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Special Assessments - questions and advice needed

rbt

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City as in the general market. Toronto's fees are on average higher than vancouver's for some unknown reason. Seems like a lot of the newer buildings are going up quicker and faster but so are the maintenance fees due to lack of quality construction. It's a market feedback that needs to occur eventually or maintenance fees will continue to rise as developers build ridiculously unnecessary amenities that do nothing more than sell a unit initially but leave residents with huge climbing fees.
Amenities which can generally be removed or modified by the owners if they want to reduce their fees. Step #1 can be to fire 24/7 security and close the pool which would reduce fees by about 1/3rd.

Some buildings like One St. Thomas seem to purposefully keep their maintenance fees high to keep out the riff-raff. They don't actually have much in the way of services, yet have fees nearly double psft other buildings. $2M for the unit (1200 sqft), $1800/month for property taxes, and $1500/month in condo fees.
 
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TheKingEast

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City as in the general market. Toronto's fees are on average higher than vancouver's for some unknown reason. Seems like a lot of the newer buildings are going up quicker and faster but so are the maintenance fees due to lack of quality construction. It's a market feedback that needs to occur eventually or maintenance fees will continue to rise as developers build ridiculously unnecessary amenities that do nothing more than sell a unit initially but leave residents with huge climbing fees.
I look at condo fees in some condos and have no idea how they're so high. I had a condo where I had to pay for my own heat pump, there were 0 amenities a part time concierge and paid $420/month for a 715 sqft 1 bedroom. No parking, no locker.

Think there really needs to be a hard look at maintenance fees and where they really go. How are contracts determined? I'm certain someone's making some extra money.

Condo fees are going to cripple a lot of people in the coming years. I have no doubt. These all glass buildings are not efficient. The speed, cheapness and lack of quality that go into building these towers have special assessment written all over them. There are a few newer developments that already have them. Scares the hell out of me as a condo owner.
 

marsh

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An owner cannot call a meeting of the Board but owners CAN call a Special Meeting of ALL owners. Take a look at the Condo Act http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_98c19_e.htm

46. (1) A requisition for a meeting of owners may be made by those owners who at the time the board receives the requisition, own at least 15 per cent of the units, are listed in the record maintained by the corporation under subsection 47 (2) and are entitled to vote. 1998, c. 19, s. 46 (1).


Form of requisition

(2) The requisition shall,

(a) be in writing and be signed by the requisitionists;

(b) state the nature of the business to be presented at the meeting; and

(c) be delivered personally or by registered mail to the president or secretary of the board or deposited at the address for service of the corporation. 1998, c. 19, s. 46 (2).

Thank you - this is very helpful. This is what I'm trying to do call a meeting of all owners.
 

rbt

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Thank you - this is very helpful. This is what I'm trying to do call a meeting of all owners.
It should be noted that this special meeting will have a similar cost to the corporation as your annual general meeting. If your board is against this action, they'll play up this cost ($5k or whatever) as being unnecessary and impacting next years budget.

The last few special meetings at my building didn't even get quorum, so they had the full cost of the meeting and zero impact because a vote on the contentious issues couldn't be taken.


If you do get the 15% to call a special meeting, try to ensure you get quorum to ensure the meeting is actually useful.
 
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marsh

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It should be noted that this special meeting will have a similar cost to the corporation as your annual general meeting. If your board is against this action, they'll play up this cost ($5k or whatever) as being unnecessary and impacting next years budget.

The last few special meetings at my building didn't even get quorum, so they had the full cost of the meeting and zero impact because a vote on the contentious issues couldn't be taken.


If you do get the 15% to call a special meeting, try to ensure you get quorum to ensure the meeting is actually useful.

Hi, thanks for you response? I've got the 15% threshhold. How much is needed for quorum?

Do you know how Special Assessment are typically handled? Are they subject to a Vote or can the Board just impose them at will. Also, the Board is advised they are going to wipe out our Reserve Fund to fund these repairs - apparently the Special Assessment isn't enough. Again, can they do that without any vote from the owners?

Thanks



Can you clarify - what costs were charged?
 

DSC

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Hi, thanks for you response? I've got the 15% threshhold. How much is needed for quorum?

Do you know how Special Assessment are typically handled? Are they subject to a Vote or can the Board just impose them at will. Also, the Board is advised they are going to wipe out our Reserve Fund to fund these repairs - apparently the Special Assessment isn't enough. Again, can they do that without any vote from the owners?

Thanks



Can you clarify - what costs were charged?
The meeting quorum is set in the ACT.

50. (1) A quorum for the transaction of business at a meeting of owners is those owners who own 25 per cent of the units of the corporation, unless a by-law registered in accordance with subsection 56 (9) after this subsection comes into force provides that the quorum is those owners who own 331/3 per cent of the units of the corporation. 1998, c. 19, s. 50 (1).

You should check your By-Laws to see if they went above 25% but I doubt it. Remember, even if you get a quorum the owners meeting cannot change the Special Assessment as Budgets and Assessments can only be set by the Board. You CAN (and should) demand a full explanation and you could try to remove Directors so that you end up with a Board who will NOT impose an assessment.
 

rbt

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I've got the 15% threshhold. How much is needed for quorum?
This depends on your building bylaws. Usually 25% but there are also lots of buildings where it is 50%.

Do you know how Special Assessment are typically handled? Are they subject to a Vote or can the Board just impose them at will. Also, the Board is advised they are going to wipe out our Reserve Fund to fund these repairs - apparently the Special Assessment isn't enough. Again, can they do that without any vote from the owners?
These are going to be answered by your condo bylaws.

Can you clarify - what costs were charged?
Someone to take minutes, meeting space, management overtime, security (it was a vote to oust the board; quite heated), legal advice including having the corporations lawyer at the meeting as a moderator, photocopying/mailing out notices, etc. Probably a few other things but off the top of my head that's what I can think of.

It'll be roughly the cost as your Annual General Meeting as it has nearly the same requirements if you want an owner vote.
 

rbt

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great thread , another reason people should avoid old condo building/townhomes...
With new buildings you get fight over whether to sue the developer for incomplete work or not; with the not side being employees/friends of the developer who were given insider deals on units early on.
 

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Anybody who thinks condos should be cheaper than owning a house is nuts. You pay for convenience. Forget the amenities. I am talking about not having to spend weekends with leaf bags, or staying home from work between 12-6 (for example) because that's when the furnace repair man said he'd be there, or booking a termite inspector and waiting for him, or finding somebody to clean your eavestroughs or get the squirrels out your attic. The list goes on. These are services you get that are paid for in maintenance fees.

We pay our maintenance fees which cover heat, hydro, water tax, and full digital cable with two boxes included. We have all the amenities. I( love that the only bill I have is for my phone, internet and city taxes. That too is a convenience. Bill paying! UGH!

But enough about condo fees. It's like arguing over the Middle East.

I think your board, present or past, screwed up big time. UD2 gives a good explanation as to why. Balconies are an expense that you see coming from Day One. You know they will need to be replaced in x years and every RFS should point to that year.

How many contractors bid for the job? What kind of balconies and railings are being planned? Maybe the board is going for solid gold? I would definitely look into the specific plans.

And I completely agree that expecting people to cough up $10k in two months is unreasonable. Perhaps you can look into the corporation borrowing to do this to allow owners to pay over a year or two. Not the best solution but I have heard of other condos doing this kind of thing. This of course will look terrible on the status certificate.

If you hold a meeting, I suggest you prepare yourself by going through the last few RFS plus the minutes of every meeting for the past 10 years to see what was said about balconies when.
 

marsh

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The meeting quorum is set in the ACT.

50. (1) A quorum for the transaction of business at a meeting of owners is those owners who own 25 per cent of the units of the corporation, unless a by-law registered in accordance with subsection 56 (9) after this subsection comes into force provides that the quorum is those owners who own 331/3 per cent of the units of the corporation. 1998, c. 19, s. 50 (1).

You should check your By-Laws to see if they went above 25% but I doubt it. Remember, even if you get a quorum the owners meeting cannot change the Special Assessment as Budgets and Assessments can only be set by the Board. You CAN (and should) demand a full explanation and you could try to remove Directors so that you end up with a Board who will NOT impose an assessment.
Thanks again for your response - I did do some research on my own and also found this. We understand we can't change the Special Assessment or the use of the Reserve Fund. We are just completely blindsided and want a detailed explanation of what is going on. I sent an email to our Board and property manager yesterday advising them that we have petitions from over 50% of the owners and asking for a meeting in accordance with Act and asking for confirmation as to where I can deliver the petitions. I know its been less than a day but haven't heard anything and feel they are deliberately stalling. (How long does it to take to say for a board member to send an email saying drop off the petitions at my condo at such and such a time?) or for the property manager to say I'll be in the office on such a day come by then. (she's in every day). Will follow up tomorrow. But I"m getting really pissed.
 

marsh

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This depends on your building bylaws. Usually 25% but there are also lots of buildings where it is 50%.



These are going to be answered by your condo bylaws.



Someone to take minutes, meeting space, management overtime, security (it was a vote to oust the board; quite heated), legal advice including having the corporations lawyer at the meeting as a moderator, photocopying/mailing out notices, etc. Probably a few other things but off the top of my head that's what I can think of.

It'll be roughly the cost as your Annual General Meeting as it has nearly the same requirements if you want an owner vote.
Thanks again for your helpful information. I will check the bylaws.

None of the owners want this to be a confrontational meeting - we are simply seeking information. One of owners is a member of a club and she has donated the space at her club to hold the meeting. We have asked if the project consultant could attend, and so I understand there will be a cost associated with that and expect that the property manager will probably attend, and so that is another cost. Understand the mailing/photocopying charges etc. But hopefully it won't get too expensive.
 

marsh

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Anybody who thinks condos should be cheaper than owning a house is nuts. You pay for convenience. Forget the amenities. I am talking about not having to spend weekends with leaf bags, or staying home from work between 12-6 (for example) because that's when the furnace repair man said he'd be there, or booking a termite inspector and waiting for him, or finding somebody to clean your eavestroughs or get the squirrels out your attic. The list goes on. These are services you get that are paid for in maintenance fees.

We pay our maintenance fees which cover heat, hydro, water tax, and full digital cable with two boxes included. We have all the amenities. I( love that the only bill I have is for my phone, internet and city taxes. That too is a convenience. Bill paying! UGH!

But enough about condo fees. It's like arguing over the Middle East.

I think your board, present or past, screwed up big time. UD2 gives a good explanation as to why. Balconies are an expense that you see coming from Day One. You know they will need to be replaced in x years and every RFS should point to that year.

How many contractors bid for the job? What kind of balconies and railings are being planned? Maybe the board is going for solid gold? I would definitely look into the specific plans.

And I completely agree that expecting people to cough up $10k in two months is unreasonable. Perhaps you can look into the corporation borrowing to do this to allow owners to pay over a year or two. Not the best solution but I have heard of other condos doing this kind of thing. This of course will look terrible on the status certificate.

If you hold a meeting, I suggest you prepare yourself by going through the last few RFS plus the minutes of every meeting for the past 10 years to see what was said about balconies when.

Very good points. I'll have to see what if anyone has old copies of the reserve studies and annual meeting reports. All I know is the last couple years the Board started talking about balcony repairs but didn't get into a lot of specifics. The most recent Reserve Study underestimate the cost of balcony repairs (I"m told they didn't factor in the cost of scaffolding which apparently is quite expensive), but that was descrepancy wasn't discovered until last year when tenders went out for the work and the estimates came in substantially higher. So things were put on hold. We were advised of the strong possibility of a Special Assement but that's it. Honestly the questions you have asked are the questions we would like answers to - how many contracts were tendered; what are the balconies going to look like (we have no idea); what actual work is being done etc. You have no idea how frustating to be told to come up with $10,000 in 1 months or 2 months time plus they are depleting the reserve fund without any idea of what is happening. So no matter or status certificate is going look like crap. And to replenish the reserve fund is going to mean substantially higher fees. They decimated our property values in one swoop.
Anyways, thanks for input and letting me vent.
I had read horror stories about other buildings and never thought it would happen here. I had been on our board briefly and generally thought our board was doing a decent job and there haven't been any significant changes in the composition of the Board since I left. But maybe it is time for a change.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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Very good points. I'll have to see what if anyone has old copies of the reserve studies and annual meeting reports. All I know is the last couple years the Board started talking about balcony repairs but didn't get into a lot of specifics. The most recent Reserve Study underestimate the cost of balcony repairs (I"m told they didn't factor in the cost of scaffolding which apparently is quite expensive), but that was discrepancy wasn't discovered until last year when tenders went out for the work and the estimates came in substantially higher. So things were put on hold.
Something about the cost of scaffolding sounds familiar. I am pretty sure it came up in the past year or so somewhere else on this forum.

Here's what I don't get. Scaffolding should be a huge expense for a highrise, especially one with balconies on two-three-four sides. But didn't you say you are townhouses?

Also, another factor with scaffolding is the electrical costs associated with operating them. They are usually absorbed by the condo, not part of the contract per se. So make sure your board has allowed for those as well, as part of standard operating/utilities costs.

Finally, don't just review the AGM minutes. Shoot for the monthly board meetings and, in particular, those that precede the budget decisions, like when they decide to raise fees. For us, we announce the fees hikes in December, and we spend September to November reviewing the budget. So, if we were to be deciding on balcony issues, that would be when they would show up in the monthly minutes.
 

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