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First Step - Fire your property manager?

PinkLucy

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I know of some condos that post the minutes on the property management portals or condo website so owners don't even have to ask (without the confidential info noted above, of course)
 

Condo Madness

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Don't forget that all owners can ask to see Board meeting minutes.
The owners can ask but the board does not always comply. Just because the Act gives owners certain rights, the boards/managers can safely ignore those rights. The Condominium Act is self-policing so if an owner asks to examine certain records, the request must be made correctly and even if that is done, the manager/board can ignore the request.

Then it is up to the owner to take the corporation to small claims court and most owners can't be bothered to go through so much hazzle so they give up.
 
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urbanoverview

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I just moved into my first condo. The second I closed on the deal I could tell something is terribly wrong with the management. Thankfully the building is nice and maintained well enough... that I don't feel blind-sided or regret my purchase. (The building is clean... but only upon closer inspection will you realize there's problems)

But wow are there communication problems with the management. It started off with trying to schedule the elevators... they were so difficult and impossible to deal with such a simple request... my god I work in the rental industry and I'm just shocked at the lack of quality in condo management and professionalism my management company displays... They are severely incompetent. Even a simple request for additional keys to the door/stairwells so that I have a backup set turned into a full blown 6 email correspondence trying to figure out who in the company is responsible to get me copies... least to say... it's been over a month and they still haven't figured anything out.

I've started meeting residence in the elevator as I go to and from work - and everyone gives the impression they hate the management but don't know what to do about it...

So in one month I've learnt that my company is horrible and needs to go... this company has been around since the time the building registered... I've also discovered other buildings the company manages nearby and they're in terrible conditions... so the question is what is my next step? How do I facilitate this process? Assuming I join the board... (I'm highly confident I will be able to do that) how does a board begin the process of replacing the management company?

Does anyone have any experience they can share or help guide me and educate me on what the steps are in the process?
 
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Condo Madness

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so the question is what is my next step? How do I facilitate this process? Assuming I join the board... (I'm highly confident I will be able to do that) how does a board begin the process of replacing the management company?

Does anyone have any experience they can share or help guide me and educate me on what the steps are in the process?
If experience is what you need, I suggest that you start by reading a manual on how to run for the board and how to remove a management company. Start here:
http://www.condomadness.info/contents-disgruntled.html

Start at the beginning
The issue is the board of directors. If they were competent, the management would have been replaced long ago. So either they are lazy, incompetent, complacent or in with management, for whatever reason.

You need to get a majority of directors who think the same as you do. If you go on the board by yourself, you may find yourself to be a "minority director" and the others will freeze you out.

You need to learn how many units are rented. Your status certificate package will give you an idea. It is the owners who vote, not renters and it is possible that some/many of the people you are talking to are renters.

Anyway, read what is on the link above and I am open to give whatever advice I can.
 

DSC

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I just moved into my first condo. The second I closed on the deal I could tell something is terribly wrong with the management. Thankfully the building is nice and maintained well enough... that I don't feel blind-sided or regret my purchase. (The building is clean... but only upon closer inspection will you realize there's problems)

But wow are there communication problems with the management. It started off with trying to schedule the elevators... they were so difficult and impossible to deal with such a simple request... my god I work in the rental industry and I'm just shocked at the lack of quality in condo management and professionalism my management company displays... They are severely incompetent. Even a simple request for additional keys to the door/stairwells so that I have a backup set turned into a full blown 6 email correspondence trying to figure out who in the company is responsible to get me copies... least to say... it's been over a month and they still haven't figured anything out.

I've started meeting residence in the elevator as I go to and from work - and everyone gives the impression they hate the management but don't know what to do about it...

So in one month I've learnt that my company is horrible and needs to go... this company has been around since the time the building registered... I've also discovered other buildings the company manages nearby and they're in terrible conditions... so the question is what is my next step? How do I facilitate this process? Assuming I join the board... (I'm highly confident I will be able to do that) how does a board begin the process of replacing the management company?

Does anyone have any experience they can share or help guide me and educate me on what the steps are in the process?
In most cases there are actually three components to the "property management" and they are: The Company itself, the assigned Manager and the Superintendent. All can be good or bad and if all three do not work as a team the end result will be poor. Each has their own areas of responsibility and if you ask the wrong level about something you may well not get good service. The Manager should always know 'who does what' and should be able to refer things to the right place.
Of course, the elected Board is the final authority and if one has problems is the first place to go. Some Boards hide behind the Manager and are unwilling to talk to other owners and some Managers try to keep owners and their Board apart. Bottom line: If you have problems with "the property management' the best thing is to document it and then ask the Board President if you can attend the next Board meeting to present the 'evidence' - or just talk to him/her one-on-one. If the Board will not help then run for election.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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Lots of good advice here.

A few things I would add:

The condo industry has expanded so fast I don't believe there is a sufficient number of good, experienced, knowledgeable property managers out there who know how to handle both residents and buildings.

I think being a property manager must suck. You're caught between residents, staff and the board, not to mention contractors plus you have to deal with your management company. Now that I am on the board, I can see how overwhelming it must be. Last week for example, we had an issue with a very bullying resident who was not happy with his parking arrangement. He was rude and unreasonable and was calling our property manager horrible things in emails he copied the board on. This was very time-consuming and I must confess that, had it been me in the manager's position, I would have run the guy down in the garage. (Kidding!)

Your property manager is also hostage to the managers who preceded him/her, although that is not the case with you. But, just for example, today we had a resident demand an in-suite repair due to damage caused by the corporation FIVE years ago. There's no question the condo is responsible but it took a lot of digging through the files, now in the basement, to establish that. Still, residents expect that all managers (and all board members) are responsible for everything, even if they were not on the board or even living in the building at the time decisions are taken.

As for talking to the board about replacing this manager, I would urge you to proceed with caution. Managers have bad days and many residents bugging them with petty complaints. The fact that you are meeting many residents beefing about management could indeed be a sign of bad management or something else, like structural issues that are causing big problems that the property manager must deal with. Our board recognizes that, sometimes, our property manager doesn't have the nicest bedside manner but he has a lot on his plate, especially since he is dealing with MAJOR construction and repairs this summer. Also, some people just like to complain.

My suggestion is this, volunteer to set up a committee of residents who would be interested in putting together a "Welcome Package" of info/tips on things like how to reserve the elevator, reno rules, getting keys, even using the common laundry room if there is one. It will not only give you some measure of control but also put you in the board's and management's face. It will also help give you the visibility to run for the board.

You say your building is well-maintained so it can't be all bad, right? :)
 

PinkLucy

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I have also found that asking the loudest complainers to volunteer to help out quietens them down :)
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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I have also found that asking the loudest complainers to volunteer to help out quietens them down :)
BWAHAHA!

I call it the Little Red Hen thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Red_Hen#Plot_summary

But seriously, the more people who get involved, the better it is. I admit this may be easier with an older demographic with more time on its hands. Four of our board members are recent retirees who don't want to be idle. Also, as recent downsizers, they want some measure of control over their homes and investments.

Since I got on the board, we have started three committees and, in the fall, we will be striking a fourth, to rewrite the rules which are a mess and out of date.
 

cruzin4u

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But wow are there communication problems with the management. It started off with trying to schedule the elevators... they were so difficult and impossible to deal with such a simple request... my god I work in the rental industry and I'm just shocked at the lack of quality in condo management and professionalism my management company displays... They are severely incompetent. Even a simple request for additional keys to the door/stairwells so that I have a backup set turned into a full blown 6 email correspondence trying to figure out who in the company is responsible to get me copies... least to say... it's been over a month and they still haven't figured anything out.
I am amazed that it was such a process for you to book an elevator. Do you have concierge/security in your building? I have done some concierge work in a building before and we were responsible for booking the elevators for residents. It was a very simple process. Example - resident requests date and time - we would put them in the computer and provide them with an elevator booking form to fill out. A damage deposit would also be required and that's about it. The process would generally take no longer than 5 minutes. Even for additional fobs, the concierge should be able to handle that. It's another form that is filled out, at which time it would be sent to property management for the OK. That can take a day or two - but should not be as difficult as you are describing. But if you have no concierge or your property management company is incompetent, then I can see the issue there.
 

PinkLucy

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But seriously, the more people who get involved, the better it is. I admit this may be easier with an older demographic with more time on its hands. Four of our board members are recent retirees who don't want to be idle. Also, as recent downsizers, they want some measure of control over their homes and investments.

Since I got on the board, we have started three committees and, in the fall, we will be striking a fourth, to rewrite the rules which are a mess and out of date.
We've also got some committees and try to get people involved, but it does tend to be the same people who step up. They're the ones who stay to lend a hand cleaning up after a social event, who pitch in for spring clean-up, etc. These also tend to be owners rather than renters (we have a fairly high rental mix). But we definitely encourage getting involved and we actively try to foster a sense of community and ownership.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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We've also got some committees and try to get people involved, but it does tend to be the same people who step up. They're the ones who stay to lend a hand cleaning up after a social event, who pitch in for spring clean-up, etc. These also tend to be owners rather than renters (we have a fairly high rental mix). But we definitely encourage getting involved and we actively try to foster a sense of community and ownership.
You're right about the usual suspects angle. But, slowly, more and more people are stepping up, and we've given people who can't give time an opportunity to give money to things like buying new perennials for the garden, or outfitting the party room kitchen etc. Amazing how many people throw in dough.

As for physically working, I am finding that it's more the recently moved in, mostly downsizers, who want to recreate the community feeling they may have had on their blocks, or who just want to feel at home, or make new friends -- especially the retirees.

We do have an older demographic, and very very few renters.
 

urbanoverview

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Ok... so I wrote my initial message here July 30th... It's now 2-3 weeks later and boy oh boy are you guys gonna luv (re: cringe) when I tell you what's been going on since I first posted. I'm definitely going to need some advice from knowledgable individuals.

First off, thanks to everyone so far whose replied, the feedback was very helpful, especially the link provided by 'Condo Madness'. As an aside, I discovered http://www.condoinformation.ca which is a fantastic resource as well.

A bit about me: I am not new to real estate. I work in the residential apartment industry, I've managed buildings in the past and currently work in marketing & customer service for the residential apartment industry (Multifamily residential industry as it's sometimes called). While Condo's aren't residential apartments there's a lot of similarity and overlap, and I'm very familiar with the RTA (Residential Tenancy Act of Ontario). However I am new to the world of Condo's and have begun a huge endeavour to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. I also sit on the board of a local charity for children with special needs as well as two other non-profit boards. So I'm familiar with how boards are supposed to work in the professional working world.

(Unfortunately, I have been very busy with my day job, volunteer work, and my family so I didn't find the time to come on here to write things as they've happened. Albeit I wish I could have)

Ok now to the good stuff, what's happened since my last post:

Saturday August 2nd I come home to find a small paper slip in my door (and one in every door of my floor/building), it said something along the lines of "If you disagree with the "special assessment levy" please contact me to discuss and possibly meet. I don't remember the exact wording, but basically to contact the individual if I was a concerned Owner. Now up until that point, I had just moved in and had only met a few owners/renters. I had not received any communication with the BOD/management regarding special assessments or anything of any sort other than emails that I had initiated for unrelated issues (trying to get additional keys/fobs to the building).

That night (Aug 2nd) I called the number, spoke to the individual on the other side who was an Owner. She told me that July 28th the BOD decided to enact a Special Assessment fee on every unit because the corporation budget is in a deficit of almost 40k. In fact it was approximately 20-30k and was expecting by financial year end to be around 40k in budget deficit. Thus they've decided on a Special Assessment of 40k to correct the issue. Considering that no advanced notice of this was given the Owner was very concerned and wanted to find like minded owners. I told the Owner that I had not received the letter, and was unaware of the issue or that a special assessment was issued. She soon sent me a scanned copy of the letter with the details.

I was shocked. How grossly incompetent is the BOD and the Management company... the BOD for not giving any advance notice and due 2 days later in August.. (it amounted to a bit more then the typical maintenance fee for each unit) and the Management company for failing to deliver a notice to all the owners. (That whole week I had been emailing back and forth with the Management company on some issues I was having... in fact I had sent them proof of ownership for an unrelated issue earlier that same week! The administrator who sent the letter our was the same person I was dealing with... they somehow neglected to mention this very crucial item.

Anyhow, two days later the owner who left notes at every door held a meeting in their unit and about 15-20% of the building attended. Everyone was concerned, and I learnt that everyone had problems with the way the building was being managed. I heard all sorts of issues being brought up. By this time, the BOD heard people were upset and scheduled an "informal" town hall meeting the next Thursday with the auditor/accountant... unfortunately I was working late that day and couldn't attend. I did have someone take notes for me and fill me in afterwards. Anyways long story short, nothing happened from the meeting. People were just upset. Especially those owners who didn't receive the letter.

I feel bad for the older residents who are on fixed income... this extra special assessment will be difficult for them.

Oh and by the way... August 11th or 12th was when they sent the letter about the special assessment again, saying that due to complaints that some owners didn't receive the first letter (during the town hall meeting) they were sending a second. This smells of more incompetence... I'm wondering if it is this even legal? Isn't there some sort of required amount of time they must give in order to collect special assessments? In residential apartments you need to give 90 days notice before any increase in rent... yeah I know this isn't the RTA... lol.

Anyhow, so I'm wondering what to do and my next steps... sounds like gross negligence or incompetence from the previous BOD's and some of the current BOD's.

Thankfully the reserve fund is ok... the building seems clean enough... but the place is so clearly mismanaged. I need some help and advice from knowledgeable people.

First and foremost: Do I have to pay the special assessment... according to http://www.condoinformation.ca/owners-money-facts/status-certificate I do not. But if I don't the condo corp will put a lien on me... I'm wondering how do I deal with this... is it better to just pay or should I fight it?

I had my lawyer send the management a letter to say the status certificate had no mention of any upcoming fees... and the management response was the following:

Please note that at the time of purchase of suite XXX there was no indication of a special assessment for this Corporation, therefore there was no mention in the Status Certificate which was issued on April 24th, 2014.

Please note that the owner is responsible for the full payment of the Special Assessment. If payment is not received the property may be liened.
If owners need an extended period of time to provide payment, an arrangement can be made. Payment must be received no later then mid September if advised that they need more time.
So it looks like they've given a bit of an extension. Disgusting of them regardless.

Ok now that I've told you 90% of the story thus far... I'm going to simply list out the outstanding issues I've noted thus far from speaking to people. They're in no particular order... I'm doing this to cut down my post so that it doesn't drag on further.

  1. Individuals who request BOD meeting minutes never get them. Management either refuses to send them, or conveniently "forgets" or loses track of the requests after claiming they need time to edit all the personal information out.
  2. Individuals who request to attend board meetings frequently get declined or get only 10-15 minutes after which they then have to leave and the board resumes its meeting in private.
  3. Two BOD members live in the same unit. While not illegal it's highly unethical.
  4. Those same members who live together own a management company that used to manage the building, but the owners had such a bad experience years ago they replaced them with some other management company.
  5. There's been about 2-3 or 4 management companies over the span of 10 years. I wrote in my first post the current company was the original... I was wrong.
  6. Another BOD member is also a contractor and conducts a lot of work/maintenance around the building... it seems like his business depends on the condo. There is no proof the work he conducts goes out to proper tender. Then again it's nearly impossible to get records or access to information. Albeit the workmanship probably isn't bad... but there's no way to tell if the cost is on par with the industry or if the quality is on par...
  7. The condo corp pays a management fee to the management company... they also pay a fee for a cleaning service which has no official website, email, or actual contact information other than the phone number of the owner of said company... It's two separate companies... effectively we're paying two management fee's it seems like. The fee's seem to be around the same, both approximately 30k-35k each... so net 60-70k... This normal? Also it's frequently a complaint of owners that when they contact the management company, they tell the owner to speak to the site staff (re: cleaning service)... when they go to the cleaning service they're told to speak to the management company... round and round it goes.
  8. The management company does not respond to the owners when they are contacted. One owner even tested out calling on an unblocked number vs blocked number and found that blocked was promptly picked up, however their personal number was almost always ignored.
  9. The management and BOD do not enforce the rules at all. Unless it serves them. Numerous situations... I won't list them.
  10. The building owns a handful of parking spots in the garage, they're meant to be rented as a source of income... BOD members have been using them free of charge. Least to say the condo is not making income on it.
  11. The previous treasurer defaulted on his mortgage and maintenance fees. Bank foreclosed on his condo. He was never ejected as a member the entire time he had a lien as per the condo declaration/by-laws. Failure of the management and BOD.
  12. The manager/management frequently takes vacation and never has anyone fill in or back his responsibilities. Last year he went on vacation during the big flooding. The building next door flooded and there was potential for imminent collapse of their underground... in order to alleviate the issue the engineer/fire marshal/whoever needed to get access to our building and permission to knock a hole in the wall to let the water drain into our underground. Naturally the manager was no where to be contacted, the management company had no emergency line and was un reachable... the board members dealt with it and let insurance deal with the aftermath of the flooding of the condo underground. Yes peoples lockers were flooded and their items ruined. Furthermore they provided no communication on the issue. People discovered the problem from visiting their lockers or speaking to neighbours.
  13. There's frequent flooding on the 5th floor and the lobby floor from pipes in the wall. The building is less then 15 years old. Seems like they're not getting the job right by paying someone to do it properly... they're using bandaid solutions.
  14. One owner mentioned that a few years ago he discovered the BOD/contractor knocking a concrete wall down in a suite. Possibly a load bearing wall. No proof of board approval or engineering report to support it would have no negative effects on the building. He was just doing it as a job.
  15. The brilliant treasurer who had his unit foreclosed on instructed the management company to claim any damages over $500 to insurance. Not to pay for it out of the contingency fund or the budget. That's akin to claiming insurance on your car for every nick and scratch your car gets. Premiums skyrocketed... hence budget deficit this year... When board members were asked how this was approved (requires at least two others to approve) no answer was given and no meeting notes were provided when requested regarding the meeting where the decision was made. There's only 5 board members... so 2 more clearly said yes to this, yet no one seems to recollect... not even the Building Manager.
  16. Personally, I've tried to get keys to the building and both management and cleaning crew don't know how to get new keys... they're special secure keys so locksmiths won't cut it without a special security code.
  17. I discovered that when they provided the Status Certificate while I was purchasing the property... the Management Contract they provided has only 2 pages out of at least 16 from what I can tell... I wanted to check if the condo defined what services the management was specifically responsible for... apparently my lawyer missed that, I guess I hired a bad lawyer. :( too late now. I haven't even bothered to ask the management company to send me the rest... I figure they wouldn't send it even if I asked nicely. Plus I don't want them to know I'm investigating everything.
  18. There is a significant lack of communication from the BOD to the residents. Meeting times, schedules... pretty much nothing is public or transparent.

The funny thing, my wife and I wake up every morning loving our actual condo unit more and more. We love our unit. The building is relatively clean and my floor is quiet... we couldn't ask for better neighbours or anything... but clearly there's deeper problems that need to be fixed... Clearly if we want to continue to be happy I need to get involved and down to the bottom of the problems.

Anyhow I wrote a lot... there's just so much and I don't even know where to start anymore. It's very overwhelming.
 
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PinkLucy

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Ouch. I see a ton of red flags going on here from conflict of interest to unethical practices to incompetence to possible fraud. Are you sure you want to live there? I applaud you for wanting to get involved because you've got an uphill battle ahead of you
 

urbanoverview

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I don't have a choice at this point. Trust me, if I would have had a better lawyer that would have investigated the status certificate more... I probably wouldn't be here... or if my two references for the building hadn't been the most uninvolved owners ever... yeah apparently the two owners I know here are not involved in anything... so of course the building is a decent building to them.

Anyways, I'm stuck here for now. So I'm not going to whine and complain without trying to be proactive and fix things to the best of my ability. I don't have much of a choice but to resolve the issues.

The good thing is that I work in the residential apartment building industry, and I'm heavily involved with customer service and marketing... and I have director and board management experience... so I am quite possibly perfectly equipped to handle fixing all the issues this condo has...

Then again... depends how big the push back is...
 
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