Problems with Owners

Readers may also want to consult the letters under the section of "Troublemakers" and "Traitors" as they are relevant to the discussion herein.

Between July 2009 and the end of December 2013, a total of 3,009 persons representing over 33% of all condo corporations in Ontario wrote to this website. Fewer than 60 owners were reporting problems with other owners and a bit over a dozen directors were also doing so. In fact, far more board members and managers wrote about other difficult and unethical board members and managers than about problematic owners! Of course there are difficult owners in all condos as there are difficult people in other types of neighbourhoods! A competent board who communicates well is generally able to deal with them. 

Of the 60 or so complaints from owners about other owners, most concerned noise or the fact that other owners had turned against them when they had tried to have their own rights and those of other owners respected or when they had requested that a bad board be removed. 

Indeed, it bears repeating that owners are not sufficiently involved with their condos. As well, depending on their location in a building and their preferential treatment by a board or manager, owners are often totally unaware of problems that are affecting other owners (noise, for instance, or mistreatment by manager or board),  or the financial situation of their condo, particularly issues of conflicts of interest, kickbacks and fraud.

It should also be noted that boards and managers have the help of condo lawyers against problem owners. In contrast, owners do not have such help against dysfunctional boards and managers...even though they are the ones paying fees! In fact, most of the time, the condo lawyers support bad boards and managers against the owners.

Letter: We are so lucky in my condo because we have a good board and manager and I think that we have a good board because the people we elect know that once they are there, us owners will make them accountable. You see, this is a relatively older condo and most of us are resident owners and also have been here since the beginning and are retired or near retirement. Everybody here is aware of the Condo Act and now of your website. We read all the documents that the manager gives us. We have long bulletin boards where are posted the minutes of board meetings, the financial statements, the contracts that are signed for various repairs and maintenance as well as due explanations. At AGMs, the board knows full well that we will ask questions and have long added a pre-budget meeting two  months before the budget is fully drawn so that the board can discuss matters with about 10 of us (they ask for volunteers each time and we have a sign-up sheet at the desk) and take our questions. So we are blessed but we owners take our responsibilities seriously.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: I feel so helpless. My mother lives in an older but very nice condo that is mainly populated by seniors and they have had the same board and the same president for years and years and that's the problem. That president deludes these elderly owners into thinking that he is their friend and that they need to vote for him each time because of solidarity. However, although the condo is well maintained, the fees are extremely high and there are many holes in the audited financial statements for work that does not seem to have been done and other work that was done but is way overpriced compared to what contractors in our own condo would charge for. This old president struts his stuff like a peacock around, gets favours from the manager and the superintendent such as having his carpets cleaned regularly and some wood paneling done and his lightbulbs changed by the super while the super doesn't do it for anyone else unless they pay up $50. I have tried to help some more realistic and less gullible owners that my mother knows to be honest to requisition a meeting but the board came down so hard against them, harassed them and harangued them so much that I felt guilty and gave up. But if more of these owners were able to stand for their rights, things would change rapidly because most of the owners live here. In a way, it's owners' fault that this is happening but it's also their age and need for security. My mother is too frail to move out except to a seniors' home but it would kill her to do so at this stage because she is still independent. So she is stuck there.

— January 2012, Toronto

Answer: Yes, indeed, your mother is in a bad situation and I am afraid that, under current unhelpful legislation regarding the Condo Act, there is actually little that can be done for her at this point.

Added for Readers: This letter has been placed in the category of Problems with Owners because, to outsiders and often to other owners in the same condo, it seems that a large population of seniors is a problem because these persons often fall victims of charlatan boards or presidents. Seniors in condos are no more a problem than other owners of all ages: It is simply that they are more vulnerable. However, please see the preceding letter.

Letter: We are desperate because our condo is deteriorating in terms of maintenance, grounds keeping and upkeep because the Board refuses to increase fees and our reserve fund is quite low. There are children screaming and running around at all hours, sometimes from other neighbourhoods and they do damage to cars and corridors and staircase but we can't complain because nearly all of the owners belong to the same group and they get very offended if we complain about anything and we are frankly afraid of them. The police often comes to the place and we have had several management companies and I am told that no one wants to manage this place because owners don't understand the issues and stick together like glue and don't respect Canadian laws that, I think, they don't understand them and they are used to law breaking and bribery in their own country of origin as something natural. So the newspapers talk about the price of condos going up in Toronto but this doesn't apply much to us. My wife is ailing and this place is bad for her health but on the other hand, selling and moving out may be too much for her, so we both feel so trapped and isolated and in a few years this condo will be a total slum and hopelessly stretched out financially. The best thing would be for me to buy another one, move my wife in it and then sell this one on my own but I just don't have the money to do so. I wish the government came and cleaned this place up.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: People buy condos and waltz right in without a care in the world. They think it’s an apartment building and once they close the door of their apartment someone else is responsible for the rest. They don’t read notices; they don’t attend AGMs, they don’t read the budget; they don’t ask questions until it’s too late and their fees are going up and away. (I am an owner.)

— August 2009, Mississauga, ON

Letter: Owners are to blame for their problems. I have tried repeatedly to talk to people in my condo development about problems with the Board of Directors but they look at me as if I was being impolite or uncharitable or as if I was inventing this. Some even think that I have personal problems with the Directors but I don’t. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I know that our investment is not secure when preventive maintenance inspections are not carried out, fees are too low and the budget is very tight with no room for the slightest emergency.

— August 2009, Toronto

Letter: Last year, I moved from my older condo into this 5 year-old one. With my previous condo, the president of the board was very active, visible, and communicative. [He/she] got everyone involved in various projects from recycling to organics to energy savings to food bank donations to following rules. [Her /his] platform had been one of communication and he/she would arrive at the AGM and tell us that he/she would give us the good and the bad news. We always knew where we stood in terms of our finances and problems and the quality of life was excellent. But I had to relocate for my new job and here at this newer condo, I just went to my first AGM and there was no one and it had to be adjourned. It was chaired by a lawyer and the president knew nothing and seemed not to care much. I noticed that a lot of their projects are failing and also that he doesn't communicate.

I am writing this because owners were very aware and participated a lot in our condo life in my previous condo and here with the same demographics, no one does and rules are disobeyed and it's dirty because the people in charge don't know how to comunicate and get us involved. People that move in condos expect to have nothing to do, I get this; but it's the job of the board of directors to educate them. You can't go on and blame owners when nothing incites them to be more responsible citizens, they don't even know in my new condo that they have to be responsible. Let's stop blaming owners!

— February 2011, Ottawa

Letter: I am a manager and I do my best but some owners and tenants are very stressful, they want everything disregarding the cost and the impact on others in the building, and refuse to follow simple rules of politeness, cleanliness and noise. This seems to happen more in some condos, those that have boards that don’t show leadership or just don’t want to work or just want to be reelected and want to be popular. I have also once inherited such a condo because it was the manager that had not done his job, wanted to take it easy and ended up catering to rude behavior and allowing all kinds of rules to be broken and even payments to be way overdue. A manager should be accountable to the people but catering to rude and demanding residents is no way to be accountable.

— October 2009, Windsor, ON

Letter: I am totally frustrated by all the problems we face in my high rise and especially by the fact that owners don’t seem to be able to get together and create a movement to force the government to strengthen the Condominium Act so that it will become more effective. Other groups lobby the government against us so why can’t we get organized? Totally frustrated and wanting out of condo residence.

August 2009, Toronto

Answer: Your frustration is shared by many. However, there are mitigating circumstances that prevent owners from turning into an effective lobby group on behalf of their own needs and interests.

First, most condos have large proportions of tenants: Absentee owners often live all over Canada and even the world and are difficult to reach. As well, because they are not living in their own condo, they don’t have the chance to experience its problems firsthand.

Second, as many of the letters clearly illustrate it, an owner who might try to organize others may end up being badly treated, indeed, by a manager who feels threatened or by a vindictive board and even by other owners who, as some readers have reported, think that he or she merely has “personal” issues with the board. Added February 2011: Some of these owners have received letters from the condo lawyer to cease and desist or threatening them with legal action for one reason or another. Please click here for "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Third, even resident owners are difficult to reach. So the question remains: How to reach owners and organize them?

Fourth, owners are “sold” a lifestyle that is allegedly devoid of responsibility and concerns and, in theory, this should be partly true. But the reality is totally different because condos are not regulated. Owners who “bought” into this notion often get involved only after a real financial catastrophe happens, such as when there is a special assessment or their fees go up by %%%. (For additional information, please read other chapters in the general contents of this website.)

Last but not least, whenever an owners’ association is formed, it is by volunteers who soon run out of time because of other commitments. And in contrast to other lobby groups mentioned by many readers—lobby groups with deep pockets--these associations of volunteers have very little money. Consequently, they can’t pay experts, including lawyers, to draw up presentations to legislative bodies or organize campaigns on behalf of owners. Added February 2011: Beware of interest groups that purport to represent owners when actually they merely represent their own industry or corporations--as we see in so many letters, a condo corporation may not even act in the best interest of owners, either via its board or its management. Click here for Issues with Condo Industry Interest Groups.