Issues with Management Companies and Managers


81% of the letters received are about problems caused by managers. Among these letters, just over 50% are also about boards of directors and, as such, appear with other letters pertaining to boards. As well, several letters in Fraud, Kickback and Issues of Conflict of Interest contain letters pertaining to management issues.

Letter: We are a new board, at least three of us and several things have happened. As a starter when we gave a two-month notice to the management company they left six weeks sooner with all the documents including the financials and we had to go to the bank to stop everything and start from scratch with only what the two older board members had. Then invoices have arrived for payment for work done by two contractors but none of us recalls ever having seen them in the building and the invoices are vague and we refused to pay and told them that this was the business of the former management and to go after them because they have all our paperwork. So let’s see what happens with that but that’s not all: the superintendent told us that the manager had paid several times for work that was never done and work that took half the time to do than what was on the invoice. What do we do because the bank has shown us how low our reserve is compared with what it should be we think and how low also is our balance on the regular budget. We should get a new company in a month and we talked with them but they said that before they start we have to clean up our situation because they might have to charge more. Can you please help?

— January 2013, Mississauga

Letter: [The following situation contains several problems and examples of non-compliance with the Condo Act on the part of a manager. The beginning of this letter explains how these owners had obtained the written permission to make some non-structural upgrades to their townhouse a few years ago. As well, they had presented their case in person to the board and had also received a copy of the minutes of that meeting. In the meantime, this board left one by one, and the new board hired a new management company.] The new management company [name deleted] ... everything is different....she has been rude to several seniors, hangs up on them and has refused to attend to their leaking windows that are common elements. But she has repaired the steps of three of the new directors even though they weren’t bad and has allowed them to widen their patio even though it was never allowed before.

She asked to inspect our renovations that were 5 years old even though we told her that we had had permission and when we showed her the letter, she said it was a fraud and she said that the minutes attached never happened ...... Apparently all the paper work from the previous board is gone. We didn’t think that she had the right to do so but to maintain the peace [they accepted]. She took several appointments with us and never kept them and we had to miss work on her account four times. Then we received a letter from the corporation lawyer stating that we had refused entry and that was against the condo act and ended by saying we had to pay this letter. So we phoned this manager and she didn’t return our call and then we just got a lien put on our unit and the short of this is that we are now close to having to pay over $1,800 to get this lien straightened out. I should also mention that this manager each time she talked with us was rude, unpleasant and made us feel as if we worked for her. I tried to talk to one of the new board members but they said that it must be a misunderstanding because she is so “competent,” “so friendly,” etc. I guess she is to them! And she must be to this lawyer. I am wondering if this manager gets a kickback from this lawyer because this is so unwarranted. Please help me figure this out. We feel very insecure here now.

— January 2013, Toronto area

Letter: I was just fired from my management company because I told the Board that the advice they were getting from some of the contractors and suppliers were way off base and we are spending money for nothing because these people are dishonest and they know that the board doesn’t know any better. The Board was very grateful to me and they told me to find new contractors and I did just that with the help of another manager from a nearby building. So I got these to put bids and the Board chose which ones were the best. Then my supervisor heard of this from the previous contractors that are related to them in a business way because they receive a percentage of the invoices as “consultants” .

My supervisor came in the building and ordered me out and there’s nothing that the board could do because they don’t pay me directly and took some records away. My Board then gave my former management company a 60 day notice and they asked me to help them find a company that would hire me. So we are working on this together. In the meantime my former company left the Board high and dry without anyone in the office so I am back there paid by the Board and we have explained all of this to the owners. I’d like for you to post this after I get a new job. [Note: She wrote a few days later to say that her board has found a new management company and she had been hired by this company. In fact, she helped the board evaluate that company!]

— January 2013, Toronto

Letter: We are writing about [the writer's mother], she is now 83, a very energetic and pleasant woman and the problem is her condo manager. Her condo is about 10-14 years old and she has been living there for 10 years and the same president has been there and the same manager. Fees are going up constantly, more staff is added and they do nothing but take breaks, there are contractors in that building on a daily basis and when we visit they often are sitting there doing nothing, when we ask the manager why they are here, she says “it’s none of your business, we are here for this.” They replace things in the lobby, in the garden such as it is, in the party room (before the president’s daughter’s wedding shower, for instance), the guest rooms (before her wedding), and so on and we know that these things don’t need to be replaced. One evening, we both were eating at this expensive restaurant and this same manager was dining grandly with her husband and one of these contractors...! This same manager is mean spirited, rude (especially to the elderly), vindictive, refuses services or waits so long (for water damage, etc), refuses to provide documents and my mother’s neighbor asked to see the other offers from other contractors for expensive repairs to our heating system and she told him that this was board’s business. When he wrote the board through the manager, he received a letter from the corporation lawyer, [name deleted] and he threatened him of a lawsuit if he didn’t stop harassing the manager and board. They tried a meeting last year to get rid of the board to get rid of the manager but the manager again turned to the dear lawyer. Any help you can give us for my mother would be appreciated. 

 — January 2013, north of Toronto

Letter: [This is a long and friendly letter from a manager that ends as follows:] All of this makes it look like all managers are bad and it casts all of us in a very bad light and may hurt our profession.

— January 2013, Ottawa

Answer: Believe me, I know you feel and I wish that I had only nice things to say about managers and management companies (and boards and lawyers as well, for that matter). However, and I have said the same thing for a condo lawyer who was basically expressing the same feelings about how her profession was being cast in these pages, the group that represents management companies and even provides some managers with a RCM, should do due diligence and see to it that its members follow the Condo Act. They should also make it a priority that the managers they train should understand their ethical duties and that they work for owners and not vice versa. Furthermore, they should censure managers and their companies when situations such as those reported to this website occur. But this does not happen--quite the contrary. In other words, so long as the profession itself does not clean its act, well, it is their problem that so many of their members are unethical and unprofessional. They should stop blaming owners and boards--and that's what they do.

Letter: We have had this leak that comes from the roof into our place and it has been going on for over a year and the manager refuses to do anything about it and now we are starting to have mold. I have tried to get in touch with the board but she says that she can't give us their address or email because of privacy laws. Can you help me because I am becoming very stressed out and I am worried about the effects that this has on my husband who suffers from heart problems. I can`t even think of selling because this would be too much for my husband`s health. So we are stuck and I feel terrible.

— January 2012, Ottawa

Answer: I have received so many letters about this problem of managers refusing board access to owners! First of all, you should know who the board members are because they get elected by owners and their names appear in the minutes of any AGM. Second, all owners have the right to communicate with their board. This does not mean that you will get their private phone number, unit number, or email address, but good condos generally have a box or a special email address for owners to write their board. This manager has no right to do this. Please also keep in mind that there may be something else that is going on that she does not want the board or yourself to find out. Perhaps about the financial situation of the condo? As you are dealing with a health issue, you should find a lawyer who will use Sections 134 or 135 in the Condo Act to force the manager to comply and do the repairs.

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 boards. 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 [referring here to some of the letters published in October 2011 in the section on Condo Fraud]. But that doesn't mean tht the government will do anything about it. I guess they don't want to lose all that lobby money, if you see what I mean.

— January 2012, 905 area, ON

Letter: I received a letter from the corporation lawyer telling me to stop harassing the manager. I don't understand it because I have been in contact with her only three times, once I left a voice mail at the office downstairs, another time in person at her office, which I regretted because she was so rude, and the other time in writing, always asking her if she would please do something about the balcony door that is totally broken and lets in snow and rain water in our living area. I read in the declaration that it should be taken care of by the condo. She never returned to me when I originally left a voice mail and when I saw her she said that this would be taken care of “in due time”. Well, I tell you, hello! months! Is this due time! And she never once offered to come and check this out. And now I have this letter that I received a month ago. I am afraid. What can I do?

— January 2012, Ajax, ON

Answer: You have to stay away from that manager. Try to contact the board because they are ultimately responsible. [This owner replied that she was too afraid to go ask the manager for the board`s email. The remainder of my response is to her second letter.] Look in the Minutes of your last AGM to find the president`s name. This failing, you have now waited for 9 months to have this issue settled. You may need to take care of that problem yourself and make sure that it is done properly because they could harass you for something else; and make sure that no one knows that the contractor you will use has come to your unit. But what I am suggesting is not exactly legal because the corporation should be doing this work for you. The correct way would be to get a lawyer to issue a court order, Section 134 of the Condo Act, to force the manager to comply. If I were you, I would also make friends with trusted neighbours and find out if they have problems with the manager and if they know the board. You also want to know if the board stands by this manager, no matter what she does or fails to do. If this is the case, and you are able to be in touch with many owners who are equally dissatisfied, you could organize a requisitioned meeting--but I have now become so used to owners being oppressed after they try to rectify their rights this way, that I am a bit concerned about you if you go that route. At any rate, go and check out about requisitioned meetings in Requisitioned Meetings

Letter: I think that you are letting the “management industry” off the hook too easily. Your presentation on this topic is too neutral to be of real benefit to owners who constantly live under the threat of never knowing what stupid thing their manager is going to pull off next. I have lived in 3 condos in Toronto and Vancouver in the past 10 years and have experienced 8 managers and the one thing they had in common is that they are truth-challenged. It is amazing the lines they give you so that you reach a point where you take everything they tell you with a grain of salt because nothing is ever as they say it is. [For further info, click on What Should Be Done to Improve the Management Situation]

Add to this their constant gossiping about residents, other managers, staff and contractors; management seems to be a very small world where they know the same people, the contractors, the lawyers and whatever. There is a lot of conflict and tension and competition among all these people, a lot of back stabbing, and often this mentality seeps down to boards of directors who just come to resemble their managers. It’s a close system of small intrigues, a hot house of jealousies. I don’t know why they are so competitive among themselves because there are so many new condos and that gives us a supply of openings that we can’t even begin to fill. I also think that the management companies themselves encourage all of this because they seem to be themselves hotbeds of pettiness and paranoia. You are correct that they have to be dragged into professionalism: this is the only way condos will survive. Get some skills, people! Stop being so petty! Grow up! Serve owners! This isn’t a game.

— August 2009, Vancouver and Toronto

Letter: You answered several letters by saying that it's a manager's duty to advise boards. You should be careful not to overstate this duty because some ignorant managers (and in my experience, this represents 75% of them) end up misinforming boards. The manager at my first condo advised the board to install clean outs in many of the suites because of recurrent backups in kitchen sinks and of course, she had plumbers give us enthusiastic descriptions of this necessity. That was two years ago and we've had as many backups and each time there is one, the plumbers rush into a couple of suites, make a mess while cleaning the pipes; it's ridiculous because the only winners in this game are the plumbers. In my second condo, the manager keeps advising the board to have the lawyers write owners that complain about problems (the owners are right to complain) and make the owners pay for these letters. This is so unfair. I could go on but my point is that few managers are truly competent to advise boards on most issues and some managers have conflicts of interest, something we tend to forget because it makes lives easier. So please be careful.

— February 2011, Brampton, ON

Letter: You should provide us with a rating system for management companies from the information that you get from your readers. This would be helpful.

— October 2009, Edmonton

Answer: I am a researcher by profession and taught Research Methods, among other classes, at the university: Doing such a rating would be highly unscientific, unless it was a full blown research project, and that’s not easy to do. (However, when readers do tell me of problems they encounter with their management companies, they often name them.) If this website were to branch out into becoming an arbitrator of quality in management, a “rater,” it might become mired in petty politics and lose its credibility. As things stand, people trust it to provide solid and unbiased information based on general knowledge and the Condo Act. It should retain this format in order to serve the condo community. This does not mean, however, that an unbiased and scientific rating system would not be very useful. It would be. And it should be done separately for each province.

Research Note added February 2011: In the meantime, the government of Ontario had posted a survey on condos. It is a nice survey which allows people to discuss some of their experience as owners. However, there are many problems with this survey. First, anyone can fill it out, including people who are not owners. Second, there is nothing that prevents anyone from filling it out several times from different computers. Third, it contains 13 questions and several of these focus on boards of directors but none on management or other condo industry groups. For these reasons alone, this survey is not valid scientifically and cannot be used to draw solid conclusions. But it is useful to explore the topics examined and could serve as a good basis from which to design a real survey. Added January 2012: The government has refused access to the results of the survey!!!

Letter: I am a property manager and agree with everything you wrote ... and then some! I took a course to become a RCM in Toronto and truth be told I was humiliated by the low calibre of many of my peers. How could they manage a building? I wonder how they even manage to pass the tests. Let me add that management companies themselves are equally at fault. They rarely keep the promises they make (false advertising), many of their senior management are rude and defensive and all they complain about is that they don’t make enough money. Why should condos pay for incompetent service? I already had a B.Sc. and I wanted to be a professional in this field. I recently switched to commercial property management where the standards are much higher and there is less silliness going on.

— August 2009, London, ON

Letter: I want to add something to what other managers have said here, I am myself a manager with a concern for quality [Letter abbreviated] ... I think that management companies are in denial because they can afford to be; they don't know how to attract and recruit good people that could receive proper training and they really can do whatever they want because there are no standards. I also think that the executives at many of these companies aren't well educated themselves and they wouldn't want their managers to be better than they are. That would threaten their security and pride. My advice to boards looking for a competent manager is to put some specific conditions on the contract with management regarding duties and qualifications and supervision and accountability to board because the general contracts don’t say enough, they are just standard and standard is not good enough, it's just meaningless paper.

— October 2009, St. Catherines area, ON

Letter: I have been [letter abbreviated] .. on various boards in two condos, one in Toronto and the other around Toronto, and as such have gone through 6 management companies and 8 managers and it is with dread that I am now faced with yet another search ... It really doesn't matter much that a manager has a RCM title because they are likely to be as incompetent as the others. Let me specify the problems we have had in the past 12 years: managers that can't write, can't post notices that make sense, don't understand a budget, are rude, nasty with owners, with attitude, can't follow instructions, no initiative, dishonest (one was stealing and several were full-time in the lies mode) ...and especially gossipy about board members, no ethics, no training, and often their management companies support them fully and deny that there is anything wrong with them...We had people with a RCM ...and one that was described as "very experienced" by the management company and "educated" but she... was so ignorant that she didn't even know that she didn't know something ... You may be asking if there is a management company that is better than the others? No, there isn't .. [Condo industry groups should ]... Stop talking about the great help and skills that these managers have and start training them before you impose them upon us and create associations that promote this nonsense at the expense of owners. Be honest for God's sake!

— October 2009, Toronto

Letter: We have a new manager and most of us on the Board of Directors are also new. At the second Board meeting, the manager presented us a spreadsheet with a list of things that need to be done this year, rationale, approximate costs, names of contractors, and a timeline. She asked us if we wanted to add contractors to her list because she said that she was going to get quotes before the next meeting where she hoped to have our vote. Then she walked us around to show us each item on the spreadsheet and asked us to study the situation and she hoped to have our approval. On top of this, she told us that we have to follow the Declaration and Rules of the corporation and allow her to have residents respect such. She may have 20 years of experience but isn’t she supposed to listen to our projects and not the other way around? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones to tell her what to do? She’s taking over our job? What should we do?

— October 2009, Ajax/Whitby area, ON

Answer: [The above letter has been abbreviated.] You have a gem of a manager! She is just doing her job and doing it so well: You probably did not know that it’s actually a manager’s duty to advise a board? Unfortunately, not all managers are able to fulfill this function because they neither have the competence nor the experience. (Please click here on Managers and Management Companies for further information.) As well, your manager respects rules and this is so important. Your job as the board is to do exactly what she suggested: Assess her proposals and if you want, suggest names of contractors you are not personally involved with. At the next board meeting, do ask her if either she or her management company is related to any of the proposed contractors, so as to make sure that there is no conflict of interest. Your manager is organized, knowledgeable, accountable, can plan for the future, is educating you (boards have to learn) and is definitely seeking board’s approval for the projects: She is not taking over nor shoving these projects down your throat. If you don't want to keep this gem, please send her my way!

Letter: I am a new manager but I am a quick learner [letter abbreviated] and ... I also have principles. Here is my problem, The president of the board of directors in one of the buildings I manage is creating a lot of problems, and that’s mainly for me because the other directors do what he wants. [gives examples] This is only one example out of many and the worse part is that my management company always tell me to do what the president and the board say to keep their contract.

October 2009, Ottawa

Letter: I am the owner of a relatively small management company and I fail to understand why large management companies do not understand that it is in the best interest of this industry to help condo owners and see to it that management should be better regulated and managers licensed. Managing is not just an issue of money and it’s first of all an issue of pride in our profession. Why do we tolerate incompetent managers? Why don’t we pride ourselves in serving the interests of condo owners? I don’t understand this and I have no respect for this.

— August 2009, Greater Toronto area

Issues of Confidentiality

Letter: I am the former treasurer of my condo and we have had for many years a manager and management company that get involved in politics (small p). I can't tell anything to the manager that she doesn't report to the new treasurer, then he gets all worked up (he's already haughty and paranoiac) and then he writes me and tells me that he will get a lawyer's letter and sue me, yak, yak, yak. Because I am a former board member, I don't benefit from the manager's confidentiality. What can I do?

— February 2011, Oshawa, ON

Answer: Just avoid her unless you need a service. Other former board members have written that, because the current board does not like them, they are discriminated against by the management company, do not receive the services that everyone else receives, and managers gossip about them to the board. Issues of confidentiality arise frequently in letters.

Letter: We have a concierge who behaves as if we the residents are working for him and not the other way around. For instance when we pass through the lobby where he is situated we have to make sure that we are very polite to him, ask him how he is and whatever, otherwise he gets real testy at us the next time around. It has reached the point where many of us use the other door just to avoid him. We can’t talk to the manager about this because he is the one who keeps her well supplied with gossip about us. Can we not get rid of him?

— August 2009, Thornhill, ON

Answer: It would be nice if you could. Gossiping seems to be one of the “risks” associated with this job. Fortunately, not all concierge are like this. Talk to the board about it.

Owner's Reply: For the board, the manager can do no wrong and if we write the board the manager will find out and so will that concierge and he will make our lives miserable. We can’t trust anyone in this building but I must say that the other concierge are not like him, thank heavens!