringent remedies like 24 hour onsite monitoring) for failure to comply.

It appears that we are not given all the facts in the above situation.

As far as the article goes, it is informative but also self-serving and sensationalist. There are always examples of problem buildings out there but the overwhelming majority of them function properly and have adequate measures to fund major capital repairs- either through special assessments or financing. I believe that most of the consultants interviewed are either in the thick of some really messy situations or have a vested interests in making things appear worse than they really are.

investor
2007-Dec-13, 18:56
Investor, I invite you to come and see for yourself.

I've been fighting this for over 5 years.
I don't appreciate your accusation of sensationalism....in fact, it seems that maybe you're part of the problem...one of the developers, or their friends?

As I said, I could give you the names of the building inspectors who have seen this, and refused to do anything but suggest a "good lawyer".

I live in a registered condo. I can see, hear and smell my neighbours, due to the fact that no fire blocking, including the red caulking required by the city, is present, and there is airflow between suites.

Look at my nick, and see if you can figure out which building it is...ask anyone else about it, and you might be surprised at what a 'developer' can get away with.

BTW, please tell me how the city can "shut down" an occupied live/work condominium? Where does the city put the residents? Does the city buy the units back from the owners?

Building would have to be condemmed and deemed unsafe for occupancy. Not likely to occur. However, the Fire Dept could easily determine that the fire and life safety systems are not up to code and demand that the condo corp. hire 24-hour security to monitor the building. That would be a very punitive move and would likely encourage the condo board to remedy the problem. If there are building code deficiencies the city building inspector can and should issue orders to comply. Suggesting that you call a lawyer is a slightly bizarre response and implies to me that the building inspector agrees with you that the building was poorly built but not unsafe or dangerous.

Sounds to me like your condo just wasn't built well, probably with inferior materials. That in itself does not equate to an unsafe situation, just an (unfortunately for you) undesirable situation.

investor
2007-Dec-13, 19:28
Sound to me like you don't have all the facts, and your speculation on my situation is somwhat insulting, I'm not loolking to 'make a buck' here, I just want a safe home to live in.
BTW, the condo is a conversion of an old industrial building. It is sprinklered, but that doesn't mean it can have airflow between suites.

Again, it's been over 5 years, and I don't have the money it would cost me to hire a 'good' lawyer to fight the city and the developer on this.

The invite is there, come and see for yourself.



The fire monitoring system shows a 'ground fault condition' and beeps continuosly. This have been going on for over 5 years....it is checked yearly, and never fixed.

Do you have any other suggestions, that might actually work?

I sympathize with your situation. Again, if you think it is dangerous call the City again and demand they address the problem or risk liability for future incidents.

Why won't the condo board approve a budget item to repair the fire safety equipment?

investor
2007-Dec-14, 12:30
Again, I've been doing this for over 5 years. The only advice from the city has been "hire a good lawyer".
They have told me that the condo would not have been registered due to these life safety issues, and, since it's been registered, there must be no life safety issues.
I lived in the condo for 4 months prior to registration, the city held up the registration because the developer had not planted enough trees in front of the building.
Also, since the areas in question are considered common areas (hte space between the drywall layers) I, personally, have no liability. I have also documented all correspondence with the city and developer, and my lawyer (real estate) has copies of this.



2 members of the three member condo board are friendly with the original developer, who still own 39 suites in the building....because they can't sell them.
I can only speculate as to why they refuse to respond to any requests by the residents. ;)

The underground parking garage has a dirt floor, which turns to mud whenever it rains, the smell of mold and mildew in the garage is overwhelming. We've been requesting that this be resolved, again, for over 5 years.

IZ, here's what you do:

Prepare a brief and simple description of the problems that the condo faces and circulate it DOOR TO DOOR to your neighbors. Try and convince each of them to attend the next AGM and vote out the current directors. Get on the board yourself and work towards fixing the problems.

I know it's not easy and it will take a lot of your time but that's what you need to do to make changes.

Edward
2007-Dec-14, 12:55
Can't you just call the fire department and tell them there are safety hazards?

investor
2007-Dec-14, 16:09
Thanks Investor,

We've already started the process. We've had an'emergency meeting' last week, so that at the next AGM in January, we will be voting for 2 more board members, for a 5 member board. Many of the other residents are also annoyed.

Edward,
I've had the fire marshall inspect the suite, and he agreed that it is not 'right', however, he also informed me that the city has the last word, and since they've approved it, there isn't much the fire department can do. I don't know how true that is, but it's all I've got.
My neighbour has told me that the building inspector and fire marshall have told him that there is no problem with the way the building was 'renovated'.
Who's right? who knows?

I know that it must be terribly frustrating for you but the process will flush out the problems, I assure you, as long as you are patient. I've encountered a few of these unscrupulous developers in my career and the best thing that you can do is get the board members out of there as quick as possible.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-15, 13:21
Prepare a brief and simple description of the problems that the condo faces and circulate it DOOR TO DOOR to your neighbors.

This sounds like a good idea, and I might have suggested it myself. But be cautious. A friend of my boss moved into a house in a brand new subdivision. There turned out to be numerous problems with the quality of construction, some of them serious. This guy did exactly as above - wrote out a list of concerns and circulated it door to door. The developers (real slimeballs) are now suing him for slander, for I think more than a million dollars.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-15, 13:56
This sounds like a good idea, and I might have suggested it myself. But be cautious. A friend of my boss moved into a house in a brand new subdivision. There turned out to be numerous problems with the quality of construction, some of them serious. This guy did exactly as above - wrote out a list of concerns and circulated it door to door. The developers (real slimeballs) are now suing him for slander, for I think more than a million dollars.

Wow, does this ever scream of an Urban Toronto urban legend in the making.

'A friend of my boss'?
'for I think more than a million dollars'?

Dou have any further details? A copy of the list? A subdivision location? I'd love to know what was written. Who's the developer?

I truly believe and know there are real slimeball developers willing to spend lotsa funds trying to slap down and stop any criticism of their shoddy work... but you gotta give a little bit more info. Your post is only meant to scare a person from getting informed and keeping others informed.

investor
2007-Dec-15, 14:03
This sounds like a good idea, and I might have suggested it myself. But be cautious. A friend of my boss moved into a house in a brand new subdivision. There turned out to be numerous problems with the quality of construction, some of them serious. This guy did exactly as above - wrote out a list of concerns and circulated it door to door. The developers (real slimeballs) are now suing him for slander, for I think more than a million dollars.

It's not slanderous if it is true. If in fact the deficiencies exist within the existing condo board directors, then how is it remotely slandering for IZI to try and improve the situation by bringing the problems to the attention of the other owners in the building? This has little to do with the developer. It is the condo board that is responsible for the problems that he's described by failing to take action to remedy them.

Observer Walt
2007-Dec-15, 14:28
Be very careful about circulating anything unless you are absolutely sure that it is factual and can be demonstrated as such. For instance, don't make statements such as "doesn't meet standards" unless you have expert opinion (engineer or architect) that this is so.

For deficiencies in new construction, follow up through Tarion under terms of your warranty. However, note that Tarion applies only to "new construction". It does not cover conversions of old former industrial buildings, which is one of the drawbacks in purchasing an industrial loft conversion.

investor
2007-Dec-15, 19:21
Be very careful about circulating anything unless you are absolutely sure that it is factual and can be demonstrated as such. For instance, don't make statements such as "doesn't meet standards" unless you have expert opinion (engineer or architect) that this is so.

For deficiencies in new construction, follow up through Tarion under terms of your warranty. However, note that Tarion applies only to "new construction". It does not cover conversions of old former industrial buildings, which is one of the drawbacks in purchasing an industrial loft conversion.

Now you're a condo lawyer Walt? Thought you were an appraiser. I'm sure it's easy for you to walk through the place with your clipboard making little scribbly notations, but this guy seems to be living with a significant amount of distress that can be remedied fairly easily!

The guy has serious concerns with the way his condo/home/investment is being managed. He has every right to try and affect change in the management of the building. You shouldn't discourage him from doing that. He's not necessarily making accusations against the builder, he just wants perceived deficiencies repaired or replaced promptly to mitigate further damage to the reputation of the building and avoid additional disruptions and aggravation associated with the problems. If he's proven to be an alarmist then let his neighbor residents/owners make that determination.

Observer Walt
2007-Dec-16, 10:48
Investor, no I'm not a lawyer. I do have some idea, as do many others, about not exposing myself to liability by making statements which I can't prove or which are outside my areas of expertise.

I am not lacking sympathy for problems outlined by I-Z1. It's beyond me how the fire department can be unconcerned about conditions which would seem to create a fire hazard, or how the buildings department can be happy not having a set of "as built" drawings which they are supposed to have. I absolutely agree that I-Z1 should band together with other owners, and hopefully get some changes made to the condo board of directors, who sound ineffective.

An opinion from an independent engineer (one who is knowledgeable of the Building Code) would be helpful, although it would cost something to obtain.

investor
2007-Dec-16, 15:59
Investor, no I'm not a lawyer. I do have some idea, as do many others, about not exposing myself to liability by making statements which I can't prove or which are outside my areas of expertise.

I am not lacking sympathy for problems outlined by I-Z1. It's beyond me how the fire department can be unconcerned about conditions which would seem to create a fire hazard, or how the buildings department can be happy not having a set of "as built" drawings which they are supposed to have. I absolutely agree that I-Z1 should band together with other owners, and hopefully get some changes made to the condo board of directors, who sound ineffective.

An opinion from an independent engineer (one who is knowledgeable of the Building Code) would be helpful, although it would cost something to obtain.

Thanks ODUB, I think you and I agree on this one for a change. It does seem odd that the city would ignore potential hazards.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-16, 21:46
Wow, does this ever scream of an Urban Toronto urban legend in the making.

'A friend of my boss'?
'for I think more than a million dollars'?

Dou have any further details? A copy of the list? A subdivision location? I'd love to know what was written. Who's the developer?

I truly believe and know there are real slimeball developers willing to spend lotsa funds trying to slap down and stop any criticism of their shoddy work... but you gotta give a little bit more info. Your post is only meant to scare a person from getting informed and keeping others informed.

FYI: I've met the person in question. I did specify "I think for more than a million dollars" because I don't remember the amount exactly. This happened about a year ago. I don't intend to go further in posting details here because as I've stated, the person in question is being sued simply for pursuing repairs by the developer.

My post is not meant to scare, but rather give rational and reasonable advice, which is a characteristic of this forum.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-16, 21:53
It's not slanderous if it is true. If in fact the deficiencies exist within the existing condo board directors, then how is it remotely slandering for IZI to try and improve the situation by bringing the problems to the attention of the other owners in the building? This has little to do with the developer. It is the condo board that is responsible for the problems that he's described by failing to take action to remedy them.

It may be the condo board's responsibility, but the developer was responsible for the shoddy work in the first place.

The fact that something may be true does not preclude the possibility of being sued for slander. I support everything that I-Z1 is doing, but recommend caution.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-17, 03:31
FYI: I've met the person in question. I did specify "I think for more than a million dollars" because I don't remember the amount exactly. This happened about a year ago. I don't intend to go further in posting details here because as I've stated, the person in question is being sued simply for pursuing repairs by the developer.

So, um you still want me to trust your story without pointing me to any further info as requested? A year has passed. I'd like to search through the legal databases and figure out how the suit is going/went.

In my mind it's theoretically possible that the courts sided with the 'person in question' and I would be more than interested to read about it. Can you help a guy out? Private message me if you're feeling too exposed out here.


My post is not meant to scare, but rather give rational and reasonable advice, which is a characteristic of this forum.

Don't worry yourself... I wasn't scared. :p

You're trying to convince a person that has previously taken issue with some of those 'characteristics of this forum'. So you're going to have to work a bit harder. Creating a baseless urban legend doesn't do much for me. :)

screenplaying
2007-Dec-17, 12:23
Many of you seem to have a lot of faith in the city of Toronto's building inspectors and property developers.

That observation has made my day. :D

screenplaying
2007-Dec-17, 12:45
Why?

Check your private messages for an answer. I wouldn't want to libel anyone in the forum. ;) My Catholic-raised ass hasn't been to church in a long time. So I make up for it by attending the worship services to city masters and developers offered here.

investor
2007-Dec-17, 13:16
I understand now.

The truth should be silenced.

The illusion that the city/developers are "all good" should be held up at 'any' cost ;)

Izzy, you're sounding a bit like an extremist- that attitude won't get you where you want to be. Do what I said- rally the owners to make changes in the board and management and then hire a reputable engineering firm to audit the building for problems. You will have to raise condo fees to pay for them, but it is short term pain for enduring benefits are higher resale values.

urbandreamer
2007-Dec-17, 18:28
I just read an interesting article from the February 2007 Toronto Life (since I have a life I'm slightly behind in my reading about middleclass white Toronto):
http://www.torontolife.com/features/home-sweet-hellhole/print/
Home Sweet Hellhole
February 2007
Her plan was to move into a carefree condo in the Annex. How was she to know her neighbours were crazy, the building was crumbling and she would find herself overseeing a $1.8-million renovation disaster? By Ellen Vanstone


At about 2 a.m. one cold winter’s night in 2003, I got up to get a drink of water. As I drank the water, I looked out my dining room window and noticed a tiny flame on the balcony, probably caused by a discarded butt from an upper floor. Despite a raging winter wind, the tiny flame clung to life as I pondered what to do. I would have stomped it out, except the door was barred shut, due to the fact that my balcony had been condemned as unsafe two years earlier and, thanks to a bizarre series of construction delays, was still months away from completion.

Eventually, I called the fire department. When I heard the sirens arrive, I went down to let them in. I couldn’t buzz them in from my unit, because my intercom was broken. Soon, half a dozen burly firefighters were staring out my window at the now metre-high flames feeding off the burlap-wrapped, scaffolding-encased concrete slab that someday, God willing, would once again be a balcony. One of them removed the slider panes from my dining room window and squeezed out. We formed a bucket brigade with my mixing bowls. It seemed strange that I led the brigade while several able firefighters stood around my kitchen chatting, but we got the job done. After they left, I couldn’t get the slider panes back into their slots, so I simply leaned them into the open space. I was due to have new windows installed within the next few weeks, so there was no point in having it fixed.

In fact, because of instalment delays, the new windows didn’t arrive for two more years, during which I lived with a loose, rattling dining room hole. I suppose I could have picked up the phone and complained to someone until it was repaired. But I was distracted by other problems—the water in my kitchen remained brown and odorous no matter how long I ran the tap, so I had to fill kettles and Brita jugs in the bathroom. My rads blasted heat year-round, until a record cold snap when they went suddenly, icily silent. In the laundry room, the machines ate money and spewed foam. In the underground garage, puddles festered and concrete rotted due to a blocked drainage pipe that hadn’t been cleaned in 45 years. When the boilers conked out, two repair companies refused to service them because of illegal modifications that meant they could blow at any minute. The steel rebars had rusted out and disappeared in the column holding up the southwest corner of our 10-storey building, leaving crumbling concrete to hold up one-quarter of the structure’s mass. The roof failed. The superintendent quit.

Besides, even if I did pick up the phone and call someone to complain, the person I would be calling was me. Somehow, in all the confusion, I had become Madame President of the building’s board of directors.

At about 2 a.m. one cold winter’s night in 2003, I got up to get a drink of water. As I drank the water, I looked out my dining room window and noticed a tiny flame on the balcony, probably caused by a discarded butt from an upper floor. Despite a raging winter wind, the tiny flame clung to life as I pondered what to do. I would have stomped it out, except the door was barred shut, due to the fact that my balcony had been condemned as unsafe two years earlier and, thanks to a bizarre series of construction delays, was still months away from completion.

Eventually, I called the fire department. When I heard the sirens arrive, I went down to let them in. I couldn’t buzz them in from my unit, because my intercom was broken. Soon, half a dozen burly firefighters were staring out my window at the now metre-high flames feeding off the burlap-wrapped, scaffolding-encased concrete slab that someday, God willing, would once again be a balcony. One of them removed the slider panes from my dining room window and squeezed out. We formed a bucket brigade with my mixing bowls. It seemed strange that I led the brigade while several able firefighters stood around my kitchen chatting, but we got the job done. After they left, I couldn’t get the slider panes back into their slots, so I simply leaned them into the open space. I was due to have new windows installed within the next few weeks, so there was no point in having it fixed.

In fact, because of instalment delays, the new windows didn’t arrive for two more years, during which I lived with a loose, rattling dining room hole. I suppose I could have picked up the phone and complained to someone until it was repaired. But I was distracted by other problems—the water in my kitchen remained brown and odorous no matter how long I ran the tap, so I had to fill kettles and Brita jugs in the bathroom. My rads blasted heat year-round, until a record cold snap when they went suddenly, icily silent. In the laundry room, the machines ate money and spewed foam. In the underground garage, puddles festered and concrete rotted due to a blocked drainage pipe that hadn’t been cleaned in 45 years. When the boilers conked out, two repair companies refused to service them because of illegal modifications that meant they could blow at any minute. The steel rebars had rusted out and disappeared in the column holding up the southwest corner of our 10-storey building, leaving crumbling concrete to hold up one-quarter of the structure’s mass. The roof failed. The superintendent quit.

Besides, even if I did pick up the phone and call someone to complain, the person I would be calling was me. Somehow, in all the confusion, I had become Madame President of the building’s board of directors.

And so, on that dark night, as I said goodbye to the firefighters and then watched from my broken window as they climbed into their truck, headed back to a fire hall—which, I imagined, was a sturdy, well-heated building with a solid roof and functional plumbing—I felt the wind picking up, whipping past shreds of burnt burlap, straight through my rattling unattached slider window, and I wondered to myself, not for the first time, how did I end up in this property ownership nightmare?

It all started in 2000. I was living in a small two-storey house near Queen and Bathurst, a turn-of-the-century semi with a dirt floor in the basement and foot-thick beams, which, according to the home inspector, had probably been salvaged from a ship in old Toronto. I had the second-storey kitchen removed, renovated the original kitchen downstairs, glued the rest of the house together with several layers of top-quality paint and prepared to sit back and enjoy home ownership in that explodingly hip neighbourhood for years to come.

Unfortunately, every time I had a few thousand bucks saved up for a ski trip or an RRSP, the house needed something that cost a few thousand bucks: new wiring, new windows, new roof. The last straw was a leaky basement, which required something called parging, which would require a lot of digging, a big mess and could cost as little as a few thousand, said the contractor, but probably much, much more. I sold the house and bought a tidy two-bedroom apartment co-op, or condo apartment, or some such, in the Annex—I wasn’t sure what the difference between a co-op and condo was, exactly. The important thing was that my unit was four floors above a potentially leaky basement and five floors below a potentially leaky roof, and that all issues of leakiness in any case were now management’s problem, not mine.

I found the apartment through a private sale—advertised via a newsroom e-mail at the National Post, where I then worked—and there was an interview process. I met with two members of the board of directors, who were, like me, middle-class career women of a certain age in the kind of Annexy outfits that we believed put us somewhere between Queen Street artist and Rosedale matron.

They took me to the ninth floor by elevator, then up a dark stairwell and across a dim landing into a dusty rooftop storage room. It wasn’t fancy. That was good. I abhorred the idea of moving into a soulless high-rise, so the raffish aspect of this 43-unit mid-century modernist Annex co-op, peopled by characters who looked like me, was perfect.

I had brought letters of reference along with my pay stubs and was eager to show them how much money I earned—which, back in 2000, was a lot thanks to the Globe-Post newspaper war putting us journalists in high demand. My interviewers weren’t interested. They pushed the pay stubs aside. One of them asked, “Do you play the piano?” No, I answered. They looked at each other. Was the building interested only in residents with hobbies? Did they want me to join their musical group? Had I blown it? After more innocuous questions, they returned to the subject: Did I have any plans to learn to play the piano? Did I own a piano? Did I ever foresee buying a piano? No, no, no, I said; why do you ask? They shrugged, muttered and changed the subject. Very suspicious. But then I wasn’t entirely honest with them, either, in regards to those impressive pay stubs. After passing the interview and moving in, I immediately quit my job and started to write a novel, which had been my plan all along, having sold my house for nearly twice what my new apartment cost.

During those early, optimistic days, I felt like Marlo Thomas in the ’60s sitcom That Girl—independent single in a cool apartment with no pesky home-ownership issues. My novel was equally upbeat—a hopeful young woman gets a job as a copy editor at a venerable ladies’ magazine. My agent suggested I add “action,” but I wanted to take it slow and see where the character went.

It was pleasant work, mulling away in my new home office, surrounded by quiet, interesting neighbours. Jeno, the clean-cut architect who had renovated and sold me my unit, had moved to another suite in the building. Desmond, a retired journalist with angular features and swept-back silver hair, was president of the board of directors. The Australian woman next door was a furniture historian, whose undying gratitude I earned one night when she locked herself out and I climbed over the partition between our balconies to gain access through her balcony door. Among the building’s many seniors was indomitable Mrs. H., the building’s first resident in 1957, now a perfectly coiffed widow living directly below me who wore a hat, gloves and matching shoes and purse to walk to the corner bank. One odd man who used three parking spots for his two cars was rude on the days he drove his red Mercedes but politely chatty on the days he arrived home in his blue BMW. Tim, the superintendent, was a tweedy Irish intellectual pursuing a divinity degree. I was sometimes startled to step into the elevator and find him slumped languidly on the floor, desultorily polishing the brass trim, but he left witty notes, in which he quoted Hume or Locke to justify, for example, his assumption of my implicit permission in allowing fire inspectors into my unit.

In fall 2001, I attended my first co-op annual general meeting, which took place soon after I’d received a notice warning me not to use my two balconies. At the meeting, Desmond explained that our building’s exterior was showing signs of deterioration, and engineers from Halsall Associates had been engaged to investigate. The meeting simmered with tension, and I could tell Desmond was getting upset because his Canadian accent disappeared and his Ulster Scots accent took over, making him semi-coherent. Various shareholders kept objecting to arcane points of order or alluding sarcastically to mysterious incidents in the past, but Desmond kept things under control and moved on to “Use of musical instruments,” which explained the piano questions. A protracted war was being waged between an amateur pianist on an upper floor and a woman across the hall who objected to his endless repetitions of Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral.” A rule was passed to ban new shareholders from playing musical instruments.

I found the meeting charming, as well as professionally useful re: the novel. I still couldn’t figure out what to do with my annoyingly passive, copy-editing main character, but I was now inspired to flesh out her office with gently feuding, fantastically eccentric co-workers.

Several months after that, in 2002, was an EGM—Extraordinary General Meeting—at which we learned that Halsall had estimated the balcony and brick-repair work at $642,680, which, spread out over 43 units, would require a special assessment of at least $15,000 per shareholder. I’d never heard the term “special assessment,” but it didn’t sound good. Wasn’t this a management problem? I paid my mortgage and my $400-a-month maintenance fees, and I had no desire to get involved in building issues.

The EGM then addressed the issue of “Con*version from co-op to condominium.” I had no opinion on the subject, but the eminently reasonable Desmond was for it, as was the building’s lawyer, while the naysayers kept going around in endless, inane circles about the problem of anyone—just anyone—being allowed to move into a condominium building. Perhaps it was the special assessment that made my fellow shareholders seem less charming than usual, but I found myself on my feet, saying, “Look, people, whether we live in a co-op or a condo, if I want to sublet my apartment to a bunch of drunken, immigrant, refugee, ex-con students tomorrow, there is no way any of you can stop me.” The motion to go condo eventually passed by one vote. For weeks afterward, little old ladies in the elevator importuned me: “Oh, dear, you’re not going to move out and let all those people move in, are you?”

As for the $15,000 to fix the balconies, which I gathered should have been repaired years earlier, I phoned the real estate lawyer who’d handled my purchase and discovered that “caveat emptor” applies not only to non-refundable sale items at the mall; it also applies to structures that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Still, I didn’t regret my purchase. It was the only way I could afford to buy into the Annex, where I’d lived off and on for 25 years and found more comfortable than Yonge and Davisville (too preppy), Riverdale (too CBC-ish), the Beach (too many strollers), Kensington Market (too ripe) or the downtown condo scene (too brand-obsessed). The Annex was a mish-mash of all the above, with a wide range of incomes and, increasingly, ethnicities. I’d grown up with the area, graduating from cheap Hungarian restaurants during my student days, to an endless supply of futon stores during my first-job days, to the current offerings of organic foodstuffs, sushi restaurants and exceedingly erudite clerks at Book City, CD Replay and Queen Video on Bloor.

Admittedly, some aspects were more colourful than others—such as the apartment high-rise immediately to the south of us, and by “immediately” I mean the building’s siding protruded seven centimetres onto our property. Its tenants played loud music and hurled beer bottles onto our driveway from the upper balconies. Squad cars were a frequent presence out front.

More alarming, though, was the upcoming deadline for my special assessment, which made it difficult to concentrate on the novel. My copy-editing main character had developed agoraphobia. Her favourite pastime, besides over-sharpening pencils in the electric sharpener, was to crawl under her giant oak desk and curl up for a nap with the company cat, Minxy. As balcony repairs began in late 2002, working at home became problematic in other ways. Incessant jackhammering made it impossible to talk on the telephone, or even hear it ring, increasing my feelings of isolation. What human contact I did have consisted largely of workmen appearing on the bedroom balcony every time I opened the drapes. Or, as I sat staring out the front window, pondering the non-existent narrative arc of my emotionally paralyzed heroine, another hard-hatted workman on a motorized scaffold would suddenly rise into view two feet from my face, like Martin Sheen’s slick head slowly emerging from the swamp in Apocalypse Now.

I found a part-time job, teaching journalism at Ryerson University, and decided to streamline my stalled novel into a fast-paced romantic-comedy screenplay. All would be well.

In early 2003, things got worse. The front of our building more or less imploded as the pipes burst in the unheated overhang. Emergency crews threw up plastic tents, then ripped open the soffits at the front and rear entrances and set up propane heaters. For months, our building huddled blindly within the enclosures while the heaters roared through thousands of dollars of fuel, which I was now starting to realize came directly out of our pockets. After spring thaw, repairs on the balconies and walls resumed, which was when the workers discovered the rotting concrete in the column that held up the southwest corner of the building. They stopped work on the balconies and threw up a $37,000-plus steel “brassiere” to support the building while they repaired the column, which cost tens of thousands more dollars. Then they discovered the crumbling concrete slab between the eighth and ninth floors. In December, we had another EGM and got a bill for a second special assessment of more than $10,000 each.

As the chaos escalated, I learned the difference between co-ops and condos. When friends, appalled at the year-round noise and construction debris inside and outside my building, told me to “Stop being such a wimp! Pick up the phone and complain!” I explained that there was no one to complain to. My building was designed and erected in 1956 as a then-experimental European-style co-op by modernist architect Wilfred Shulman, complete with his trademark mosaic-tiled pillars under the front overhang.

The residents each owned 100 shares (150 for each of the two penthouses) in a limited company, which owned the building and leased out the units. Since shares were not accepted by regular banks as collateral, residents had to obtain mortgages from a credit union. A proprietary lease governed the building, and by the time I moved in it had grown by hundreds of rules, bylaws and amendments added on over the years by various boards and committees. “But what if the roof fell in?” my friends cried. “Surely someone is responsible!” “Look,” I said, “if you and I and a bunch of crazy people bought a house together and made up a bunch of rules and nobody cleaned out the fridge or made the mortgage payments on time, and we let the roof cave in and the furnace blow up, who would care? That’s right—nobody. Get it?”

Unlike New York, where apartment co-ops are the norm, Toronto is a city of condominiums. They’ve been regulated by the Condominium Act in Ontario since 1967, followed by an even more protective new Condominium Act enacted in 2001. When you buy a condo, you get a property deed, which you can take to any bank for a mortgage; and while each condominium building creates its own declaration, bylaws and rules, the Condo Act requires condo boards to conduct regular reserve fund studies to ensure the building is structurally sound, and to collect money in reasonable amounts over the long term to pay for regular repairs. In other words, the act helps to protect condo owners from surprise repair bills of, say, $1.8 million after, say, 50 years of neglect, bad management and delusionally low maintenance fees.

Like everyone else in the co-op, I tried to make the best of it. When Tim the super quit, another resident began doing the job on a temporary, voluntary basis, which inspired me to pitch in by polishing the brass in the single, malfunctioning elevator that served the entire building. It was harder than it looked: the Brasso fumes were intense, and lying on the floor to polish the bottom trim while the cab lurched up and down was nauseating, so I did only a little each day, eventually meeting most of the other shareholders in the process. Around the same time, Desmond—who was juggling endless meetings, phone calls and faxes related to ongoing, interrupted or overlapping construction jobs, plus the legal and bureaucratic details of the condo conversion, plus sifting though 70 résumés from prospective superintendents—asked if I’d go in his place to a neighbourhood meeting about a developer’s plan to build an apartment building in the parking lot to the north of us.

Over the next two years, I spent many hours trying to follow discussions about architectural drawings, zoning laws, site plans, shadow studies, arborist reports and intensification trends. I’m sure it was all extremely important, but I couldn’t help feeling that none of it was the least bit useful in terms of my novel’s copy-editing main character.

Observing my tolerance for endless meetings, Desmond then roped me into serving on the co-op board along with another relatively new resident, Kate. His pitch was that our building was paralyzed by factionalism and that unaligned newcomers such as ourselves could effect positive change. Kate, 22, a statuesque, footwear-obsessed brunette who worked in advertising, turned out to be an organizational dynamo. While I polished the brass in the elevator and went to neighbourhood committee meetings that year, Kate renovated the empty super’s apartment, commandeering a team of friends and volunteers to rip out the old kitchen cabinets and haul garbage while she organized the trades and made Home Depot her second home.

With special assessments becoming a regular part of my life, I had to get a full-time job. In 2004, I switched from teaching part-time at Ryerson to editing full-time at The Walrus. This, plus the neighbourhood meetings, plus my meetings with irate residents, engineers, our new condo-conversion lawyer and building surveyor, didn’t leave much time to write my romantic-comedy screenplay. I decided to expedite the research by mining my surroundings for material—transforming my copy-editing main character, for example, into a creative designer, dressed all in black, with a geometric haircut and a highly evolved aesthetic, who moves into a condo building famous in architectural circles for its classic mid-century modernism. Unfortunately, the badly maintained building has surface charm only (the metaphorical possibilities were endless), but a handsome young engineer helps her save the day.

I was also writing a board newsletter. The early drafts were filled with optimistic predictions: “We’re finally in the home stretch,” I wrote in the April 22, 2004, issue. Two days later, the board took Vicky, the new super we’d hired, on a tour of the building and discovered a raft of new problems.

There was a broken window in the 10th-floor mechanical room, through which we watched driving rain lash a dangling light fixture next to an open fuse box. In the basement, we discovered a log for the required monthly chemical treatments to prevent pipe corrosion in the boilers; the last entry was sometime in the 1980s. By the end of the tour I had listed 57 urgent to-do items.

I wanted to blame Jeno, the architect who sold me my unit, for luring me into such a crappy home, but he had his own problems. After probably saving lives, and certainly the building, by forcing the balcony repairs that turned up the rotten column that was barely holding up the southwest corner of the building, he had been evacuated from his freshly renovated unit on the eighth floor and sent to a hotel because his ceiling was under the crumbling concrete slab on the ninth floor. It would be nine months before Jeno was allowed back into his home. A year after that, his unit would be torn apart again as plumbers looked for stray galvanized piping that made several unmapped turns in the stack behind his kitchen walls.

Along with structural problems, there was the human factor. Some shareholders objected when we tried to replace the faulty intercom entry system with an entry-phone system because they did not have a phone (of any kind) and did not want to install one. An allegedly alcoholic letter carrier kept leaving the mailboxes open. A shareholder had moved out with no forwarding address, and the toilet in her unit was leaking, supposedly because another shareholder had somehow procured a key and was using her bathroom. There were complaints that a cult led by a child molester was infiltrating the building; complaints that a certain bachelor was entertaining “ladies of the night”; complaints about smoke from indoor barbecues; complaints about affairs, stairway shenanigans and slamming doors after midnight; complaints about groups of roaming, insomniac seniors haunting the lobby before dawn and reading newspapers that didn’t belong to them. There was a rash of false fire alarms, which we were sure was “an inside job”; ditto the deliberate scratching of the elevator, which had just been expensively rebuffed with a sealed matte finish, which meant I didn’t have to polish it anymore. The elevator’s licence had also long since expired, which no one had noticed because our property manager had gone AWOL.

The property manager, FYI, is not to be confused with the superintendent, whose main job is to clean. The property manager is paid to run the company—collect fees, create budgets, prepare financial statements and coordinate repair and construction work. Our property manager hadn’t returned any of my calls in three months.

In May 2004—now two years into my descent into home-ownership hell—Desmond more or less collapsed. Kate and I desperately hired a new property manager and strong-armed another architect in the building, Zenis, onto the board. We had already been using him to vet Halsall building spec documents, so we knew that Zenis was intelligent, extremely conscientious and relatively sane, which I now understood was a big plus.

With Desmond gone, I became president of the board by default. My Marlo Thomas days were well over. After selling a house in order to avoid fixing a leaky basement, I was now overseeing a $1.8-million construction job on a 10-storey building that would ultimately cost me $45,000 (and counting) above and beyond mortgage and maintenance fees.

I also had to run interference between Treasurer Kate, who fervently believed a penny saved is a penny earned, and Secretary Zenis, who equally fervently believed a penny spent now is a pound saved later. As they argued over complicated financial statements and engineering reports, I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio pretending to be a doctor in Catch Me If You Can, asking for an opinion in the hospital emergency room, then turning to the other doctors and saying, “Do you concur?” If Kate and Zenis concurred, I concurred, too. Throughout 2004, Kate, Zenis and I met constantly—up to three times a week for months. What pulled us together, finally, was the window issue.

The fight over replacing windows had been going on for years. Some shareholders wanted to keep their original 1956 leaky, single-paned windows. Some shareholders had replaced windows at their own expense, but with vinyl frames that didn’t meet fire code. One shareholder had triple-glazed his original panes with an elaborate system of storm-window add-ons. Some shareholders had sued the board over failing to maintain the building properly. One shareholder’s window had been sucked out by the wind tunnel created by the encroaching high-rise next door.

Finally, taking only eight times longer than scheduled and costing nearly twice as much as we estimated, the new windows were installed—in the middle of winter.

Our other great triumph was the condo conversion, which was rather more complicated than our lawyer had first given us to understand. Kate almost single-handedly completed that job, schlepping papers to and from the lawyer’s office on her lunch hour, knocking on shareholders’ doors after work, forcing people to sign documents, helping them find their old share certificates and figure out their mortgages, and getting them to sign over power of attorney to the board, so we could temporarily own everyone’s units while the shares were dissolved and the condo corporation was created. If this sounds crazy, it was. I worked with the surveyor on the building plan required to register the condo corporation. My job was to identify who used which lockers and parking spaces. After seven months, defeated by three different numbering systems on the lockers and a parking plan based on an arcane oral tradition, I gave up and our ex–board president Desmond stepped in to miraculously complete the job. We became a condominium corporation in December 2004.

I‘m sorry to say that I didn’t always demonstrate grace under pressure as Madame President. Frightened of angry shareholders, I hid—taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using the back entrance, sprinting down Spadina one day when a shareholder, still in her pyjamas, chased me out of the building with urgent complaints. Then I snapped.

It happened while Kate and I and several others were battling a broken pipe in our freshly repaired laundry room ceiling—wrestling a garbage bin under the deluge and batting away the wads of insulation hitting us on the head. When a shareholder approached and confronted me about a problem in his unit, I wheeled on him and yelled back: “Can’t you see I’m busy? Don’t talk to me. Put it in writing. I’m sick of being attacked like this.” My reaction shocked everyone in the room, including me.

Soon after, I found yet another in a series of nasty notes that appeared regularly under my door, accusing me of graft, neglect, stupidity—the usual. Instead of waiting a day or two to deal with it, I furiously scrawled a haughty response: “This constitutes libel. I will not respond to any letter that does not address me or others in the building in a courteous manner,” then charged out the door to personally deliver my reply. I shoved it under the letter writer’s door. I wondered if I should knock. I decided to tap the door with my toe, but it was actually more than just a tap. Then I ran away. I’m ashamed to admit any of this.

My combative phase ended during a visit from my sister. As we waited for the elevator one afternoon, its doors opened and the most intimidating shareholder in the building stood there and glared at me. I pre-emptively attacked: “What are you doing? Are you getting off or staying on?” Startled, he stumbled out of the cab and stepped aside. I jumped in and punched the buttons. My sister was horrified. “You don’t understand”—I went on the defensive—“if you don’t stand up to that guy, he can be a real bully!” She stared straight ahead, too embarrassed to meet my gaze. “It doesn’t cost anything to be polite,” she finally murmured. I could have answered that I wasn’t being rude to him to save money, but in fact she was right, and I was wrong, wrong, wrong. What was happening to me?

In retrospect, it didn’t seem to matter what I did. The building was immune to any agenda but its own. I theorized it had been built on a sacred burial ground and ancient gods were wreaking revenge on us.

My own turning point came on March 11, 2006, while reading the morning newspaper. A 30-metre light pole had fallen over on the Danforth, smashing a pickup truck and narrowly missing its driver. City authorities quickly promised to assess more than 600 other light poles along the Danforth. At one time I would have been shocked by this dangerous state of affairs caused by shoddy workmanship and/or lack of maintenance. But now I knew better. Five years after moving into my dream-co-op-turned-nightmare-condo, I saw the world differently—a world of chaos, conflict and destruction. I realized that it’s a miracle anything—anywhere, ever—works at all.

Around the same time, the full-tilt crisis we always seemed to be in calmed down as well—perhaps because there was nothing left to blow up or fall apart. Our board of directors started meeting a mere once or twice a month. We’d argue over which one of us would get to quit office first. Then we’d discuss issues such as a recent rash of neighbourhood break-ins and Kate’s plan to get “anyone with the legal right to carry a gun” to move into our building. I concurred, and indeed, at one point last summer, sent buxom young Kate—in a tiny T—to discuss real estate opportunities in our condo with two handsome young policemen sitting in a squad car outside the high-rise next door.

As for my writing career, I gave up trying to write a romantic-comedy screenplay and decided to create a TV series instead—a CSI-type show about a cynical, hard-bitten woman who moves into a decrepit apartment complex filled with the criminally insane where each week she tries to solve, or maybe hide, a bizarre series of construction-related murders. I cut the handsome young engineer as the romantic lead after one too many 8 a.m. meetings with Halsall, where one or another of them would invariably turn to me and, with curdling disdain, spit out something like, “Your building has no vapour barriers,” or “Your boilers are dirty and they’re not calibrated.”

I briefly considered introducing a Thomas Hardy–type hero-labourer after we were suddenly forced to replace all the rotten galvanized pipes with copper throughout the building last year ($129,470). Unfortunately, the plumber-plasterer who came to work in my unit was more like an aging Mario than Jude the Obscure. I heard him shut the bathroom door and then begin noisily using the toilet, heaving, grunting and flushing repeatedly. I was apoplectic with disgust and rage. Finally, after an hour, he left the apartment. I put on rubber gloves and stormed over, prepared to swab down the entire room with Lysol, only to discover—no toilet! All the noise had been him removing the fixtures so he could get at the pipes behind the wall.

No matter. These days, with my new-found calm and seasoned world view in home-ownership hell, I’ve learned to constantly remind myself of one very important thing: It’s all material.

investor
2007-Dec-17, 20:13
As mentioned, numerous times, we are already doing that.



Invy, you sound like an apologist...get the facts straight before you apologise for the city and the developers.



They were hired 5 years ago, their report was 'taken' by the developer, and no-one has been able to obtain a copy, despite the bylaws alllowing condo unit owners to see this...again, the answer has been to "hire a good lawyer".



Of course, we will have to pay for the shortcomings of the developer and the poor inspection done by the city....this was alwyas the answer...pay for someone elses mistakes.

Which developer or city department to you work for, Invy?

Wow man, help desk for you is officially OFFLINE. Go look for free advice elsewhere!

investor
2007-Dec-17, 22:23
Wow is right....I was never looking for advice, just relating my story (maybe I hit the nail on the head...are you a developer or an inspector?)....you, however, seem to think you're right about everything, even when you aren't asked.

Please don't post in this thread anymore, you're 'advice', as you put it, really isn't wanted nor welcome....nor does it seem to be based in reality.

My response to you is a reaction to the condecending tone you've used throughout this thread.

Appears to me that the problems may be of your own making.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-18, 14:51
Damn, you guys hate direct questioning. OK, I was rooting around during lunch. There isn't much out there on this issue. So I'm taking an educated guess that we were alluding to the Jenkins case... which if true just adds to the idea that many of you are either city or developer ball-lickers.

http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2007/2007canlii6250/2007canlii6250.html

So a $3.25M lawsuit grossed a total of $10,000 + $5000 in costs in a default judgement. Not sure that the issues in this case are relevant to problems posted in this board, but we can all take something out of it.

And that is that bullshit needs to be pointed out some times. And debating and writing about it online shouldn't scare you all so much. :)

Edited in: Note to BuildTO... if by some chance I pegged the case, your side-step comments are even more sad.

Observer Walt
2007-Dec-18, 15:10
Screenplaying: I am actually reluctant to get into this discussion any further, but I think I can at least point out that the legal case you found does not refer to the situations mentioned in this thread. I don't know which building I-Z1 is referring to, but if I understood him correctly, he is referring to a loft conversion, which the Hogg's Hollow development is not. The lengthy Toronto Life article clearly refers to 74 Spadina Road.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-18, 16:39
I agree with you Walt. My post was directed at BuildTO who was doling out advice based on a lawsuit that he didn't want to provide any real details on.

A quick search netted that case and a gut feel tells me that it's the one BuildTO was alluding to. The situation is a bit different and only relevant in that it shows how a 'scary' MILLION DOLLAR PLUS fable can be spread when in reality it's a cost-of-time-and-paper transaction.

I'm very open to hearing about the real case from him.

investor
2007-Dec-18, 17:46
It appears to me that you haven't understood a word I've written....are you attempting to blame the shoddy workmanship, and fraudulent activity by the city and developer on me?
Since it's over your head, and you think I'm asking for advice, and you actually think your advice is valuable, we'll just conclude that you're 'not well informed'. As requested, there's no need for you to respond to me...as you had threatened yesterday....keep your word , sir.

It's just abundantly clear that someone with your attitude will not get anywhere when confronted with a problem. Have you considered anger management therapy? Yes I am a developer, no I don't work for the city. I certainly did not develop your condo but I suspect that there's more to the problem than you've described here, ie the problems are not as severe are you lead us to believe. That would certainly explain the city's inaction given your repeated attempts to address the fire safety issues with them.

investor
2007-Dec-18, 20:38
Why are you stalking me?
You said you weren't going to post in this thread anymore....why don't you keep your word?



Just a few weeks longer then you, man.



Some advice for you....don't make uop stories like this, and then attempt to attribute them to someone else....makes you look like a sleazeball.



OOOh, now your my buddy.

You sound scared, buddy....what's wrong, bad investments?


The quotes are from investors recently deleted, yet scathing, post.

I deleted the post because I figured I'd wasted enough time on a loser like you but obviously you are looking for a battle so I'll give you one.

Nothing a pathetic low life like yourself could possibly say would scare me. It is clear that you have totally lost your mind and it comes as no surprise that you are facing these kinds of issues in your personal life given your complete lack of social skills. If I were a member of your condo board or the property management you would have been red flagged as a trouble maker from the get go. We had to forcibly remove a resident from a building once for multiple violent altercations with the staff. I wonder whether you are that resident taking shape in another venue...

investor
2007-Dec-18, 20:45
Again, it's been over 5 years, and I don't have the money it would cost me to hire a 'good' lawyer to fight the city and the developer on this.



As you were saying IzzY?

investor
2007-Dec-18, 20:52
BTW

"Nothing a pathetic low life developer like yourself could possibly say would scare me. "

Attacking a developer on a forum dedicated to development. Interesting angle.

That condo is looking better and better with each post you make! Please send the address, I might want to actually pick up a few units there.

investor
2007-Dec-18, 20:55
There are 39 units available....how much money are you willing to spend...or, is this just another one of your pathetic little 'quips'.

Send the address pal- I bet there's nothing wrong with the building whatsoever.

investor
2007-Dec-18, 20:58
LOL...how much are you willing to bet? pal.

I don't bet. Particularly with people who can't pay.

Anyway, it's been fun battling with you but I've had enough for now. You should save your energy and ire for the condo board!

Best of luck with your fight, seriously. I hope it all works out for you.

urbandreamer
2007-Dec-18, 21:16
You guys are hilarious and make me wonder: one of you may be Stinson and the other Mirvish?

This is UT; not a war zone:)

screenplaying
2007-Dec-18, 21:48
Anyway, it's been fun battling with you but I've had enough for now. You should save your energy and ire for the condo board!

Best of luck with your fight, seriously. I hope it all works out for you.

Thanks, Investor. I was hoping you'd calm down a bit in the I-Z1 battle here. I kinda liked your spunk over in the 1BE thread. You should focus your energy on issues where you're not in a blatant conflict of interest position. The Burka project makes me laugh as much as another banned-for-discussion-on-UTF-project that had that name attached to it. But if I got involved with commentary I'd probably be facing another ban. Censorship gets way too exhausting after awhile... (flinging sarcasm at the holier-than-thou censors WHO WERE 100% IN THE WRONG is quite fun, though). :p

I do respect you letting us know about your developer bias. It makes your posts more honest (in that we can place some of the motivation) as opposed to others here that hide their affiliation.


You guys are hilarious and make me wonder: one of you may be Stinson and the other Mirvish?

This is UT; not a war zone:)

C'mon urbandreamer, this kinda stuff is much more fun, informative and good for UT and the public at large. Although we could still use a ton more details from everyone.

You guys gotta come out of this deluded protective shell you believe envelops you. It's an illusion way too easy to shatter. I could post a link to the outside internet world. Send a few of you scurrying. Or I could just yell BOO! and a couple descriptive words and a few guys here would shit their pants. Your audience is not just those posting here. If you want that kind of false security, go join the closed Facebook bunker that was created for ya.

rbt
2007-Dec-19, 12:29
Even if it takes four pages to finally spew forth the truth. ;)

If you actually want help solving your problems a great place to start is people to deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis. Developers, property managers, etc. are good places to get advice.

Frankly, "investor" probably has exactly the knowledge you need - the list of people you need to get into contact with and steps required to determine the extent of, and rectify, the problems.


I took an experience condo salesperson with me for my first PDI and they caught a large number of things that I never would have thought of looking for. The fact I got my Tarion book, with instructions of what to look for, after doing the inspection was a great reason to have the expert on hand. Expert advice isn't always good advice but sometimes it can be very helpful.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-19, 15:13
If you actually want help solving your problems a great place to start is people to deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis. Developers, property managers, etc. are good places to get advice.

Sorry to interject rbt, but you're advocating blind trust. And you're deeming anonymous forum posters to be experts in whatever given field (over and above other posters/readers). I myself deal with insurance companies every day. The amazing observation? It's a sick cult. You should watch Sicko (http://www.sicko-themovie.com/) to somewhat understand. The adjusters are brainwashed into believing that they can do no wrong and that their opinions and decisions are always 100% correct. I can sit here with a legislated 'rulebook' in my hand and only wonder if the person on the other end of the line was ever asked to read it. I'm sure the developer clique is just as delusional when it comes to their own superior knowledge.

Here's a test... Have BuildTO comment on my MILLION PLUS Jenkins case (that I'll guess he already knew the outcome of - sure there's still a chance that it might not be the one he was referring to - but he won't tell me!)... and have Investor send his business card info to I-Z1 privately. That way some more 'trust' and value can be attached to UTF freebie 'advice'.

investor
2007-Dec-19, 16:48
Sorry to interject rbt, but you're advocating blind trust. And you're deeming anonymous forum posters to be experts in whatever given field (over and above other posters/readers). I myself deal with insurance companies every day. The amazing observation? It's a sick cult. You should watch Sicko (http://www.sicko-themovie.com/) to somewhat understand. The adjusters are brainwashed into believing that they can do no wrong and that their opinions and decisions are always 100% correct. I can sit here with a legislated 'rulebook' in my hand and only wonder if the person on the other end of the line was ever asked to read it. I'm sure the developer clique is just as delusional when it comes to their own superior knowledge.

Here's a test... Have BuildTO comment on my MILLION PLUS Jenkins case (that I'll guess he already knew the outcome of - sure there's still a chance that it might not be the one he was referring to - but he won't tell me!)... and have Investor send his business card info to I-Z1 privately. That way some more 'trust' and value can be attached to UTF freebie 'advice'.

This place is appealing because of the anonymous nature of the posts. So I'm a 'developer'. You have no idea who I am and I like it that way.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-19, 18:06
This place is appealing because of the anonymous nature of the posts. So I'm a 'developer'. You have no idea who I am and I like it that way.

I've spent enough years online discussing things with people that I've never met. The only way you ever learn anything about the 'real' people behind the words and their motivation is by meeting and challenging their ideas head on. The odd kernel of truth slips out sometimes. Silence also speaks volumes as well. I wasn't suggesting you trade personal info with Investor about your situation. Just teasing that if Investor believes he knows best, he could put his name and number to it (who knows, he might be involved with the same developer). He only admitted the 'developer' part because of that throbbing vein on his forehead coupled with a bruised ego, anyway. I don't think either of those 'challenges' that I mused about stand a chance. It's just so much easier playing anonymous computer chair quarterback... spoutin' off about spelling, grammar, dicktion and the proper 'procedures' for filing complaints that the city and developers could give two shits about. The system is built to muzzle you and protect 'them'. The internet doesn't conform to that setup as well as they'd like.

In the meantime I am curious as to which developer contributed to you condo problems... that's my nature. Asking questions. Maybe one day you'll publicly write about the whole experience and really frighten those beholden to the almighty can-do-no-wrong developers. I mean if that earlier article Walt posted wasn't connected to your situation. That story was really messed. :)

screenplaying
2007-Dec-19, 18:39
My apologies to both Investor and I-Z1. I did a quick quote/respond without realizing who I was directing it at. I guess it's missing an intro line which totally confuses the post. My response is directed at I-Z1 .

rbt
2007-Dec-21, 17:58
Sorry to interject rbt, but you're advocating blind trust. And you're deeming anonymous forum posters to be experts in whatever given field (over and above other posters/readers).

There are a number of real-estate experts on this board in various modes. Whether investor is one or not doesn't really matter. A kind, courteous manner toward all advice (good and bad) may lead somewhere useful.

I never advocate blind trust. I do advocate putting all advice given into a pot, shake it a bit over a trash bin, and keep the good parts that stick. Taking advice, then saying "thanks", is very different from considering it and following it.
certainly won't step forward at this point.

Battling in forums certainly won't solve the problem and spooking away lurkers who may have good resources (pro-bono real-estate lawyer or a lawyer who may be interested in a class-action against the developer/city) is actually a step backward.

rbt
2007-Dec-21, 18:12
I'm not sure why you've got the impression that I haven't spoken to any of these peoipole, for the past 5 years?

He may have, unfortunately, without knowing the details, Investor basically blamed me for the problem, not believing that the city or a developer could actually do anything wrong.

I believe you have spoken to many people in the past 5 years but those were obviously the wrong people.

I would have been tempted to ask investor about his credentials in private message then invite him over for coffee. I am very doubtful it will solve your problem but it sounds like you need some new ideas on the approach to take; or at very least an idea on how to get out of the place without taking a huge hit.

If the condo corporation is found to be responsible and the issues are as severe as you believe, then you can count on getting a few special assessments in the tens of thousands of dollars. Reserve funds in the last 5 years will not cover major infrastructure changes.

rbt
2007-Dec-21, 18:13
Which thread are you reading?

BTW, PM means Private Message...if you really wanted information.

I don't want info. I cannot help you.

I-Z1
2007-Dec-21, 20:31
I believe you have spoken to many people in the past 5 years but those were obviously the wrong people.


I see, so the cheif building inspector for East York, was the wrong person to speak to about bulding inspections? The fire marshall, also the wrong person?
Who do suggest I speak to?


Reserve funds in the last 5 years will not cover major infrastructure changes.

Maybe not, but class action law suites against the city for their poor inspection, and the developer for their fraudulent activity might.


I would have been tempted to ask investor about his credentials in private message then invite him over for coffee.

Why, he seemed to have made it clear that he's an investor...no help to me.
When he finally admitted to being a developer, he became rude and unhelpful...as expected from a developer.


I don't want info. I cannot help you.

OK, then why do you keep asking for more info in your posts?

Again, I'm sorry to have offended the building inspectors and 'angel like' developers in this forum...perhaps if they were honest with their intentions, arguements wouldn't break out like this.

investor
2007-Dec-21, 21:49
I see, so the cheif building inspector for East York, was the wrong person to speak to about bulding inspections? The fire marshall, also the wrong person?
Who do suggest I speak to?



Maybe not, but class action law suites against the city for their poor inspection, and the developer for their fraudulent activity might.



Why, he seemed to have made it clear that he's an investor...no help to me.
When he finally admitted to being a developer, he became rude and unhelpful...as expected from a developer.



OK, then why do you keep asking for more info in your posts?

Again, I'm sorry to have offended the building inspectors and 'angel like' developers in this forum...perhaps if they were honest with their intentions, arguements wouldn't break out like this.

Dude, some advice from an investor/developer/manager/financier/human being:

Your behavior is incredible rude. With the attitude that you've adopted it is no wonder why you are having these problems. Some constructive criticism is for you to try and have some respect for your fellow man. You have demonstrated absolutely none of it here so I suspect that in the 3rd dimension you'd have the same problems.

rbt
2007-Dec-22, 11:58
I see, so the cheif building inspector for East York, was the wrong person to speak to about bulding inspections? The fire marshall, also the wrong person?

You still have issues and as I understand it, based solely on your description, little momentum to getting them solved. That makes them the wrong people unless you managed to get their opinions in writing so you can start building a legal case.

You say you were "told" by the inspectors they can't do anything. Told implies to me that they didn't give you written opinions. Did they even record the visit?


Who do suggest I speak to?

Someone who knows how to move political and legal gears. If you were around St. Clair, I'd suggest someone like Margaret Smith of "Save our St. Clair".

Your local councillor might help and if they won't, contact Rob Ford (sit in his office) and describe the issue and that your councillor won't help. They can't do anything directly, but they might give advice on how to approach the issue.


Toronto is supposed to start appointing an ombudsman starting 2007 as part of the new City of Toronto Act (2006). Don't know if they have yet or not but this office is specifically intended for complaints like yours (city staff not doing their job). Your councillor should be able to tell you how to contact them.

If you had solid documentation, Toronto's Auditor General might be able to assist you as this kinda comes under "waste of funding", particularly if there is a pattern of inspections being done improperly and not just a single inspector at your building.


Maybe not, but class action law suites against the city for their poor inspection, and the developer for their fraudulent activity might.

I wondered about that as well. Of course, this requires a number of expert witnesses with lots of well documented proof of the issues.

Since you cannot afford a lawyer, you need to put together a solid case before one will take it with their payment based on damages paid by the guilty party.

BuildTO
2007-Dec-23, 19:50
Having been on this forum for years and having gotten to know quite a number of the regulars in person, I took for granted that I could relate an anecdote and that people would simply trust me to have my facts straight. Being accused of spreading urban legends is something of a shock, but more so is the condescending tone of a couple of trolls in this thread.

I know I have my facts straight and I'm not obligated to prove it to anyone, and I'm not at all inclined to make any effort to satisfy the curiosity of people who never learned the social skills to phrase their doubts diplomatically.


Dude, some advice from an investor/developer/manager/financier/human being:

Your behavior is incredible rude. With the attitude that you've adopted it is no wonder why you are having these problems. Some constructive criticism is for you to try and have some respect for your fellow man. You have demonstrated absolutely none of it here so I suspect that in the 3rd dimension you'd have the same problems.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

screenplaying
2007-Dec-23, 23:50
Having been on this forum for years and having gotten to know quite a number of the regulars in person, I took for granted that I could relate an anecdote and that people would simply trust me to have my facts straight. Being accused of spreading urban legends is something of a shock, but more so is the condescending tone of a couple of trolls in this thread.

I know I have my facts straight and I'm not obligated to prove it to anyone, and I'm not at all inclined to make any effort to satisfy the curiosity of people who never learned the social skills to phrase their doubts diplomatically.

Wow, there is so much great stuff going on in this quote! I'm picturing a senior in an old-folks home, thinking he's in 1950 and complaining that his cornflakes smell like shit, when in actuality it's his diaper that's in need of a change. :rolleyes:

Yes, you took it all for granted... comfortably surrounded by a clique of friends that allow you to spout off 'advice' without backing it up when questioned.

I guess the shock and awe contributed to your forgetting to comment on the Jenkins case... did I get it right? Just say no and I'll go chasing the goose again. :)

Oh, and I should get offended on everyone's behalf about the 'troll' accusation... but I won't... because it's Christmas... and trolls just aren't part of that 'legend'.

Condo Madness
2013-Dec-27, 04:02
There is some very good information on this thread about distressed condos.

The original article is as relevant today as it was six years ago. Just the number of known distressed condos have increased.

We will have to see if the proposed changes to the Condo Act will help condo owners.

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-28, 17:21
There is some very good information on this thread about distressed condos.

The original article is as relevant today as it was six years ago. Just the number of known distressed condos have increased.

We will have to see if the proposed changes to the Condo Act will help condo owners.


There is some very good information on this thread about distressed condos.

The original article is as relevant today as it was six years ago. Just the number of known distressed condos have increased.

We will have to see if the proposed changes to the Condo Act will help condo owners.

Condo boards also include condo owners, ya know. :-)

I hate the "us-vs-them" attitude a very small percentage of our owners take against us board members -- as if we operate against our own interests. In my 20 months in this building, seven of which were on the board, I have learned that most folks are content to come and go and leave the worrying to others, a small percentage steps up to contribute to a flourishing community, and maybe half a dozen or so form an obstructive, destructive cabal that takes up a vast chunk of our time which is all volunteered.

It's tough enough to deal with all the physical problems in an older building, changing demographics as the original residents die off or must live on fixed incomes while richer downsizing boomers come in, and our money. The last thing any condo needs is people who dominate board attention and make us spend money on lawyers.

As to the subject of this thread, it's a matter of balance. People can't have it both ways: low fees and a building in which nothing leaks or breaks down.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-30, 11:32
Having spent that past couple of years on a condo board, I agree with your summary above :) Having been involved with boards and committees in general for many years, I've found that the best way to get a know-it-all, loud-mouthed troublemaker to be quiet is to ask him/her to get involved. They either stop talking or they find out that it isn't as inexpensive/easy/quick to get things done as they thought.

I have always appreciated people who ask tough questions, but people who just like to get others riled up are a complete PITA

Davidackerman
2013-Dec-30, 13:58
Great comment. My experiences exactly. There's no shortage of complainers. But scarcity of doers

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-30, 14:20
Having spent that past couple of years on a condo board, I agree with your summary above :) Having been involved with boards and committees in general for many years, I've found that the best way to get a know-it-all, loud-mouthed troublemaker to be quiet is to ask him/her to get involved. They either stop talking or they find out that it isn't as inexpensive/easy/quick to get things done as they thought.

I have always appreciated people who ask tough questions, but people who just like to get others riled up are a complete PITA

They are sometimes worse that PITAs. They are also serious time and MONEY wasters, people who cost the entire community because, unable to handle petty complaints (e.g. noise) in a normal, friendly manner, they call their lawyers.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-30, 14:25
True enough. My favourite: I am going to sue the corporation for putting a lien on me because I forgot to pay my maintenance fees.

Yeah, you go right ahead with that ....

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-30, 15:25
True enough. My favourite: I am going to sue the corporation for putting a lien on me because I forgot to pay my maintenance fees.

Yeah, you go right ahead with that ....

Yeah, meanwhile, your lawyers are billing you $300-plus an hour.

The worst are those cabals that actually include lawyers. Bad lawyers.

js97
2013-Dec-30, 16:38
They should make all Condo owners attend/read/review basic condo knowledge and write an exam.

Majority of owners know very little and this would most likely improve engagement management and support of these corps.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-30, 16:52
Probably my biggest pet peeve is people not understanding that they live in a community with shared facilities which requires some rules. Or actually my bigger pet peeve is probably people who do ridiculous things requiring that rules be created in the first place. :)

Not everyone is cut out for condo living but you should do your homework and know what to expect if you choose to live in one.

As Ex-MG noted, condo owners should remember that board members are also owners (generally), but some board members also need to remember that they are representing all owners, not just themselves.

doug
2013-Dec-30, 17:49
Not all condo boards are as good and professional as you are.
I'm aware of a particular board that completely ignores requests for basic maintenance, such as a leaking roof drain pipe that passes through a suite. This is a common element, it does not serve one suite exclusively, as this board claims.
After exhausting all other avenues in mitigating noise, a resident asked their board to enforce the noise bylaws. The board ignored all requests until lawyers had to be involved.
Ordering the installation of flooring in a common element hallway, to take place between the hours of 11PM and 6AM is not necessary or considerate to residents. No attempt to coordinate the installation with residents was attempted.
Not all condo boards are the same, i'm glad yours are professional and responsive.

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-30, 17:51
Probably my biggest pet peeve is people not understanding that they live in a community with shared facilities which requires some rules. Or actually my bigger pet peeve is probably people who do ridiculous things requiring that rules be created in the first place. :)

Not everyone is cut out for condo living but you should do your homework and know what to expect if you choose to live in one.

As Ex-MG noted, condo owners should remember that board members are also owners (generally), but some board members also need to remember that they are representing all owners, not just themselves.

Funny you mention that. One among us needs constant reminding ... In fact, I and another member were just discussing how to handle this. I wish we could vote this person off the board island. If only the rest of us could tell all the residents the truth.

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-30, 18:06
Not all condo boards are as good and professional as you are.
I'm aware of a particular board that completely ignores requests for basic maintenance, such as a leaking roof drain pipe that passes through a suite. This is a common element, it does not serve one suite exclusively, as this board claims.
After exhausting all other avenues in mitigating noise, a resident asked their board to enforce the noise bylaws. The board ignored all requests until lawyers had to be involved.
Ordering the installation of flooring in a common element hallway, to take place between the hours of 11PM and 6AM is not necessary or considerate to residents. No attempt to coordinate the installation with residents was attempted.
Not all condo boards are the same, i'm glad yours are professional and responsive.

I am sorry to hear of your pain(s). And I am well aware of the fact that not all boards are the same. That's why I felt I had to run. People have to step up or shut up. Not that I am perfect, but I am hard-working and committed. And I can say the same of three out of the other four members, all of who bring differing skill sets to the table. The fourth, unfortunately, won a popularity contest. Thankfully, the rest of us can minimize the damage caused.

The thing is, people can't expect good boards to just happen. Every resident has a responsibility to ensure that the best people get on the board, by asking questions (what do you stand for? what are your skills? etc.) and by helping those people win by distributing leaflets, talking them up to neighbours, organizing meet-ups in their suites or party rooms or whatever.

I think too many condo owners are content to sit back, not attend meetings, not get involved, then allow issues to get out of hand and, only when matters are out of control, start to do something. Sometimes that something is sell out and move, which drives down values for all.

Maybe it's because I am a former house owner that I understand what is involved in taking responsibility for one's property and investment. Maybe I am just a control queen. All I know is, it's too damned important for me to trust just anybody with my home and money.

doug
2013-Dec-30, 18:13
Maybe it's because I am a former house owner that I understand what is involved in taking responsibility for one's property and investment. Maybe I am just a control queen. All I know is, it's too damned important for me to trust just anybody with my home and money.

I agree, I bought a house....an old one, that needs lots of work, but at least I can prioritize what's necessary, and do the cosmetic stuff when time an money permits.
Not necessarily true in a condo.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-30, 18:28
Not all condo boards are as good and professional as you are.
I'm aware of a particular board that completely ignores requests for basic maintenance, such as a leaking roof drain pipe that passes through a suite. This is a common element, it does not serve one suite exclusively, as this board claims.
After exhausting all other avenues in mitigating noise, a resident asked their board to enforce the noise bylaws. The board ignored all requests until lawyers had to be involved.
Ordering the installation of flooring in a common element hallway, to take place between the hours of 11PM and 6AM is not necessary or considerate to residents. No attempt to coordinate the installation with residents was attempted.
Not all condo boards are the same, i'm glad yours are professional and responsive.
As Ex-MG says, I also felt the need to run because I know I'd have a lot to say, so I might as well do it in an official capacity :). Also, I don't trust anyone else to look after my investment! (are we twins?)

We are in a good situation now after having a couple of do-nothings and in-it-for-my-resume types on the board that fortunately resigned of their own accord. Having a well-respected board can also encourage good candidates to step forward because the "good" people want to be on an effective board. On the other hand, sometimes it's hard to get people to run when a good board is in place because people are happy and don't see the need to run, but I firmly believe that change is a good thing and people shouldn't be on a board for all eternity.

I strongly support some of the proposed changes to condo law that will require property management to be certified and I believe also require directors to do some training -- you do need to know what you're doing on any board!

Condo Madness
2013-Dec-30, 18:37
The root problem is that the Condo Act is self-policing. So if there is a dispute between the board and an owner, the lawyers are called in.

There are owners who are hit with $40,000 to $73,000 legal bills from the condo's law firm on top of their own legal fees when they lose a court case. For sure owners lose far more often than they win.

On the other hand, when a board ignores an owner's just complaints, they are leaving themselves open to an expensive lawsuit. The oppression remedy that an owner has can be expensive. One owner in a condo on Gerrard has started a $1 million suit against the condo corporation. She already won an award of about $60,000 because the board would not deal with noise from an upstairs tenant.

I am very reluctant to advise people to start legal action. It can spin out of control and become so expensive, so quickly.

As far as having a rogue director on the board, as long as the majority constantly out votes him/her, you can live with it. It is when idiots, or worse, gain the majority, that you have a serious problem.

Every board is different. Some are great and they work well together. Others will wreak a building in a very short time.

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-30, 22:30
The root problem is that the Condo Act is self-policing. So if there is a dispute between the board and an owner, the lawyers are called in.

There are owners who are hit with $40,000 to $73,000 legal bills from the condo's law firm on top of their own legal fees when they lose a court case. For sure owners lose far more often than they win.

On the other hand, when a board ignores an owner's just complaints, they are leaving themselves open to an expensive lawsuit. The oppression remedy that an owner has can be expensive. One owner in a condo on Gerrard has started a $1 million suit against the condo corporation. She already won an award of about $60,000 because the board would not deal with noise from an upstairs tenant.

I am very reluctant to advise people to start legal action. It can spin out of control and become so expensive, so quickly.

As far as having a rogue director on the board, as long as the majority constantly out votes him/her, you can live with it. It is when idiots, or worse, gain the majority, that you have a serious problem.

Every board is different. Some are great and they work well together. Others will wreak a building in a very short time.

Our problem is not a rogue so much as a self-entitled arrogant egomaniac. For example, in the aftermath of the blackout, this person demanded special treatment from management. The rest of us had to put a stop to that. We did all the heavy lifting to ensure our building functioned as best as possible under some very difficult circumstances while this person just took credit and glad handed. Interestingly, this person has been on the board for many years while the rest of us have served a year or less.

Anyway, about training for board members. I would submit only under pressure. I give enough time, more than enough time, and can recite the current Act cold. I also try to stay on top of the law, including case law, via this forum, Condo Madness and other Internet sites.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-30, 22:52
Our problem is not a rogue so much as a self-entitled arrogant egomaniac. For example, in the aftermath of the blackout, this person demanded special treatment from management. The rest of us had to put a stop to that. We did all the heavy lifting to ensure our building functioned as best as possible under some very difficult circumstances while this person just took credit and glad handed. Interestingly, this person has been on the board for many years while the rest of us have served a year or less.

Anyway, about training for board members. I would submit only under pressure. I give enough time, more than enough time, and can recite the current Act cold. I also try to stay on top of the law, including case law, via this forum, Condo Madness and other Internet sites.
Very few new condo directors know much about the act (or their own condo declaration) and would benefit from training. If you can cite the Act, I'd say you're the exception.

The CCI offers courses. The intro one is only a couple of hours and can be done online. It provides basic info on the role of a director which is often news to people new to a board.

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-31, 02:53
Very few new condo directors know much about the act (or their own condo declaration) and would benefit from training. If you can cite the Act, I'd say you're the exception.

The CCI offers courses. The intro one is only a couple of hours and can be done online. It provides basic info on the role of a director which is often news to people new to a board.

Thanks. I'll check it out. I was told I'd have to give up my Saturdays (and early in the morning at that!) to haul my sorry butt up to somewhere in North York for 8 hour seminars. Nooooooooooooo way.

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-31, 08:01
Those are the advanced courses, and even then I don't think they are 8 hours long, but it could be wrong. I had an email floating around from just before the holidays. I'll see if I can find it. We did the intro course as a group a couple of years ago. I think it was two one hour webinars.

ETA: Found the email. The intro course is 2 1 1/2 hour webinars; there is also a 3 hour in person course (Thursday night) about governance issues, running effective meetings, common problem areas, etc.. There is a "level 200" course that is more intense and runs for 2 Saturdays, all day -- lots of detail covered on insurance, service providers, etc.

IMHO the intense course would be more beneficial for boards that operate without a PM. The intro course webinars were a good overview for people new to condo boards.

There's also a law firm (Fine and Deo maybe?) that offers free breakfast webinars on various topics every now and then. For example, I participated in one about pets in condos (we have a lot of issues) that was very informative -- it was about 45 minutes and I just dialed in from home.

DSC
2013-Dec-31, 10:27
The Condo group of Heenan Blaikie also offer free seminars to interested people. They also publish a Condo Newsletter which is often quite useful. It has links to their last few seminar videos. See http://www.condoreporter.com/

PinkLucy
2013-Dec-31, 10:57
Thanks! (maybe it was one of their webinars I took -- I'm thinking it wasn't Fine & Deo -- they do some educational stuff though) There's lots of good information available if you go looking.

Condo Madness
2013-Dec-31, 11:15
Your property management company's district manager may also be a good source of information. Your board should also buy a copy of Nathan's Company Minutes, 10th edition. It is expensive, about $160 including shipping and taxes but you only need one copy. It tells you how you need to run your board meetings and AGMs. A great reference. Marilyn G. Lincoln, the author of a condo column in the National Post has a manual for directors running self-managed condos. It too is excellent. You can find the prices and addresses here:
http://www.condomadness.info/Book_reviews.html

Ex-Montreal Girl
2013-Dec-31, 12:51
Thanks everybody. I will check these out. I am not against education or information. Just getting up in the morning and getting dressed on weekends ...

I am thinking we need condo education for residents as well. Some people think this is like a rental and you can call the super to fix your dripping faucet. Stuff like that. Funny and frustrating.

Condo Madness
2013-Dec-31, 18:53
The board should write a Owner's and Resident's Guide for your building.

It will take awhile but you can do it slowly, updating it with newer editions once a year or so until you have what you need. The writing and editing of the handbook teaches the directors at the same time which is a real bonus. Add the condo's rules and put it online to save printing costs.

The landlords need to know their liability if their renters, or their guests, flood the unit, break the rules or damage the common elements. Many don't have a clue.

Buy a good general management book. Most stuff a board does is general management. Peter Drucker wrote a good one on managing non-profits and on Managing by objectives. His books are great, most of the business books in the bookstores written by celebrity executives are junk. You can find used copies of Drucker's books online at really cheap prices.

DSC
2014-Jan-01, 11:28
Many condos have website with lots of information. Some are closed (i.e. only open with passwords) others are freely available. Quite a few in their area are listed and linked to in the Members' page of the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association. See: http://www.slna.ca/slna-members.html

Ex-Montreal Girl
2014-Jan-02, 16:21
Many condos have website with lots of information. Some are closed (i.e. only open with passwords) others are freely available. Quite a few in their area are listed and linked to in the Members' page of the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association. See: http://www.slna.ca/slna-members.html

Thanks again.

We redid the Welcome Package last year which was a painful process. It contains a lot of the info people need, and could easily be updated and beefed up. But I guess it's attitude I am thinking about.

As for a website, as much as I would love to create one, not yet. I'm guessing that half our residents don't even have computers or, if they do, can't manage much beyond email. It's an older crowd. We do a monthly newsletter and, when we asked people to submit email addresses for PDF instead of more expensive hard copy versions, had virtually no takers.

For example, during the blackout, one elderly couple expressed concern to me that they would miss out on important survival-type info because they don't have a computer. I had to tell them that, even if they did, chances are it wouldn't run at all or for very long, without power.

PinkLucy
2014-Jan-02, 16:57
Attitude is key. You can give people all of the info in the world, but if they don't care or think they are somehow exempt ....

In my previous condo, everyone was provided with both an electronic and a hard copy of the rules, but the favourite excuse was "I didn't know that, I didn't bother to read the rules". Those people will always exist (and sometimes they're the Mayor :) )

doug
2014-Jan-02, 17:27
In a building I lived in, I complained about construction noise occurring between the hours of 7AM and 11PM, despite the condo declaration stating that construction could only take place between 9AM and 4PM, Monday to Friday, a board member responded via our newsgroup stating that the city allows construction to occur between 7AM and 11PM and there was nothing the board could do about it.
6 months later, the same board member complained, via the newsgroup, about construction noise in the building that was occurring between 7AM and 11PM.