What Should Be Done to Improve Condo Governance and Help Owners?

There is wide agreement among groups of owners, especially those who have encountered problems, that condos as a category of residence suffer from serious difficulties--as illustrated in the letters posted in Readers Respond.

The problems that plague condos largely depend on the insufficiency of Condo Acts.

But let’s be realistic here: before the Act is reformed, before the government provides oversight, before managers become professionals, and management companies meaningfully regulated ... years will elapse. In the meantime, more modest steps can easily be taken that would nevertheless be most helpful.

Stop-Gap Measures

There are a few urgent changes that could be implemented in the meantime and that do not depend on changes in the Condo Act. Various groups and individuals could act  upon them as stop-gap measures. Unfortunately, this depends on  good will.

Changes for Boards:

  • Boards of directors should be better informed about their legal duties and take them more seriously.
  • Turnovers within boards, for one president to another, should include information meetings between previous president and new president as well as between previous treasurer and new treasurer--as is the case for any large business, which condos are.
  • Owners should be informed that such turnovers have taken place with satisfactory results.
  • Boards should communicate regularly and truthfully with owners and be more accountable to them.

A shift in mentality on the part of boards and managers is needed so that owners are informed more fully and are allowed greater access to documents. Secrecy needs to be replaced by transparency and accountability. Boards and managers should understand that the monies they are spending are owners'!

Changes for Managers:

  • Management companies should become more responsive to condos’ needs and accountable to boards of directors and the corporation (owners).
  • Managers should act ethically, in the best interest of all owners, rather than simply protect their contract with a particular board.
  • Management companies and managers should disclose conflicts of interest regarding companies and contractors. Gifts from these contractors should be substantially reduced and monitored.
  • When there is a change from one management company to another, the new company should encourage its managers to first learn about the building, its past, its technology, its problems and strengths, so as to adapt management practices accordingly and move forward more quickly.

Changes for Lawyers:

We need more firms of condo lawyers servicing condo owners exclusively rather than condo corporations and management companies. This would greatly help reduce potential conflicts of interest. It would also increase owners’ access to legal help and their confidence in the legal system.

  • As well, there is nothing that prevents law firms from rethinking how they serve corporations, how some of their lawyers actually work against the good of corporations by standing by boards who are unethical and turning against hapless owners whose only fault is try to have their rights respected. (Click here for letters regarding Issues with Lawyers)

Legislative Changes Needed 

Below are 5 key changes that would require legislation, particularly via a new Condo Act, in order to effect mandatory changes that would not depend on the good will of boards, managers, management companies, and lawyers. Only the outline is presented here.

  1. What owners need is a Special Condo Board, or Office, or Ombudsman, to supervise and enforce the Condo Act. Lack of government oversight, regulation, and enforcement over the condo industry in general and lack of enforcement of the Condo Act is the key problem condo owners face.

As things stand, owners who encounter problems have no one to turn to for solid information and advice. When problems become serious, owners either have to suffer in isolation or consult a lawyer. And, as we see in many sections of Readers Respond,  consulting a lawyer is no easy matter for condo owners.

  1. The Condo Act itself needs to be updated and strengthened. It carries too many loopholes.
  2. The management industry should be regulated and accredited. In addition, managers should become  professionals and receive a proper formal education. They should be licensed.
  3. Condo boards of directors should become more accountable to their orporation and owners.
  4. Building Code standards should be improved and a new home warrantee program should be strenghtened — click here for How To Explain Noise Transmission?

The details for the above outline can be found in the next section on Legislative Changes Needed to Help Owners. Also see the Legislative Brief submitted to the government to strengthen condo owners' rights.


Peace Dove