Issues with Condo Industry Interest Groups

Condo industry interest groups are associations that represent condo lawyers, builders, various trades and professionals whose income largely comes from condos, and management companies as well as managers. These groups are very active politically in order to retain their advantages over condo owners. They lobby the government very persistently to make sure that, if there is a new and improved Condo Act, the changes will not reduce their bottom line; above all, they want to retain control over management licensing and education, directors' education, and any institution the government would put in place to provide oversight and direct help to owners. Recently, they have tried to be as influential as possible in the reformulation of the Condo Act. Largely, their interests totally conflict with those of owners.

Letter: I am the owner of a small management company in the 905 area but after a great deal of consideration, I have refused to become a member of condo industries, as you correctly call them, groups and associations because these are such incestuous groups that just hang together to protect each other’s backs rather than serve condo owners, even if they’re supposed to uphold various codes of ethics. But this situation isolates me somewhat and makes it harder on me to find competent contractors to service my condos because, also, I don’t take kickbacks. It is also very hard on me not to give in to pressure to hire managers that are dishonest or incompetent “rejects” from other condos and I tell my managers, “OK, you take the RCM course if you want but you stay out of the politics and the dishonesty and the small self-congratulatory groups of condo professionals and contractors that go around and exploit condos.” It’s difficult to fight the trends.

—January 2013, 905 area, ON

Letter: I have read the Legislative Brief you submitted to the government. I want to add that I don’t understand why CCI and ACMO don’t want to help improve rights of condo owners: what they propose would make our lives even more difficult. Even when the Condo Act is improved (and I am not holding my breath with the type of government we have, they could have done this way sooner) we will still need managers, condo lawyers and various services and suppliers. I just can’t understand what they are afraid of? They won’t lose business. I guess that they just want to control us, it’s both an issue of power and also an issue of the fact that right now they abuse our rights and the money is flowing in their direction like a broken tap. These groups are dishonest and I can see it in my own condo because we have to fight the manager for every reasonable request we make and of course, then she gets very angry at us and some of us have received letters from that condo lawyer  with threat of lien if we don’t pay up and this manager is an  RCM and her management company is listed with ACMO and you should see how fast money is leaving us with her pet contractors and the board is way too ignorant and too in awe of the advice they receive from her pet contractors to say anything. They have all these projects to improve our building and it’s not an old building, and most of these “improvements” are useless and they are looting our reserve fund to do this. One board member new on the board and a good neighbor before told me he couldn’t talk to me any more and he was afraid of the manager and her management company and he was afraid of the president. If we had a fair condo act, us owners could quickly receive some help.

— January 2013, Toronto

Letter: I have worked in condos in various capacities, making my way up very easily because there is no accountability and condo companies do not oversee the activities of their personnel in condos because all they care about is keeping their contracts with condos. If you get in trouble in one condo, there is always another one where the board is naive, doesn’t like to work too hard, and the owners are kept ignorant, and you’ll do your mischief in that other condo. In my capacities, I have seen a lot of the things other readers write about and contractors like to spell the beans, even their own, but the honest ones will be very happy to read your website and the fact that the entire dishonest situation is out in the open. But that doesn’t mean that the government will do anything about it. I guess they don’t want to lose all the lobby money, if you see what I mean.

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: I have read your Legislative Brief and you are right to try to compensate for the proposals that these groups make. [names deleted] say that they want to change the condo act but they want it only to an extent, just so that it does not change managers' work and ethics and education, keeps giving plenty of business to their lawyers, allows them to retain control over boards, and keeps their suppliers in the loop for lucrative contracts. I ought to know because I am one of them and once you are one of them, you lose sight of other realities and your "principles" and sense of ethics change to accommodate the interests that you serve. If they knew that I read your website regularly and now wrote you, I would become an outcast.

— January 2012, Toronto area

Letter: Our manager is not behaving ethically [details eliminated in order to preserve this owner's anonymity as he/she is afraid of reprisals] so we wrote a letter to this organization that has given her the RCM title she has. They just wrote back that what we have is an issue of procedures and not of ethics. But her "procedures" were unethical! I wonder what a manager needs to do in their eyes for it to become unethical? Kill someone? This organization is there just to protect the interests of management companies and theirs.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: Our board is paying to be a member of an organization that is more than useless because they side with boards, no matter whether a board is competent or incompetent, and I would say that [name deleted] is a fraud because they say that they represent owners' interests and this is plainly not true because owners don't have a say in whether or not their boards become members on our behalf and they go on and advise our government about condo issues that don't threaten their piece of the pie and keep owners without rights. In addition, we have to pay a fee and I checked and it is quite steep and I don't see it reflected in the financial statements. I also object to the fact that [deleted] puts boards in touch with various contractors that are members and this constitutes a conflict of interest.

— January 2012, Markham, ON

Letter: I have been a manager for many years and I felt vindicated when reading your description of what managers should do. It’s a win-win situation and there would be no losers if management companies and groups such as [group names deleted] were on the side of owners rather than trying to cover up for the gains they are making because the Condominium Act is so poorly regulated. I cringe when these groups say that they work on behalf of condos; they work on behalf of their own interests. How unprofessional.

— August 2009, Toronto

Letter: Although I think that your website is the best and it is unique of what is available to inform condo owners, you are too objective or perhaps the word too impartial is a better one: you should not delete names but should name those groups such as [name deleted] and [name deleted] because they are misleading owners. Owners should know of groups that represent themselves as speaking on their behalf when they are not—otherwise owners will think that someone is looking out for their best interest when they are not. Do the right thing.

— October 2009, Markham, ON

Answer: The goal here is to educate people about facts and need for change: This website documents the need for condo acts to be reformed to protect owners, not only in Ontario, but everywhere else in Canada. It also documents the need for licensing managers, regulating management companies, obtaining some form of government or quasi-government oversight, and so on. Getting involved in "politics" would damage the primary goal of education and would make this website less credible. As well, these groups [names deleted!] do fulfill some functions, and there is hope that things may change one day because these interests groups should be able to work with owners, rather than against them, toward the protection of owners. You are the third person who mentions this. This website cannot be the answer to everything: It has a limited set of goals. But things may change in the future... However, overall, it would be preferable if associations of condo owners took up this issue: The information contained in this website would be a useful tool in their activism.

Updated January 2013: I have since received other letters complaining about such groups. More recent ones also warn about some "associations of condo owners" that actually do not represent individual owners but corporations, which is quite different.

Genuine associations of condo owners do not generally sell products and do not include professionals who work in the "condo industry." They allow owners to join individually rather than just presidents, boards, or corporations. They are active in reforming condo acts in various provinces on behalf of owners rather than on behalf of their own vested interests.

I would welcome receiving the names of genuine (and currently active) owners' associations that exist in all the provinces and include them in the Links section. In Ontario, CAFCOR is the only group that truly represents owners' interests and does not have a conflict of interest. In British Columbia, VISOA is a very active condo owners' association.  Both of these can be found in the Links.

Letter: I read that your Condo Act in Ontario may be updated and I wanted to tell you that our Strata Act in BC was also updated a few years ago but there was one interest group [name deleted] that pretended to represent the interest of condos which did us a lot of damage and resulted in a very diluted updating of the Srata Act. If you are not careful, the same thing will happen to you in Ontario because this group actually represents the interests of builders, management companies, condo lawyers, auditors, large contractors and other stakeholders that benefit from condos. This group will certainly make a representation on behalf of “condos” and they are better organized than condo owners are and they have the money.

— August 2009, Vancouver

Letter: I have heard that [name deleted]'s policy behind closed doors is to try to change the condo act to force boards out of their volunteer role and have them replaced by what they call professionals and these people would be paid by owners. They think that this would be the solution to all the problems that condos face. One can understand why they think so because, by professionals, they mean lawyers, various contractors, and large management companies. In other words, they want to put in place all those who are members of their group which I believe lobbies the government when condo issues arise to make it look that it is the boards that are incompetent. Are you aware of any of this?

--February 2011, Ottawa

Answer: Yes. But, as stated elsewehere in this website, and as indicated in all the letters of complaints about various professionals in Readers Respond, condo professionals are not the answer to condo problems: As a group, they have conflicts of interest in view of the fact that they earn their money through condos and their problems. As well, many boards already include among their members a lawyer, a manager from another company, or a plumbing or electrical contractor, or an accountant, or a banker. Yet, these professionals, once on the boards, in many case, are no more ethical or competent than other persons. In fact, at times, quite the contrary happens. The principle of volunteer boards of directors is excellent. The problems lie in loopholes in the Condo Act, lack of oversight, lack of education and licensing of managers as well as regulation of the management industry itself.

The principle of volunteer boards of directors is excellent. The problems lie in loophones in the Condo Act, lack of oversight, lack of education and licensing of managers as well as lack of regulation of the management industry itself. Click here for What Should Be Done to Improve Condo Governance and Help Owners?

Letter: I saw in a magazine for condo managers [magazine name deleted] that their discipline committee has handed down a reprimand to a management company. A very rare move on their part but, wait! Before you say “about time!” What is this reprimand about? Don’t hold your breath. It’s about a member of a management company that left that company and took with him two condos and started his own company. Ok, this may not be a great business practice to “steal” clients from your former employer and that’s not what my complaint is about.

But would it not be nice if a management company or a manager was reprimanded for unethical behaviours or poor management practices or mistreatment of owners? I could give you 10 examples of such by companies and managers that are on their “accredited” list. This association of managers brings in reprimands only in cases where a friendly management company’s interests have been adversely affected. What about us owners?

I think that this is a good example of what you suggest in your sections suggesting that management companies should be regulated and managers licensed and professionalized. These associations currently only promote their own interests and I bet it’s all internal politics in terms of who they protect. I am a manager but keep my mouth shut and it wouldn’t be good for me to be open about this.

— August 2009, Ontario

Letter: Our government (and I mean all parties) should be doing something rather than nothing to provide condominium owners with consumer protection. Condominium Owners not only need to battle their MPPs for reform but they need to be aware of the power struggle and lobbying effort on the part of organizations like [group names deleted] who claim they represent the individual condo owner. Condo owners need to get involved before more of their rights are trampled upon and control of the board of directors (and your home) is taken over by paid professionals.

— August 2009, Windsor, ON

Letter: I am/was a manager and I am all in favour of a stronger Condominium Act but I know how hard some groups work against this or how hard they work so that only clauses they can live with are changed or inserted. I am one of those managers who is proud of her work that you talk about in the pages on management and I don’t understand why improving the lot of condos and condo owners should not be a prime goal for these groups.

Let me put this differently, these groups are resisting and lobbying only because they are afraid that a better condo act with stronger powers will diminish their own power. If I were a management company I would want to be in charge of a professional-type of company rather than constantly have to defend myself against charges that I am incompetent and unethical and this is what stronger regulations would accomplish. Oh I understand that, from their point of view this would diminish their power and reduce their conflicts of interest. I guess that this is the point. But it’s a real shame.

— August 2009, Burlington, ON

Letter: These people in [organizations’ names deleted] should be ashamed when they represent themselves as “condo organizations” and governments that listen to their representations should be defeated in the next elections. They actually benefit from owners’ problems as created by weak consumer legislation so, of course, they don’t want the legislation improved.

— August 2009, Hamilton, ON