Feedback From Readers

This website is updated periodically.  However, these updates no longer include posting recent letters sent through the Contact Us feature by condo owners and other interested persons.

The rationale is simply that this is a time-consuming activity and my time is better spent answering the letters. Condo owners need help!  And this help should come from the government, as soon as possible.  AMA


May 5, 2017 Updates!

Who Sends Letters?

5,736   persons  have sent letters between July 2009 and the end of April, 2017.... in other words, by the end of April 2017  we had heard from over 48% of all condo corporations in Ontario.

Note: Beginning in 2014, I stopped updating the statistics below because, after 8 years, the trends have been the same...and I am too busy to continue. The one notable exception for 2014 through April 2017 is that more owners wrote asking for help because they were about to be forced to sell their condo: They had done nothing wrong but their lives were being made too miserable or expensive by a difficult manager or board or condo lawyer. This is continuing even after the passage of the new Condo Act on December 2,  2015.

By the end of 2013, of the letters then received, 2,332 were sent by owners; 437 by current and past board members; 164 by current and former managers; and 76 by current and former contractors and related professionals in the condo industries.


What Are the Most Common Problems Reported?*

Managers are far more frequently reported as the source of problems than boards of directors: 81% versus 60%. However, in at least 50% of the cases, both are jointly mentioned. These trends and the ones below continued into 2016.

In fact, fear is an emotion that permeates at least a third of all letters received. Most writers do not want their letter posted because they are afraid that they will be unfairly treated if recognized by management and boards. Their fears are too often justified: the word "threatening" recurs in letters and a specific section is devoted to this problem below. The larger implication is this: It can be costly for condo owners to seek justice, especially in a public way. The reality is that the Condo Act too often protects the various condo industries' vested interests rather than those of owners.

As a result of noise, many owners cannot sleep and suffer from depression; others have seen their blood pressure go up or experienced cardiac problems; others have had to take a leave of absence from work or gone on disability for several months. Yet, nothing is done. It is shocking that this is allowed to go on because it is scientifically proven that noise constitutes a health hazard.

 * The percentages above go beyond 100% because over 75% of writers have more than one issue. In addition, over 25% have more than five (5) issues, a proportion that seems to have increased in the past year, in great part because the  types of financial problems reported have increased.

Percentages lower than 15% are not reported. They include



Condo Fraud, Kickbacks and Conflict of Interest

See also the letters in "Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

By the end of last year, 451 of the letters received detailed cases of alleged kickbacks, fraud, and outright theft. These cases appeared in 15% of all letters received. In fact, larger and larger numbers of such letters were being sent as the year went by.

Research Note: It is significant that 311 or 69% of these 451 letters detailing such problems come from "insiders," that is, persons who work or have worked in the condo industries (managers and various contractors) as well as a few board members, especially  current or past presidents. It is worrisome that these situations are not usually visible to owners. In other words, conflicts of interest, kickbacks, and fraud largely go unnoticed by those who pay the bills...condo owners.

Letter: My condo is going to have serious work done [....deleted] and it will be in the several 100Ks. The board and manager say that they have gone through the usual bidding process and received 4 sealed quotes which were opened at the board meeting in the presence of the engineer in charge. They named the contractors in question and I used to work for one of them, which I keep to myself, and I also knew the other two bidders and I can tell you for sure that these three companies are always in touch with each other and provide quotes together so that each time one of them ends up doing the work with the best quote and the next year at another condo it will be the other one and so on. What they also do is that they ask for more money as the process is ongoing. I can also tell you that all three of them submit bids that are much higher than they should be, so it’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at this for all of them. The engineering company they have hired knows about this or is bound to know but it can’t be proven, right? So it protects his ethics between quotation marks. I tell you this because I do hope that you are addressing this issue at your meetings. But I stay out of this in my building because I would be sued for defamation.

September 2013, Toronto area

Letter: I am a [deleted] contractor that has worked in condos for a long time. Recently a manager asked me for a [$ deleted] kickback. I have worked in these buildings for over two decades, but I walked away from them after this. I find that many managers these days come from countries where kickbacks and bribery are common practices. They expect their contractors to offer them large amounts of money if they are doing a major project. I know many contractors that refuse to play this game but others participate because they want the job. Condo fees are going sky high and this is part of the reason why.

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: I am a retired [deleted] contractor that used to work mainly in condos in [deleted] and around areas. I had lots of experience with condos and I have made a lot of easy money and seeing how incompetent managers are, how they like “gifts” and how ignorant boards are I swore that I’d never live in a condo. But I have a heart problem and my wife wanted me to buy a condo and I went to the gossip mill before we bought one, an older one that is better built and that has a president that gets second opinions and stands for his owners’ best interest rather than his stupid pride, so he doesn’t waste money on us contractors unless necessary. So that’s where I am and its very good. One guy told me to look up the letters in your blog and now that I am out I can tell you that its all true. We see condos as easy money. We add a bit to our bills, we do a few things that are not exactly necessary and no one knows any better. We have a list of easy managers and easy presidents, they are our easy money. But we don’t mess around with those places where the managers know what they do and care or where presidents are there for there owners. We respect those and do good work for them and earn our money the right way. Now I’ll be a fan of your blog but before I would have hated it because it comes too close to the truth. But keep my name to yourself please. [name deleted]

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: I trust that you will keep this letter confidential in terms of my name. I just bought a condo [sentences skipped]  my father is in one of the trades that condos most often use .... and I hate to say this but [the situation] may be even worse than what is described [see other letters below] father... was afraid that I would end up paying huge fees because these boards spend and spend. These boards just live in a little bubble of their own and they are supported by the manager and often the solicitor and especially the [group name deleted] contractors and suppliers that constantly offer new options and new ideas that will “increase the value of their investment” .... is eventually owners that pay for this retail therapy that the boards like to indulge in and these [rising] fees end up decreasing the investment. My father and his pals see absolutely nothing wrong in cozying up with the boards and esp. the presidents and stroking their egos and making them feel so important and telling them what a great job they are doing and you have no idea how well this works. These people don’t even see that there are better alternatives, cheaper ones that are as good, they are in love with the techs and the glamour that are presented to them and they don`t know a thing about them so it`s easy to con them. They are real foolish little cliques that are out of touch with reality. Owners are too afraid and kept too ignorant to do anything. The fraud that takes place is just incredible, the padding of invoices is just one thing and I won`t even mention the kickbacks to management..... [deleted]

My father and his pals know which condos are easy marks and they drink to them! Even so, these are good men trying to make a living for their families and if the boards are stupid, the way they see it, it`s these boards that are in the wrong. The real issue is that it is too easy for suppliers to make money out of condos because you are right, there is no oversight. It’s just too tempting an opportunity to pass it up. Your website is the only thing that dares spell out the truth. But things are so secret that I bet most people don`t believe it: they should! [deleted] I want the government and people to wake up and face the corruption. I don’t care how they call it, it IS corruption and boards are willing victims, but owners arent’.

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: I am the owner of a company [type of contractor deleted] and I refuse to do favors for presidents of boards and managers. What the contractor writes in your Readers Respond is just so true because as a result of my not doing favours, I don’t get a fair shake at contracts. [He is referring to letters posted in previous years: see below]

— January 2013, Ottawa

Letter: This is to follow up on the recent letters that you posted about fraud and kickbacks. If you know this [condo] business, you know that managers move around from condo to condo and company to company. So we see and hear a lot of things. Me and my manager buddy get together for a beer after work and swap stories. My buddy told me that at his management company, all of the condos use the same [contractor deleted] contractor. He said that this is because the vice president of the management company gets a kickback on every contract.

The same story is happening at my company. The vice president gives contracts to a relative. We used to complain to each other, but after a while we started taking those Leaf and Raptor tickets and other things. If our managers are getting a piece of the pie, why shouldn`t we? Everybody does it in the condo industry.

— January 2012, Ontario

Letter: I worked in a high end condominium a few years as an administrator. One day, a board member from one of the other condominiums told the manager and me this story. Their former manager had embezzled $120,000 from the condo. The manager created phony invoices from a phony company that she created. When it was discovered, the board members wanted to report it to the police so the manager accused one of the board members of sexual harassment and he was afraid that if they pressed charges, she would too.

The management company paid back the money that was embezzled, or at least their insurance company did. Then the board fired the management company.

We cracked up when the board member told us that the manager left the condo management industry to work as a loans officer in a bank. Talk about putting the cat among the pigeons.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: I am the owner of a company [type of contractor deleted] and I refuse to do favors for presidents of boards and managers. What the contractor writes in your Readers Respond [see below] is just so true because as a result of my not doing favors, I don`t get a fair shake at contracts.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: I will hazard a guess that a lot of your readers saw the story in the Star [September 2011] about a multi-million dollar fraud in several condos by a management company. Let me tell you, this was not an isolated case. I own a unit at [address deleted] and a couple of years ago, we were supposed to have our toilets replaced to control our maintenance fees that are always going up. The toilet contractor disappeared with hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money.

When our board directors found out about the theft, they sued the management company, the manager and the manager's boss [all names deleted]. Our board reported to us that the management company settled, so lucky for us we recovered our stolen money. Now a funny thing about this story is the manager's boss that we sued is now on the board of [name of the condo group deleted]. Name me another type of business where that would happen!

— October 2011, Ontario

Letter: I served on the board of directors of my condominium for quite a few years. After a while of becoming familiar with the situation, I saw things that caused me to suspect that our manager was taking kickbacks. I investigated with another new board member and was proven right. We confronted the manager and she didn't even try to hide it. She couldn't. We caught her red-handed. Getting rid of her was a nightmare. Our lawyer advised us to pay her off to avoid a wrongful dismissal suit, so we did. Even though she was a thief, we couldn't fire her. When she left, she shredded important papers and changed the passwords on our computer just for spite. I have a friend who owns a condo in another place and he told me that this same old manager of ours is now some big muckity muck at the management company that manages his condo. She left here after robbing us blind and got a promotion!

Until I got on the board, I had no idea what went on in condominiums. I have met other board members in other condos and many tell me the same thing. One said that their manager ordered supplies from Home Depot and then had the super load the stuff into his van. We now have a good manager and not even a paperclip goes out of this place now.

— October 2011, Ontario

Letter: After all that happened at those condos that have been defrauded by their management company [as reported in the Toronto Star, Sept. 2011], I thought that you would like to know what happened at my brother's condo. He became the treasurer because the fees always kept increasing and it seemed that when he talked to me about the services that were the most increased that this was a lot of money. Unknown to my brother's manager and his friends on his board, I own my own company in [type of contractor often used in condos] and I know what those services are for and how much they cost. So my brother began photocopying some of the new invoices that came to the attention of the board and showed them to me. I can swear to the fact that each one of the invoices for [X] services were very much padded and some of the services were not needed.

[several sentences skipped] My brother also noticed that this contractor was a very frequent and friendly visitor to the manager's office and often brought the invoices himself. One day that the manager wasn't in yet, my brother saw the contractor going in the manager's office with an envelope (he had a key and he shouldn't have, another suspicious thing). After he left, my brother asked the security to open the door for him and he took the envelope with him. In it he found $2,500 in bills and when he showed me the invoice later, that $2,500 was about half of what I considered that the invoice had been padded for. So we concluded that my brother's manager was getting half of the inflated price and the other half went to the contractor or perhaps to the management company. [several sentences skipped] But I am asking you not to post the conclusion of this story to protect my brother (he is the one that asked me to write this letter). Let's just say that this manager could not be brought to justice and didn't get what he deserved. There is no justice for condos when things like that happens and had it not been that I am the owner of my own company, these kickbacks would have continued. We figured that they cost an additional $50,000 minimum each year to the condo.

— October 2011, 905 area, ON

Letter: When I arrived to Toronto 15 years ago I had a BA but my spoken English was not good enough and worked for 15 years as a superintendent in 8 different condominiums. All along I pretended that I didn't understand much English because it made it easier for me to do my work without being bothered by everyone and it let me hear things that I wasn't supposed to hear. What was for sure because I had a lot of various technical skills is that all the companies in electrical, pool maintenance, plumbing, AC/H, groundskeeping, drywall and painting, and a couple of others were doing work that wasn't always necessary.

In one building one day I heard the manager complain to one of them that she was having a lot of problems with her [home] plumbing and that she also needed to make over her bathroom. He said that he would do it and they went on talking about when and he said, we owe you big time. A year later she asked me to go to her house to pick up something she had forgotten and when I got there one of the guys that had contracts with our building was doing her roof.

At another building the new manager was having the floors at her house all redone by this other contractor that was in charge of a lot of work in my new building and he was doing a lot more work than was needed. Later she and her management company [name deleted] was fired but [her management company] kept her. She was a nice woman but kind of lazy and not too fast. The housekeeper told me that this was the second time that [X] was being fired [along with] her management and that all the managers at her company were also getting free repairs from the contractors working in their condominiums.

What I also noticed is that the managers regularly refused that I do some various types of work in the building that I knew how to [do] because they preferred to phone their own people. The result is that my buildings never got their money back from me and in addition they had to pay contractors that then came in to do my work. I could have saved them a lot of money with no problem.

I now have my own company that has nothing to do with condominiums but I live in one. It is the president that told me about your website and I am lucky that he hears me out but I will always make sure that these things don't happen in my own building. Now that my job and my future is secure, I wanted other owners to know about these situations.

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: A few years back I changed management company and was transferred to replace this manager and I was surprised by how much work was being done in one of my new condos by a couple of regular contractors that I will not name here. The board didn't seem to have a clue and had been very happy with this manager because she was good at planning, they said and did preventive maintenance so that the condo was problem free, they said. After a while, these contractors showed up without my even asking them and indicated that they were here to check when they should carry out such and such preventive maintenance. I told them that I would call them back when I felt it was necessary. I called my former contacts and they agreed that this maintenance was not necessary, not so often, in a condo that age and they had never heard of one of the types of work being done like this. Then I was very surprised when I received a call from one of my superiors and [he/she] just casually asked me what I needed done in my house because this contractor always did try to help managers in the condos they service. It was just good PR [he/she] said. I am making this short here but later I also learned that another manager had a lot of work done by the same contractors for free. Guess where the money comes from for this "PR" eventually? [This manager has since moved on and out of management.]

— February 2011, Ottawa area

Letter: The [specific category of contractor is deleted] contractor that our Manager uses is owned by someone in her Management Company and we were never informed of this. Also I have noticed that he is working on our property on a much more regular basis than with the previous Management Company. I have only learned of it recently and I want to know what owners should do because this is a clear-cut conflict of interest.

October 2009, Toronto

Answer: Your management company should, at the very least, have informed your board of directors from the very beginning. At that point, a condo board can decide whether they will ever consider this contractor when they put a big job up for tenders or give small jobs to this contractor if his price is competitive. If the board decides to go ahead and use this contractor, their next step should be to inform owners and explain the situation. That way, there will be transparency. This said, the risk that abuse will take place and that this contractor will be called upon by the manager to do work that could be done internally by the staff, such as the superintendent, increases seriously. This means that the board will have to be extra vigilant and ask, Could this job be done internally? Is it necessary to outsource it? And, occasionally, this board will also want to secure some quotes from other contractors.

As to what owners can do about this, they should first write the board and ask for information and justification. If a reply is not forthcoming and if owners see that abuse is taking place, please consider calling a requisitioned meeting to bring this topic out in the open. Click here for more information on Requisitioned Meetings. Added January 2012: Since this has been posted, several letters from other owners have been received who have have been threatened with legal action if they "defamed" the contractor, the manager, or the board for even asking or warning that there may be a risk of conflict of interest. Please click here for "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Letter: [The following letter is from a former contractor; the highlights have been added for emphasis.] I have just finished reading some of your pages and I think that there is one issue that is missing and that is important to address. I am a [deleted] by trade and have worked for 4 different companies before this. I finished my degree with night courses and have been employed for the past two years by the [X] ministry. What I want to explain to you is that for contractors [for repairs, maintenance, and installation], condos are an inexhaustible source of profits.

The first scenario goes like this: the contractor or one of the workers are related to either the manager, the management company or the superintendent or even a board director. Such an “in” gets a lot more contracts with much less competitive bids because the manager has an interest in seeing that you get work on a regular basis, or likes you personally. Lots of managers come from backgrounds like us and it’s easy to see how this develops and how they “feel” more for us than for their [condo] budget and the owners in a building.

The second scenario goes like this: there is a board that does not care or does not know better so it’s easy when a little something goes wrong, the manager calls you and you find the solution and charge a bit more for the repairs than you would do if the manager or board knew what they were doing, and then you point out that something else is wrong (even if it is not) and you “fix” this as well. A lot of guys [contractors] don’t see anything wrong with this because “If they are so stupid and have so much money to throw around, why shouldn’t we have a piece of the pie, we work hard”.

So when you have a board that is not knowledgeable and especially when they know or think that the condo is aging, it’s real easy to get them to spend, even if these “repairs” could wait a few years or it’s easy to overcharge a bit. And when on top of this the board depends on a manager that is on your [contractor's] side, well you have it made.

A third scenario is that the manager sorts of rigs the contracts so that you end up getting the best bid and you win. She can do this because she knows who charges too much or more or better she lets us know how much the others propose to charge so we get this right. Or else we provide a real low bid and ask for more money later on during the repairs.

And the fourth scenario is that someone benefits directly. We either provide free services to presidents or other board members, the managers at their home, the management companies, their parents or we give them real nice gifts for Christmas, sometimes it’s tickets for games, appliances, a fat gift card or small envelopes with cash.

Finally I’ll add that when a board is ineffective and the manager doesn’t like to have too much work, and a contractor is doing a special contract job, the contractor always goes back to ask for more money, either because “something new came up that couldn’t be predicted,” or because “it’s taking much longer than anticipated.” Of course the boards or the managers always approve the increase. That’s why boards and managers should be careful how they word their contracts for a job. They should do it for the job and not for the time spent or other contingencies.

I’d say that nearly all contractors will do it given the opportunity; if your client is stupid or doesn’t care, why not? No harm done and good for job creation. But we don’t do it if a president knows what’s what and runs his ship well.

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: Our Board has three Directors and two of them are related. In addition, one of these two had caused a lot of damage in the common elements and had been ordered by the previous Board to pay for these damages. [He/she] never did and instead got [himself/herself] elected along with a relative. So my condo Corporation is ruled by a Board that has a conflict of interest and one of the first things that this Board did in its first months was to order the Corporation to pay for the over $12,000 in damages caused by this Board member. We are not a large Corporation and this hurts.

— February 2011, 905 area, ON

Note to Readers Updated January 2012: Many letters describing similar conflicts of interest on the part of boards or specific board members have been received--however, most of these letters come from other board members rather than rank-and-file owners. Conflicts of interest are often subtle and generally not noticed by owners: These occur, for instance, when various board members get elected with the goal of getting rid of rules that they do not personally like or generally break...or to get a contract for some repairs, or want to get even with someone, etc.

Letter: I am the new accidental president of a condo that is about 6 years old. Because I do my business from my unit, I kept noticing how often the plumbing company was on site in the past couple of years. The plumbing costs kept escalating but no one else seemed to notice it. But there were other problems and three board members resigned and I somehow got in. The first thing I did was to look at all these invoices from the plumbers and I noticed that many of them were vague, others were repeat work on the same problem, or work done for one problem that wasn't even part of our equipment in one case, and other things like this. We decided to look around for another plumber and initiated a bidding process for one maintenance issue. The manager was very upset about this and that was our first observation; our second observation is that after 6 months, the number of times that the plumbers have needed to come here has come down by two thirds.... and so has our costs. I will let you draw your own conclusions... Now each time the plumber or any other contractor has to come on site has to be accepted by either myself when I am here or the vice president when I am out.

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: Many of us owners have gotten together because we feel so helpless. We had an excellent president that we trusted but [he/she] moved away and now we are at the mercy of this management company that gives more and more maintenance work to their set of companies that they have for their other condos (we have checked this out) and a lot of us think that we are being taken for a ride because a lot of this work is not necessary and it is constant. At the AGM, it's interesting but sad to see how the lawyer, management company and auditor, all get along like old friends and back each other up as well as our useless and less than moral board, all of this at our expense. I call this the "road show" because these people always meet each other at the AGMs of a bunch of other condos and have developed ties with each other so that they really serve themselves and their industries rather than the condos that they are paid to serve. We owners really come last in all of this even though this is our money. We are disempowered and treated as if we were children. We feel helpless and it's only going to get worse. What can be done?

— February 2011, Greater Toronto Area

Note to Readers: This is only the first of several letters exchanged with this owner and the answers revolved around their calling a requisitioned meeting to replace their board. However, the conclusion was that they would not be able to muster enough votes for this purpose because only 35% of owners are resident owners.

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!

Issues with Boards of Directors

60% of the letters received are about problems caused by boards. But just over 50% of these also mention the manager as part of the problem. Most of the letters posted in the other sections are also related to issues surrounding boards (and especially managers).

Letter: Hello, Can you please let me know if it is legal for a board to keep running large budget surplus, like $475,000, and each year the fees go up at the rate of 10% even though there is all this cash in the bank that does nothing except serves as a piggy bank for “small” things that the board decides to spend on that they haven’t budgeted for and this happens several times a year even though our budget is sufficient and the reserve fund is excellent. By the way our budget is $1.1M and by now our fees are the highest on the block. We are starting to have problem selling our units because the fees are too high. Appreciate your time.

—September 2013, Ottawa area

Letter:  One question that I hope you will have the time to answer. We are not rich people living in my condo but the fees are increasing by about 7% each year even though the board is sitting on a surplus of over $375,000 for a 100 or so units condo. Every year they increase this surplus because they spend it on luxuries that we don’t need and that they don’t put in their budget. They don’t know how to budget or they don’t care, I don’t know, but this is not fair to us because our lobby looks like it belongs in a catalogue for the super rich, for instance, and the gym that only the board use is another designer place full of gadgets. Many owners want to sell but they can’t because our fees are way too high. Isn’t there a law that prevents this? 

—September 2013, Toronto

Letter: [This is an abbreviated letter that was sent by an owner to the Minister of Consumer Affairs with a copy to this website. This letter describes a dishonest board and manager.] The Board ... together with the property management has absolute control. People say, "run for the Board." But it has been my experience that the Board only allows people that they can control win. For 15 years I have asked for the monthly financial transactions. I was told such information did not exist. I know now it does... It is difficult to obtain minutes of Board meetings, even though they are heavily censored and contain no financial information. Asking for financial information puts you in the firing line of the Board and Property manager. I have been harassed, intimidated and called derogatory names by the on site manager, the Board and the property manager [he told the Minister that he was called "a piece of shit" by the manager.]

The Board has lied to the owners about the costs of major renovations.The Board has not followed proper procedure in spending 100's of thousands of dollars on cosmetic renovations.The Board has not followed proper business practice in awarding contracts. An example of this was the repaving of the parking deck at a cost of over $300,000 in 2005. I asked for the three tenders. They gave me the contractor that got the contract but the other 2 were false because I checked. One of the contractors they gave me for a major paving job was an eaves trough installer.

[sentences skipped] the president and past president loaned the corporation 50,000$ each at a higher interest rate than the bank. Between 1989 and 2005, 3 roofs were put on this 14 story building. When asked about guarantees, there was no reply.There have been at least 3 roofs put on the pool building. The pool building exterior wall has been replaced 2 times in the last 10 years.When there are major costs for renovation the Board has circumvented the borrowing restriction by borrowing from the contractor at high rates -8.5% rate of interest.

Many people have moved because of the actions of the Board—intimidation. The Board uses its well paid legal team to thwart any action. It also uses threats of legal action even when not legal. It is difficult to live in a building when you never know when the manager might show up and call you names. [sentences skipped] I have reported my concerns to the Ministry. The Ministry did call but said they had no mandate to intervene. There is no doubt that self-regulation has allowed Boards to control every aspect of the condominium corporations. The fact is that they are not accountable to the owners under the present system....

Do I believe that besides the poor business practices evidenced in this building that there is a pay off under the table to the Board, the building manager and the property manager — YES. Why do I believe that?

  1. The property manager has lied about availability of financial statements.
  2. The property manager told me in his office that he would do whatever it takes to stop me from gaining the financial information that it is my right to see.
  3. The Board goes along with him. They impose a cloud of secrecy aver all operationsof the Board. If you volunteer for a committee--like beautification--you are sworn to secrecy about all deliberations.
  4. The on site manager asks for kickbacks if you want a contract to do work here. I can prove that if we ever get to court.

January 2013, London-Windsor area, ON

Letter:I am new on this BOD and I want to do well by the owners that elected me and I have a question. The BOD wants to pass a by-law that would ensure confidentiality (we would have to sign a confidentiality agreement), meaning that no director can talk to owners about what we discuss at meetings or else be thrown out. To me this means that I can’t inform owners of anything that they should know and actually they have the right to know and they can get the board minutes. There seems to be a contradiction here and with the Condo Act. The other by-law that has been presented to us by this CCI lawyer would allow the board to get rid of a director that is disruptive, or such other t term. I understand that it can be difficult to have a disruptive director but I also feel that I could myself come to be seen as “disruptive” if I decide to go against these propositions and decide to ask some serious questions, also because this board is spending a lot of money on upgrades, way too much and the lawyer is backing this up, and this board doesn’t believe in supervising the manager and the staff so they do pretty much as they want and this is detrimental to our money.I think that this board thinks that they will be well judged if they spend money.Lots of worries here.Can you advise me?

January 2013, West of Toronto

Answer: This seems to be a new trend with one law firm in particular and you are correct in both points....A few lawyers are getting bolder and bolder: I see it in the letters I receive.Only owners should be able to get rid of directors they have elected. These by-laws are meant to divide and conquer: they will create conflicts within boards and with owners, and what a windfall for the law firm that pushes these by-laws!I have also noticed that the few condos so far that are doing these by-laws also have other problems with their boards, generally with the president: Problems rarely come in isolation.Vote against it, try to convince others to do the same, and if you lose, stay calm and, at the next AGM, try to find someone else to take the place of the one or two directors whose terms may be coming up and who are forcing this—someone with a good sense of ethics and a duty to owners. Seems that your board is trying to leave a “legacy” of spending!

Letter: I am a former condo president and several months after I was elected I discovered by accident that our manager had been let go by another condo for taking kickbacks and had been transferred to us by her same management company. So I started to carefully review our invoices but couldn't see anything because I am no expert, but at the same time I could see that she was thick and cozy with someone in the company that she had suggested as our main contractor to install new [deleted]. A lot of money was involved so I talked to another president I used to see occasionally at political meetings and he gave me the cold shoulder. [several sentences skipped] Then I learned from someone else that this same president's son had been a manager that had been let go at another condo for padding up invoices and then had started a management company of his own.

January 2012, Mississauga, ON

Letter: My condo has a president (and an entire board, it seems) that are very divisive. Because they just don't seem to do their duty and force the manager and superintendent to work harder to keep the place clean and odor free and other issues, such as not spending our money on additional staff when the ones that we have can't even work. Can't they see this? And when we owners ask the board to do reasonable things at the AGM, what they do instead is have their wives and husbands and themselves try to bash the former president with silly defamatory accusations that they make in sneaky ways in the president report or during the question period. I am sure that their few friends are delighted with this but this is backfiring for a lot of us as we used to appreciate the previous president and we see through this. Very few owners participate in anything that this board tries and especially few of us now attend the AGM because we really don't trust this board; besides, it seems that it is the manager and not the board that is running the show along with the suppliers. I guess that their motto is Divide and Conquer. But all they are doing is lowering the value of our property and our quality of life. Who are they kidding?

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: My condo has 3 members on our board and two are married to each other and live in the same unit. Is this legal because it gives too much power to a couple that runs the condo as if it was their medieval kingdom?

— January 2012, London, ON

Answer: Unfortunately, it is legal unless your condo has passed a by-law preventing two members of a same family from being on the board. But it does not mean that this is a desirable situation: The potential for a conflict of interest is too high. Owners should present another suitable candidate whenever one of these positions ends. This is a more common occurrence than I would have thought and the results are never good.

Letter: I was elected to the Board and was the first new member that this Board had had in 8 years. They never accepted me, never considered what I had to say, had meetings without me and I was totally isolated especially as this Board was very proud of the fact that they have a close relationship with the manager and all the contractors and even the lawyer; in turn, the manager seems to be fused with the staff and takes their side so that there is really no line of command. It's all of them against owners and no one can make any criticism or suggestion without getting either them or the manager very angry. It's all childish and far from business like. They are very vindictive.

I told them that it was good that we all (except for me) get along well with each other but it's not our duty as Board members to be friends with all these people, rather we are supposed to see to it that they do their job well and serve the corporation and owners as they should. Right now, it seems to me that owners are there for them and not the way around as should be. My remarks were met with contempt and of course they told the manager with predictable results. I had to resign because I also objected to a lot of expenditures that I thought were baseless--and I should add here that I am a successful business woman, which is more than I can say for some of these Board members. This friendship with everyone is leading manager and staff to slack off and contractors to take advantage of us and they don't understand this. After I resigned, they began rumours against me and honestly I am too busy to start legal proceedings. So I just ignore everyone but I must tell you that it is difficult but I am lucky that I have enough money to pay the fees that will keep rising because all the Board does is simply ratify what the manager and all her minions suggest and these are lazy and wasteful people.

— January 2012, 905 area, ON

Comment for Readers: This letter relates to the one below. It is also a common occurrence, regrettably. Such situations, even if the intentions are good, lead to conflicts of interest, failures to represent owners and their interests, and leave the door open for kickbacks and even fraud, as seen in another section of letters.

Letter: Our board of directors has many problems but the one I want to mention is that they hang together as a clique: it's them versus us owners. If anyone complains or questions what they do or don't do, they close ranks, refuse to hear us out, and tell us that they have to be loyal to their board. My understanding of the Condominium Act, and this is reflected in your website, is that directors' loyalty and accountability is to the corporation and owners. Question mark.

— August 2009, Markham area, ON

Answer: What you write about is unfortunately common. On the one hand, it is really nice when directors can trust each other: Some boards are always fighting among themselves and this is a waste of time. This said, boards are there for the corporation and are elected by owners. This is where their allegiance should be—their duty. For instance, they should not allow one of their members, even if it is the president, to engage in unethical practices. But, often, they find it easier to stick their heads in the sand and let it go to preserve their little group and their own standing in this little group—some do this for the sake of being re-elected. Better education of directors regarding their duties as per the Condominium Act would remedy some of these problems. So would a few penalties! For more information, please read Boards of Directors

Letter: We have had the same president and treasurer for over 9 years and they are a catastrophe and very nasty and superior-types. What I don't understand is that every so often, we elect a new board member that is actually a very nice and competent person. Once these persons become board members, they seem to change entirely: they no longer respond to us, they don't even keep the promises they made and they all become like the other two so that in the end, we always have a very noncommunicating, non accountable and threatening board that writes us nasty letters as soon as we try to explain our concerns as owners. How can we stop this cycle of waste of good persons?

— February, 2011, Mississauga, ON

Answer: Yes, this is very unfortunate. It is simply due to the fact that each new arrival on the board has to integrate himself or herself within the group and the two powerful persons are the president and this treasurer. As a result, everyone ends up doing what these persons want. How can this be? Simple desire to fit in; inability to stand up for themselves in the group; belief that they have to be loyal to the board when, in reality, they have to be loyal to their principles and accountable to owners; feeling isolated and intimidated. What you need to do is get rid of the president and treasurer. Please read the sections on Requisitioned Meetings.

However, since last year, I have become much more reluctant to suggest recourse to requisitioned meetings for this purpose. From the letters received, it is obviously difficult to organize such meetings and then obtain the over 50% of votes required to get rid of a malfunctioning board in condos that have over100 units--and that's now most condos. To make matters worse, in too many condos, most of the owners live elsewhere. The Condo Act should address this issue of size and proportion of non-resident owners in the number of votes required to accomplish anything.

Letter: At the AGM, the president in his report mentioned that the board had revised the rules and added a new by-law. He said that owners wanting to have the package of new rules and by-law can get it for $5.00 at the office. Do we have to pay for this?

-- February 2011, 519 area, ON

Answer: Wait a minute! First of all, rules approved by the board have to be proposed to owners who have 30 days to requisition a meeting if they disagree. Please read the section on Requisitioned Meetings and then the one on What Are Rules for? Second, a by-law has to be written with the help of the lawyer who also has to register it after it is approved by board and owners. There is nothing that says you can't pay $5.00 but, at this point, this is premature because the due process has not been carried out. As well, rules and by-laws, when properly approved by owners, will then have to appear in future status certificates.

Letter: Myself and another Board member don't agree with what the others and especially the president are deciding because they're just throwing money at problems that could be solved with better communication and a bit of leg work on the part of our staff. But the two of us just vote with them, in my case because I am afraid of reprisals, especially from the president and the lawyer because it's been made clear to us that if anyone disagrees with a Board decision and mentions it to owners, we'll be sued; and the other because she doesn't want to bother and likes the perks, especially the favors she gets from the Manager and the Superintendent. Can we be held responsible if the Board makes the wrong decisions? This is a possibility because they don't have much knowledge and good judgement and aren't ethical. What suits them and the manager goes.

February 2011, Toronto

Answer: Your letter highlights the fact that your board of directors is riddled with problems and functions under a great deal of misinformation, which keeps the "fear of God" in you. In theory, if you strongly disagree with a board's decision because it is either unethical or a waste of owners' money, you should request to have your abstention or negative vote noted in the minutes. Indeed, you and the other board member could be held responsible for a costly and wrong decision and the liability insurance would refuse to pay because due diligence was not carried out. Unfortunately, the chance of this ever occurring is minimal... unethical boards are protected by the simple fact that owners are not generally well informed about their rights and do not understand what is going on. Were you in a less threatening situation, I would suggest that you requisition a meeting of owners to throw this board out... but I do appreciate the legal threat under which you are labouring. This is unfortunately a fairly common situation. Note: Readers may want to read other letters in the section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Letter: When we ask a question about the budget at the AGM, the president says, "So and So is a great treasurer and has worked hard." If we ask about any (usually) ill conceived project that they bring forth, he says, "we are a very concerned board and you've got a great manager" and doesn't answer really. If we push for an answer, he'll say, "We're volunteers & you've got to respect our hard work." They always shut us up by turning anything we ask into an issue of personalities, using gilt trip, never addressing issues. They keep saying that they totally "trust and respect" each other, which is very nice but we have no proof that these people are trustworthy or worthy of respect from the results we see. And to keep repeating how they trust and rely on our manager makes us shake our heads because we know that this person doesn't have much between her two ears. To add insult to injury, the lawyer sits there ready to pounce if we insist on a question and brings up back "to order." Finally, the minutes of the AGM never show our questions and they always skip the motion to accept the minutes.

— February 2011, Mississauga, ON

In numerous letters, owners have described how boards turn business questions into personality issues. Owners report the following techniques that are employed to make them feel guilty or intimidated so that questions are not answered and boards and managers can keep doing what they are doing:

  • "we're all neighbours"index.html"let's get along"
  • "don't you trust us?"
  • "this is a very hard-working manager"
  • "we work so hard"
  • "if you don't trust us, we'll let our solicitor answer this question"
  • "this is a serious allegation"
  • "troublemaker" and "harassment"
  • "we have a great deal of esteem and respect for our manager"
  • "we're a good board and all get along very well"

Letter: For several years our condo had a wonderful president who knew his job and was fair to all. He brought in all kinds of changes that helped save huge sums of money for the budget. He was a real whirlwind of activity despite our having rather poor managers but no one ever noticed because he more than made up for it. He didn’t stand at our last elections, another board member became the new president and things started falling apart. [sentences eliminated] We have heard that one of the reasons why the new president is so ineffectual is that he has refused to consult with the previous president and as a result he really doesn’t know what he is doing.

The lesson that I would like you to convey to your readers is that things are very fragile in condos. A condo that is a success for a few years can degenerate into a very worrisome place to live in just within a year as a result of a good president leaving. The Condominium Act should mandate a transition protocol as businesses have because condos are businesses. What I have described are examples of really poor business practices that would not be tolerated anywhere else.

— August 2009, Kitchener area, ON

Letter: We have a pretty reasonable set of directors on our board but one gent has put his name for candidacy and he is the type of person that always threatens management and board with his lawyer when he has to pay for the maintenance of his common elements, for example, to clean his parking space that is deteriorating because of oil, to clean the corridor carpet in front of his door where they have dropped some greasy substance right in front of another owner that was walking by and saw it happen, to clean the carpet downstairs where his dog urinates. He is always threatening legal action and as a result he frightens the manager that does not want to have too much work and stress and he never ends up paying. I don’t want someone like this on the board with me, and I should mention that he has a very arrogant personality.

Comment: This person fits the description of someone who might abuse his power once on the board in order to serve his own interests. Added January 2012: In fact, see letters in Issues of Fraud, Kickbacks and Conflict of Interest.

Letter: I am one of the five directors on a new condo's board and I am the one out: I am a mature person and the other four are twenty and thirty something. All we (they) do at board meetings is sit, gossip, joke and laugh and they dismiss the paperwork that the manager brings and tell her to deal with it. Then they go on about relaxing rules concerning noise, cleanliness pool hours, proper attire in the common elements and want to upgrade the place to make it look "cool" and "with it." They just want to have a good time and already the noise level has increased and people take the elevators in their bathing suits and others run in and out of the party room at 3 a.m. and noise complaints are not being addressed because they are basically caused by the directors and their troop. Some families and mature persons are already moving out and some have said that the building doesn't have "any class" anymore and I agree. It's like a university dorm. The manager seems competent and I brought this up with her and I gathered that she is also very concerned about all of this but her management company told her to get along with the young and brash president and this means making concessions to our rules and even declaration. We are thinking of moving out even though I love the location.

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: Your board colleagues don't seem to understand that they have a multi-million dollar business on their hands. However, when this board gets tired of partying and begins facing owners' questions (which, regrettably, takes a long time to occur because owners are often too polite to complain or don't even know that they have the right to), they are likely to fold like a tent in high winds. But the damage will have been done. It's regrettable that your manager is employed by a management company that caters to presidents rather than take a firm stand on behalf of owners and, for that matter, the Condo Act.

Letter: I have just moved into my 2nd condo and there are all kinds of committees that have been formed and everyone seems very excited about this. But all these committees are making all kinds of decisions that appear in the newsletter that another group is putting out. But we never hear a thing from our BOD. Do committes have the right to make decisions that a Board should be making because all the decisions they make require money? Second, do these committees have the right to make decisions regarding things that owners should vote on such as new rules?

— February 2011, 905 area, ON

Answer: Committees can be a great thing. They can organize social activities for which they have to raise their own funds and they can be given the task of researching energy savings initiatives. But they need board approval because of issues of insurance, for instance. A committee that is being asked to look at security issues, as another example, will present a set of recommendations to the board... and should do so before they write about it in the newsletter. It is also the board who will approve the funds, request tenders, and choose the security company that will install cameras, etc. So, yes, any and all decisions made by a committee have to be approved by the board. No, they can't spend condo monies without board approval. And they can't make rules: They can propose changes for the board to study and for approval; but, then, after the board votes to approve the changes, this board then has to post the new rules: At that point, owners have the right to requisition a meeting if they do not agree with the new rules or want to retain rules that have been eliminated. Committes cannot take the place of the board; nor can a newsletter take the place of communications from the board--unless it is put out by the board and accessible to all owners.

Issues of Power and Ego

Letter: Our Board of Directors resembles mafia like boards controlled by a godfather president. The president of my condo has controlled the board for 20 years. He highjacks the integrity of the election process to the board of directors for qualifying people by collecting the proxies of old people by threatening to withdraw services. As well, he has installed the soviet style politburo cronies who don’t ask questions and only raise their hands when asked. Some board members are intimidated and usually resign, enabling the board to appoint more submissive replacements until the next annual meeting. The president acts [sentence skipped] ignores owners who dare to question his decisions. Those who are prepared to take action do not have the funds to hire a lawyer.

— January 2012, Toronto

Letter: Why don’t you just come right out and say it the way it is? Nearly half of all boards of directors include people who don’t know what they are doing, don’t even know that the condo act exists, while others just go on boards as an ego boost, to get a feel of power over others, something to brag about with their friends, some because they have nothing better to do, while others are out to get something for themselves. I don’t think that paying people to be on the boards would change this.

— August 2009, Ottawa

Letter: From what I see where I live, being a Director is a way for persons that never had much power in their lives to exercise it over others and that’s why these people would need clearer guidelines in terms of what they should do and what they can’t do, otherwise they abuse the situation and it becomes difficult for us mere mortals to avoid them because we live amongst them.

— August 2009, Toronto

Abuses by Board Members' Spouses

This section has been added in 2012 because several letters on this topic were received in the previous year.

Letter: There is a condo problem that you don't mention and it is the husbands and wives and significant others of some board members. In my condo, the president's wife is certainly the power behind the throne and she is uppity, stuck up and especially likes to come up with issues that make her husband look good at the AGM but most people don't notice this conflict of interest because they don't know who she is and the lawyer treats her deferentially. The main problem is that she has had the gardens redesigned to suit her taste and I have seen her dig out some of our plants, put them in her car and probably brought them to a family member or friend. She has also redesigned the pathways so that it doesn't come so close to their unit and she has had new furniture bought for the lobby that we don't need and I know from the manager that the board has never approved this. The manager doesn't say much because she would lose her job for sure but she tries to stay away from her.

— January 2012, north of Toronto

Letter: Please help us. One of our board members is a person that seems to be leading the pack but she is not the president. She gets into everyone's business and her husband spies on us for her. For instance, the other day we were chatting with a couple of other residents in the lobby and he came to us and told us that we don't have the right to "hold meetings" in the lobby. Another time, he knocked on our door and I didn't open because I was alone and he started banging and saying real loud that he knew that I was in there and he had to tell us that we are breaking rules when we play loud music at night. I was confused because we go to bed at 9 p.m. because we have to get up at 5 a.m. to start our flexible shifts and we never even listen to television or music at night. Then one day his wife wrote us on behalf of the board and threatened us with a legal letter if we didn't stop breaking rules and pestering the board and the manager with false accusations. I am not sure what she meant but perhaps her husband overheard us talk about the fact that we think that this board spends way too much money on renovations rather than on the basics, I mean renovations that we don't need while the basics such as caulking, cleaning and window washing are not attended to. What can we do?

— January 2012, Hamilton, ON

Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens


Of the 601 letters received since July 2009 about problems created by condo lawyers, fully 413 were from owners reporting receiving an unwarranted letter from the lawyer for which they had to pay and many of these had a lien put against their unit for not paying this letter quickly enough. Others were late in their monthly fees for only a few weeks and for the first time; they never received a phone call or a letter from management warning them and had a lien put against their unit. Others had a lien after management refused their cheques or post-dated cheques. In other words, there is a great deal of abuse regarding legal letters and liens and what liens cover.

Readers might also want to read other letters in the sections on Issues with Lawyers as well as "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined and even Noise Issues.

Letter: To be brief, we have suffered under a board that has no respect for owners and for our property, was vindictive, lied to us, used the solicitor to send horribly threatening letters to several owners and forced them to pay under the threat of liens, spent too much money, and after years we finally decided to replace the board and organized a requisitioned meeting for this purpose. We followed your recommended steps to the letter but the board and the manager told us that this was not valid and the lawyer [name deleted] of [firm's name deleted] sent all signing owners a letter threatening defamation for what we wrote, but we only wrote the truth which was that each diarector disregarded the budget [and he/she lists the proof the remainder of this letter has been placed in the section on Issues of Condo Money and Fees].

— January 2013, Brampton, ON

Letter: We have a board of directors that messes up with everyone’s mind when we try to bring a problem to their attention. Most of the time we don’t receive a reply (and I say "we" because several owners have written to their special email address) and that’s the same if we approach the manager, in fact it’s as bad because she does not take kindly to any request that we make. But when there is a complaint against us after we have complained about something, she really brings it on and so does that board that does not even follow the rules that they want us to follow and it’s the same for their husbands and wives. Y’d think that we have a board of 10!

Sorry about this long story. One evening Saturday we had guests come over for dinner and we were in total 6 and they didn’t do much noise, just sit and talk and laugh. They left at 10 p.m. A week later we received a letter from the corp. solicitor informing us that we should stop noise at night and also that we should stop disrupting the good functioning of the board and the manager. The letter also stated that we had to pay for it or we would have a lien and there was an attached bill.

What should we do? The letter stated that we made noise on several days and nights (note not the evening of the party) and did not specify what kind of noise or anything. We are very quiet people and go to bed early because we leave for work early in the morning.

— January 2013, Scarborough, ON

Letter: [What follows represents only a few quotes from this owner's several letters.] I have asked a treasurer at another condo where they had the same problem and got a quote from two plumbing companies and there is no way that this work [carried out in his/her condo] could have cost us over $60,000. Around $35,000 would have been more like it. That's only one example of the excessive amounts of money that our manager/board say we need to pay. I know for a fact that they never tender these new jobs and this is worrisome because our condo is less than10 years old and our fees are going up over 10% each year, or 50% in 5 years. So I wrote the board and asked to be allowed to see the quotes for the last job. Within one week, without their being in touch with me themselves, I received a letter from [name omitted], the condo's solicitor, where he told me to stop "harassing" the board and if I continue he would take me to court. Then I was billed $650 for this letter and now this same lawyer just put a lien on my unit because I refused to pay for the letter.

— February 2011, general Burlington area, ON

Answer: In several cases such as yours, the corporation's lawyer chooses to blindly take the word of a manager or a board, stands by them, and goes on the offence on their behalf. The Condo Act will have to clarify the duties of condo solicitors: Their allegiance should not be with the board or the manager, but with the corporation. Victimizing an owner just does not cut it. Charging an owner for a letter requested by the manager when all that this owner has done is simply asking for information is absolutely wrong. Putting a lien on your unit in simply unethical and probably illegal in such a case. You are not in breach of any rule, you are paying your fees on time, there is no court order against you. The lien is totally unwarranted. And there is no reason to take you to court: He is only trying to scare you... and this, unfortunately, happens a lot while, in reality, he should be protecting you for the good of the corporation. This lawyer is beyond the bounds of the Condo Act and you should seek court redress under section 135 of the Act ("Oppression Remedy")... with the help of another lawyer. (For all Readers: Please also see the section on Issues with Lawyers. There may also be an issue of conflict of interest in this case. Click here for Fraud, Kickback and Issues of Conflict of Interest.

Letter: I am a new board member and I had always thought that our board was a good one in the sense that these people appeared nice and friendly. But I am concerned about several issues [and only two are mentioned here] ... and it seems to me that this board is very inexperienced and so am I. I noticed that the board always asks the corporation solicitor for advice on very basic items, on the agenda of board meetings, on basic letters. That's very costly, you know. We could use this money elsewhere. But what bothers me the most is that every time that someone complains about something, the manager tells the board and the board asks the lawyer to write a letter to that person and that person ends up having to pay for it. I really am not sure if this is legal and even if it is, it does not seem fair. I would hate to receive a letter like that just because I complained because it seems to me that if we go on the board, we should be able to deal with owners' complaints and it also seems to me that this costs a lot of money to our owners and most are not all that well to do.

— February 2011, Ottawa

Note: It was first suggested to this board member to read the chapter on Boards of Directors.

Letter: We received a letter from our condo's lawyer ordering us to stop throwing furniture down the garbage chute because it blocks it. The letter also stated that the manager has contacted us several times about the issue. In addition, it included a bill, including the GST [this was just before the HST arrived]. But there were several problems here. First we never threw any "furniture" down the garbage chute and I just can't see how someone can do this, it's not possible because these chutes are just too small. Second we had taken pictures of all our possessions two months before this in case we needed this for our insurance company and these pictures show exactly the same furniture we have now, and none is missing, so we couldn't have thrown furniture down the chute. So we approached the manager and she said that she left several messages on our voice mail and even wrote us two letters; we tried to explain to her that it must be someone else doing this and showed her the pictures and invited her to our suite; we said that she must have had a wrong number for us and that we never received her letters. Nothing worked. I must add here that this manager has been nasty to us from the time we asked her if we could see the latest financial statements as this had offended her a lot and she had replied that this was illegal.

To make this long story short, before we could even pay the lawyer's fee, we got a lien put on our suite from the lawyer's office. How can a lawyer representing a condo do this? Don't they check facts before they send a letter to an owner that is actually being victimized? We could easily have hired a private detective to see if furniture had actually be thrown down, and so on, but I can't tell you how much we wanted to leave; we got out of there fast. We will never live in a condo again. We had gone into your website to see what could be done and we would appreciate it if you posted this letter because, although your website discusses some of the problems coming from managers such as ours was, there is not much that speaks of the fact that there seems to be something wrong with the way some condo lawyers practice their trade and especially how some abuse liens to back up bad managers. I think that it's a well kept secret...

— February 2011, just north of Toronto

Note for all Readers: This is a very sad situation and another example of cases where condo lawyers become the lackeys of boards and managers in order to retain their contract with the corparation. Basically, they don't check the facts and just blindly comply with a board's or manager's request. Now, under normal circumstances, a lawyer would be totally correct in sending a warning letter to an owner who is allegedly throwing furniture down a garbage chute and, if the owner failed to comply and failed to pay the fee, to lien him or her. However, before reaching such a drastic and costly (for the owner) step, a lawyer should independently assure himself/herself of the validity of the manager's complaint.

As well, "furniture" thrown down the garbage chute is truly an emergency that needs to be immediately investigated lest it causes catastrophic consequences. It does not seem that the manager truly investigated the situation.

There are several situations where a lawyer should be asked to write an owner and charge this owner for the cost of the letter. If the owner does not comply and does not pay the legal fee, then there is no other recourse but to lien the owner in question. These situations include owners

  • who are noisy and disturb their neighbours (whether from their suite, their balcony, the common elements),
  • whose smoking penetrates in other suites,
  • who speed on the property,
  • who throw stuff down the balcony

— all situations that are against the good of the corporation.

However, before a letter is written by the lawyer, the manager and board have to be able to show that they have investigated the noise or situation thoroughly and ethically, that they have talked to the owner or resident in question, and that they have written to him or her on more than one occasion. Only then, all things having failed, should a lawyer intervene. Under no circumstance should a lawyer play the role of board or manager: His or her role comes when all else has failed. And, at that point, if the owner fails to pay legal fees, it is correct to put a lien on the unit.

Here, one can suggest that this discussion be pursued with a reading of the section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined where the issue of legal letters returns.

Wasted Condo Money

Also click here for Horror Stories About Special Assessments. Other relevant sections are the letters in Condo Fraud, Kickbacks and Conflict of Interest and, in the main part of this website, Misuse of Funds, Kickbacks and Fraud.

Basically, problems of monies being ill spent stem from the qualifications and ethics of boards and managements as well as from issues of conflicts of interest. Qualified boards generally communicate well with their owners, are transparent, and accountable. As a result, condo funds are properly spent and the issues described in the letters below occur less often.

Letter: How do we prevent the board from running very large surpluses year in and year out even though we have a very good reserve fund (about $900K)? I ask this question because we have a budget of a little over a million with a surplus of 350K+ and this seems unfair to us owners because the board is piling up money at our expense and keeps our fees increasing by about 6% yearly even though this is a “no frill” condo. Each year, sure enough, the board and manager use this money to add all kinds of fancy things we don’t need such as a lavish party twice a year, catered and with a DJ, add new furniture in the lobby so much so that there is barely space to move, lots of new cameras inside and out, it’s like the CIA, new outfits for the staff that makes them look like a French movie, lavish drapes in the manager’s office, and the list is endless. We complain but nothing doing because the condo lawyer stands by the board and manager. Our money is like their private bank account. Thank you so much.

—September 2013, North of Toronto

Letter: [This letter is a condensed version of two letters from the same owner. It contains board, management, and possibly fraud issues. But, above all, moneys are being wasted.] Hello I need help with 2 issues. I live in a condo townhouse at [stacked townhouses]. I bought a unit on the 1st floor... 4.5 years ago and I renovated at the same time pf purchase. My management requested a notice of entry to inspect for renovation and I had complied. The Manager came in checked my unit, took pictures and I was told I made the place in to a beautiful place to live.... now managers have changed [but same management company] the new manager was kicked out from our neighbouring condo corp for harassing owners... since last May the management keep sending me notices to inspect my unit for recent renovations-- 3 notices in the past month. I went to the offfice and told manager I have not done recent renovations and my neighbours are my proof. I was told I do not have a choice: I have to let her in or I would be in trouble. I complied, we set up a time which is suitable with me, I waited the full day and no one showed up. This week I receive a letter again, same notice, to inspect unit for recent renovations I went to the office, asked the secretary to check my file for the inspection done 4 years ago. I am told there is nothing there. The whole inspection of my unit is missing from my files!!! Do I have to let the manager in to inspect my unit so they can stir up problems for me?

Our condo corp is huge... yet it is so poorly maintained .We have light posts outside rotted which have fallen down for months and no one bothers to fix; if a child is to touch the fallen post in the winter or on a rainy day for sure it will be electrocuted--a disaster is waiting to happen! Our swimming pool has a black rim around it, out whole property is falling apart. The necesary repairs are not being done. Yet last year our underground parking garage was totally repaired: a substantial amount of our reserve funds were used up. We were told the city had given orders to have it repaired but it turns out there was no work orders and conveniently the contract was given to a company where our board member works. When I phoned to complain of the area not being sweeped and leafs not raked I was told " We dont have a landcaper" yet our financial stmts show payments made to one... Our financial stmts show a lot being done for huge $$$ yet in reality there is not much done. When we question these amounts we are somewhat zipped up ....

I pay a fee of $710 for my town house. The same president has been on board for the past 8 years, the rest of the board members are his pets. What he says is what gets done or the manager lose his or her position. 85 % owners are immigrants and are afraid to speak up because of the harasment... This board is corrupted yet the president is extremely smart! We also have a suspicion during the AGM the proxies are also tempered with. Our proxies go to the office and the office is the board. All hate the members of the board yet they keep coming back year after year.

— January 2013, Toronto

Letter: I am hoping that you can help us. We have lived in this condo for 10 years and it went well, good board, good manager until about 2 years ago when we got a new president and a new manager. Up to that point, we had and a very good reserve fund and the fees were reasonable, the place was well maintained and there was a good community spirit. Then this new president was instrumental in getting a new management company and manager and things started going downhill. We think that he bullies the board with the help of the lawyer and manager. Immediately, new expenditures started appearing, all kinds of new things were replaced even if the old ones were not so old and still well functioning, and had not been listed on the reserve fund study for a long time from now. Some of these moneys went against the reserve fund and others from the surplus that the previous president used to maintain our fees at a competitive rate. But the worse part is that the huge repairs and replacements were done by contractors without the usual bidding process and the figures in the budget show lump sums of $280,000 the first year and this past year $543,000 against the reserve, plus another set of figures in the range of $45,000-$126,000 in the regular budget under plumbing, contracts, heating, pool and we just don’t understand what applies to what. Besides, looking at all they did, which was already too much, these totals add up to over $lM just in two years and this does not fit....the first year, our fees went up by 18% (usually it was 1%) and then by 25% this year. They need more money to catch up with the reserve fund, they write, but they have looted it. Two of the many contractors used are related by family to the management company and one of them is not even qualified to do the work in any of the areas that we have seen.... if we ask questions about this, the manager gets very angry and after that the entire staff stops being nice to us, whether it is security, housekeeping or whatever. Finally, three owners that asked questions have received a letter from the condo lawyer telling them to stop their harassment and had to pay for it and are now terrorized. These fee hikes are never put in the status certificates and I have seen only one of these and the previous owner next to me had raised some questions and they refused to give him a certificate and he had to sell at a lower price because the buyer wanted a certificate and is now very upset that they didn’t know about the second hike in fees. Please can you advise us? We want to move out.

— January 2013, south of Toronto

Letter: We have this situation whereby the board has been spending a lot of money in the past 3 years renovating or upgrading all of the common elements ....Most of these did not need to be done right away and all of these came way over price according to several owners here that are in the know professionally. There has been nothing that we could have done because the board never let us know until the deed was done of how much all of this cost and they did only because someone asked at the AGM and we were lucky that on that particular day the corporation solicitor that always chairs the meetings did not object, which he generally does, such as trying to pass by-laws without any discussion being allowed last year. ...

I want to add here that our board surrounds itself with managers, solicitor, CCI advisors, and all these contractors. They never consider what our opinion is and even if we make it heard, they just shrug it off. This president in particular just seems to enjoy spending money. So the inevitable happened, our reserve fund fell below its allowed mark because in 3 years the board has spent $500,000 in upgrades and I understand that most of this was not only overpriced but also would not have passed the definition of what can go against a reserve fund. As a result, we have just been struck with a huge fee increase in order to refloat the reserve fund. For instance, my fees will jump monthly from $550 to $750. That’s $200 a month more or $2,400 a year or a 30% increase. ...

— January 2013, Toronto

Letter: We have a manager that lets the staff do nothing and instead of making them work, they hire new staff that we have to pay for in addition to everything else so our fees are going up. The board is as good as nothing and although they keep increasing our fees, they also keep upgrading the place and there is no end to the list of things that they are doing, I suspect because it makes them feel good to spend money rather than figuring out ways of savings, such as with helping owners and staff save on utilities....They waste tens of thousands of dollars, our dollars, just in this area alone. I am an engineer and I know all of that but they would not listen to anything. I could go on the board but it would be a fight and I am afraid that once on the board, I would become part of a little clique that has its own agenda and forgets about its responsibility to us owners. I have to mention also that it is the manager that runs the place or I should say her management company because a lot of the useless expenditures we have benefit one of their vice presidents and family.

— January 2013, North of Toronto

Letter: [This is the end part of a letter about abuse of legal letters.] The directors disregard the budget and... we have had 3 special assessments in the past 6 years, for instance, because they have spent too much and paid the manager and solicitors too much...

— January 2013, Brampton, ON

Letter: We used to have a board that was accountable, kept us informed and that made sure that we got good services for our money. That board treated our staff with respect but made sure that they worked. Now we have a board that sees itself in a partnership with the management and the staff rather than with us owners. They stand by the manager rather than by us and they don't seem to dare to displease her and tell her to make the staff work. It is obvious to all of us owners that our staff is not working as they should and no one in charge is telling them anything. So what are they doing instead of making them work? They hire more staff! And of course the manager is happy because this makes her life easier and besides the companies that supply us with staff are friends and the board seems to think that this is normal. So what is happening is that our fees are going up to support a lazy staff that is increasing in size rather than in quality.

— January 2012, Ottawa

Answer: This situation seems to be very common, if one can judge by the number of letters received on this topic. It is too often easier for some boards to simply agree with the manager on just about everything. Yet, it is a board's duty to supervise. When the staff realizes that no one supervises them, unless they truly love their job, they are going to work as little as possible. Once this pattern sets in, it is difficult to rectify. Condos are big business: Can you imagine a private business that would hire people not to work? As another reader said, "this happens only in condos." You also refer to a conflict of interest that is also too common.

Letter: Since our former Board President left we have seen a lot of changes in the appearance of our building and how management works and in the lack of communication from the Board. What worries me the most is that some contractors suddenly appeared here nearly on a daily basis as soon as the former President left and some of the work that used to be done by our own superintendent and housekeeper are now being done by contractors. We’re getting less value from our staff, and money is probably pouring out and more of this is going to happen because the manager seems to like to spend money and the Board has communicated that the building is aging, a good excuse for having contractors here so often. Another part of the problem is that the former President used to elicit our help in the maintenance of our building and used to explain what we should do to prevent various deteriorations from occurring, from the garage floors to plumbing. We just finished repaving the parking areas and this was expensive and some of this is preventable, but no one is informing residents about this. I don’t think that we are told the truth and the not-so-bright manager is misleading the dependent and inexperienced Board. I tried talking to one Board member but that person said that there is nothing that [he/she] can do because the [titles deleted] make all the decisions. What can owners do because I am not the only one complaining?

— October 2009, Toronto

Answer: Frankly, this is happening because there is no accountability in the Condo Act. There is no one you can complain to who is in charge and will come in to rectify the situation. As an owner, you can requisition a meeting and have this situation brought out in the open—but this board and manager may come up with a rafter of intimidating “facts” that will be impossible to disprove. As well, please make sure that you are well documented before you proceed with a requisitioned meeting. Your condo is failing in utilizing its staff to their full ability. Staff should learn some basic, useful skills that keep contractors away longer. What you describe is a very expensive proposition, especially in the long term. Expect fees to go up. Added January 2012: Please refer to the new section on Misuse of Funds, Kickbacks and Fraud. As well, you may want to read letters in Condo Fraud, Kickbacks and Conflict of Interest.

Letter: Our fees are going up by about 3% each year and I am not complaining but there is a lot of wasted money and it is our money after all. For instance we have a full-time manager, full-time superintendent and full-time cleaner for a total of $190,000 or 19% of our budget. I know that we don’t need a full-time manager because all the other buildings our size share their manager with at least another building somewhere else. Plus the super and the cleaner spend half of their time socializing and smoking and lounging about. Either they should work for their money or our board should use them only half time. We could save $75,000. The manager is hare-brained and the board totally rely on her. What to do?

— August 2009, Toronto

Answer: Have you written to the board about this? Second, check out the possibility of having a requisitioned meeting to bring this issue out in the open. (Click here for Requisitioned Meetings) This is also important because, in July 2010, the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) will kick in Ontario and will be added to the fees charged by companies that contract out supers, janitors and managers, as well as labor costs for plumbing, for instance. This will mean a good-size raise in fees for such services.

Owner's Reply: I wrote my board all right, and they copied the manager so that now none of these people are even polite toward us. They’re so totally lacking in any sense of ethics and they are so ignorant. They don’t have to do anything because they’re not accountable to anyone. Someone has tried before me to requisition a meeting and they made it so difficult that it didn’t take place. Please anyone DO something for us, we’re more poorly protected than car buyers.

Letter: The problem with condominiums is that owners don’t want to learn anything and as a result end up exploited by all kinds of charlatans who call themselves [names deleted] and as was our case, one day serious repairs are carried out at the cost of $500,000 and a new board is elected and finds out that these repairs weren’t necessary. In the meantime our fees go up by 25% and suddenly everyone is up in arms. But it’s too late and the deed is done. Owners have to understand that things can go very badly in a condo very quickly if no one is accountable because owners are not vigilant.

— August 2009, British Columbia

Issues with Lawyers

Please also consult the new section on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens as well as the section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Overall, 20% of the letters received until the end of December 2013 (or 601 letters out of 3,009) reported problems with condo lawyers. It would be in the interest of the legal profession to encourage higher standards in terms of condo law practice...and help owners rather than protect a few unethical lawyers. And the same can be said about condo industry groups which include lawyers among their most influential members. Such situations give a bad reputation to all condo lawyers rather than the few who might deserve it and contribute to the abuse of owners' rights.

Research Note: Of the 601 letters on this topic, only 293 included the lawyer's name. Of these 293, fully 181 were about the same lawyer (in different cases). Two other lawyers got over 45 mentions each (they probably have fewer clients) and three others a few mentions each. Therefore, it seems that a small number of lawyers are overrepresented in these complaints. It is probable that the same pattern of overrepresentation exists in the remainder of complaints in which the lawyers were not named.

Letter: [This letter is from a lawyer.] I occasionally take clients who need help with condo issues and their need to consult with me stems from their being abused by BODs and/or managers and these two groups are unavoidably in the wrong both legally and humanely. Despite this, the condo corporation’s lawyer defends these individuals and the corporation pays for this defense even though what these persons do to my clients is only the tip of the iceberg in what they do against their owners at large or the corporation.

So what you have that explains a great proportion of the problems that you describe in your Readers Feedback is that these unethical boards and managers are backed up by the legal system while in reality this system should be backing up the Condo Act and the victims of lack of due process.

I can understand that the condo lawyer [name deleted] admitted to a reporter that he prefers to work for BODs. That’s where the money is and that’s where the power is, so as a condo lawyer you follow the power because this is where your next client will come from. It’s also easier because when you really think of it, the Condo Act is more on the side of corporations than owners and these lawyers love to talk about their owners from hell, but we rarely hear them talk about their boards or managers from hell. We all make money from this and I am glad that this is not my specialty, just something I do for already existing clients.

— January 2013, Ottawa

Letter: [This letter is from a condo lawyer and ends as follows:] I would suspect that you might hear about certain firms [condo law firms] more often than others depending on how aggressively those firms pursue unit owners. There are some firms that take a decidedly different approach to dealing with unit owners compared to other firms. In my experience, some law firms act in a way that does not help instill community spirit, fairness and good faith among unit owners.

January 2012, Toronto area

Letter: Our board always has this solicitor either attend the AGMs or chair them. This solicitor is very "creative" (conveniently so for the board to hide their incompetence) in the ways he interprets the Condo Act--he makes up rules as things happen and he sends the president on wild goose chases with his ridiculously false insinuations about any person that the president likes to attack and on-the-spur-of-the-moment ideas and of course he gets paid for his "creativity". He gets paid with our money to cheat us. There should be rules against such solicitors.

January 2012, 905 area, ON

Letter: I have been a manager in Toronto for many years and I don't approve of everything I do but I do it because pleasing the boards that I work with is the only way my company keeps its contracts. When I have an honest board, it's no problem and I can be myself with them. But the current president of my board gets upset at any owner that dares disagree with him, especially when they were persons that had been on previous boards, perhaps because he is afraid that they will come back on the board and he will lose his job as the president.

One thing that makes my life both easier and harder is that as soon as someone complains in writing about something that we shouldn't be doing, the president writes back threatening them with defamation and if they object, as they should, our corporation solicitor quickly sends them a letter and then they have to pay up and if they don't do, the solicitor puts a lien on their suite. The solicitor always writes a letter as soon as the president asks, he does't ask if the president is right -- he never is -- and the president always says that it is on behalf of the board -- and it never is: no one goes against him because he showers them with compliments and he makes them feel so important, so he basically does what he wants. It makes my life easier because what would be powerful owners -- because they are respected -- don't bother us much, because of those liens. The president's way is to create divisions among us but he is doing a lot of harm to this condo because owners stay away. Of course, the president is happy with me and I can do no wrong. But I am mature enough and with enough experience to know that this entire set-up is totally wrong and that one day, I will regret having been involved in this mess. I am seriously thinking of starting my own management company because the demand is so high and I would want to start from scratch in terms of honesty and not abusing owners and subjecting them to the cruelty of some these lawyers.

January 2012, Toronto

Letter: We have such an incompetent manager with a board that is actually afraid of him that I contacted this condo lawyer [name deleted] for help along with other owners. He didn’t want to help out and advised us to move out. What kind of legal advice is this?

August 2009, Barrie area, ON

Answer: Two other letters using exactly the same words were received. The other two letters were from Toronto. If everyone who encountered problems in condos moved out, eventually condos would be empty. Lawyers would be able to do a far better job were the Condo Act improved. Added February 2012: Yet other letters, using fairly identical words, have since been received.

Letter: I am the former secretary of a large high rise and it has come to my attention that the new board is not following proper procedures, including giving untendered contracts and I am sure that this is costing a lot of money that is unnecessary. I tried talking to them but they told me that there is “only one board” and totally rebuffed me. I am very concerned that we are suddenly spending much more than we used to when we were so careful. I contacted the lawyer [name deleted] and he refused to talk with me saying that “we only talk with the president”. Is this ethical for a condo lawyer to refuse to know what is going on?

— October 2009, Brampton, ON

Answer: First, it is an established procedure, at least in Ontario, for condo corporation lawyers to do business only with the president (and not with all current board members), otherwise it might cost a great deal in legal fees if it were a free-for-all. Generally, a board has to direct a president to contact the corporation’s lawyer—even a president can’t do it on a whim. This being said, you were on the previous board and understand what is going on. This lawyer should at least listen to what you have to say if he really wants to serve your corporation and advise the board accordingly. This new board is probably uninformed and does not want to look “stupid.” An issue of pride. The other problem is that a few condo lawyers like to get into the “politics” of a corporation: They generally side with the current board, no matter who is right, in order to retain their contract. Again, it seems that an owner should have the right to seek advice from the corporation lawyer because the latter represents the corporation and not the board... and the owner should pay the fee, unless it can be recouped from the corporation. When Condo Acts are revamped, this should be one of the improvements that should be included because your case is one of many that has come to my attention in Ontario.

Letter: What option do owners have in rejecting that the AGM be chaired by [condo's solicitor's name deleted] who did not object to the proxy abuse by the manager at last year's AGM where the manager collected and filled proxies, a topic this lawyer refuses to allow for discussion, and did nothing all year to resolve the question of legitimacy of the board?

— February 2011, Toronto area, ON

Answer: It's very difficult to prevent a condo lawyer from chairing a meeting if the board decides that he is to do so. Your board seems to have many issues and you might want to replace it. Look into the section on Requisitioned Meetings. And if ever you replace this board, find a more ethical lawyer.

Letter: At the AGM, owners are not allowed to ask questions because the excuse always is, "the topic is not on the agenda." But if we ask to have it put on the agenda, the Board replies that it is a Board's right to decide. If we insist at the AGM, this lawyer grins and says we're out of order and puts that down in the Minutes, with the name of the owner making the request. [name deleted] is paid out of our fees and he is there only to make sure that only questions friendly to the Board are asked. This is a gross misinterpretation of a condo solicitor's duty here.

— February 2011, just north of Toronto

Letter: For the first few years AGM's were dominated by rambling sermons and verbal attacks on the manager and board. A couple of years ago it was decided to bring in the corporation lawyer to chair the meeting. At first it was resisted by some owners but AGM times went from 4 hours to just over 2.5 hours. It also took out personality conflicts out of the debates. Also questions regarding condo law could be answered directly as opposed to a reply sent later to the questioner without the other owners benefitting from the answer.

— February 2011, Ontario

Answer: Yes, this can be an excellent procedure, especially with lawyers who have the well-being of the entire corporation at heart. However, I do receive many letters of complaints from another side of this situation. In some cases, the chairing lawyer intimidates owners and prevents them from raising issues that might make the board look less good; in other cases, board members have even commited fraud by filling out proxies and the lawyer is aware of it. This entire situation then becomes a form of censorship and, as a result, owners stop showing up at the AGM and some are trying to get rid of both board and lawyer.

Letter: We seem to have a good corporation lawyer but the only problem is that he sees his job as "moving on" (words he uses often during AGMs) and fast through the AGM; as a result, we really don't have the time to go into any depth on issues we are raising. He means well, as he doesn't want to have a long meeting, but for us this is the only time in the year that we get to communicate with the board. If someone raises an issue, gets an answer, and another owner picks up on the same topic because the answer is not satisfactory or there might be more facets to it, [name deleted] asks for another question to "move on" to another topic. So we really don't get anything accomplished.

— February 2011, Oshawa area, ON

Answer: As you mention that this is an ethical lawyer, why don't you suggest at the AGM that, in addition to the AGM, your condo hold a yearly "townhall meeting," which is an informal meeting of owners with boards to discuss issues in depth. Hopefully [name deleted] would think that this is a good idea and would suggest it to the board. It is true that persons who preside at AGMs rush through the discussions, in part because they are afraid to lose the quorum, if this discussion takes place before votes are taken. An alternative might be to do the elections early on... and owners who want to discuss things with the board will certainly want to remain.

Letter: We requisitioned a meeting for the removal of the board for [reasons deleted for confidentiality] and at the meeting the board said that there was no quorum, but there was one because over 70% of owners were physically present, and the lawyer agreed with the board. We then all received a letter from the same law firm [name omitted] stating that it was illegal to remove this board for [deleted] reasons. We probably paid a fortune to receive an illegal legal letter.

— February 2011, Ontario

Note: The above owners had followed proper procedures and the reasons for removing all board members were more than acceptable. As well, with such a large proportion of owners in attendance, there was a quorum.

A few condo lawyers in Ontario seem to exercise a great deal of latitude in re-interpreting the Condo Act to suit the needs of current boards and managers rather than the good of the corporation. This is an issue that should be clarified in any future revision of the Condo Act. Indeed, most condo lawyers rightly emphasize that a solicitor's duty is to the corporation, hence the good of the community, rather than to just one "stakeholder." However, the good of the corporation may demand, in some cases, that owners be heard and the board overruled.

Letter: We need help badly. There are all kinds of irregularities going on in our building, like the rules are not followed by board members, there are leaks that are not repaired, my neighbor got refused a status certificate pending his suite being entered and he says that this is not right, board members collect proxies and fill them out themselves, the board constantly ask the law firm really simple questions and pay an arm and a leg for this silly stuff that many of us owners know the answer for, so that we had a bill for over $10,000 in legal fees last year for nothing. It seems to us that the lawyer is taking advantage of our board's ignorance and this [name deleted] is a smooth talker at the AGMs and prevents owners from asking relevant questions and gets paid for this as well. He agrees with anything the board says and I thought that he worked for us all in the corporation. You can tell how dishonest he is. How can we get help to have a better board, a better managerment and a more honest lawyer?

— February 2011, Toronto

Answer: You need to requisition a meeting to get rid of this board, if you think that you will be able to find a better one. Please go into Requisitioned Meetings and read the several sections pertaining to the goal of removing and then replacing a board. It is very obvious in the many letters received on this topic that the more incompetent and inexperienced a board is, the more they have recourse to lawyers, and threat of legal action, in order to preserve their vested interests and hide their ignorance. Competent boards carry on AGMs on their own and seek help only when a thorny or complicated legal issue arises. Added: I would also suggest reading the other letters posted in this section as well as in the new section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Letter: [What follows is only a small part of a rather long correspondence.] We need to requisition a meeting of owners to get rid of our board [suspected fraud; misuse of condo money; no communication, etc] and we have found very competent and honest replacements but we are afraid that this lawyer who always supports this board, props them up, really, will find more reasons to defeat our meeting.

— February 2011, Ontario

Letter: [This is the conclusion of a very long letter about problems pertaining to board and manager unethical actions supported by the condo lawyer.] I contacted the Law Society of Upper Canada over the phone and they told me that they don't investigate lawyers in condos. After some argument they told me to fill out a form. It's called "complaint form" but it really does not have any space that is relevant to a complaint by a condo owner. This Law Society is totally useless and ends up protecting lawyers that fail in their duties by being complicit with boards and managers that don't follow the condo act.

— February 2011, Brampton, ON

Note to Readers: Several letters have been received from Ontario owners who tried to get the Law Society involved, or at the very least, cognizant of problems created by legal practitioners in condos. They were all rebuffed and told that this is not one of their mandates.

Letter: My term has just expired and this was enough for me. We were a new board and the corporation's solicitor offered to give us a free seminar on general condo knowledge. We jumped at the opportunity and I personally learned a lot. But this lawyer also suggested that we update our by-laws (which had been updated just a few years before and were adequate), have him write letters to "disruptive" owners, that he should review all our contracts, etc, etc. This sounded reasonable but in the three years we did all this and more and this cost us over $55,000. I now know from talking with other condo boards that much of this was useless. I think that some lawyers take advantage of inexperienced but well-intentioned boards.

— February 2011, Ottawa

Letter: I want to add to your presentation that it is difficult for a condo owner to have access to a competent condo lawyer outside of large cities.

— August 2009, 519 area, ON

Comment: Click on Current Problems in Legal Recourse for additional feedback. Also go into Links, non-government section, for referral service. Added January 2012: Since then, letters from owners have indicated that this is a widespread problem, even in a city such as Toronto. The main issue is that there are no condo lawyers who specialize in helping owners only. As a result, most lawyers have either worked for an owner's condo corporation in the past/present or for another condo that has been or is being serviced by this owner's current management company: Consequently, either a lawyer will refuse to help an owner on these grounds or the owner will be poorly advised because of the potential conflicts of interest that this lawyer may have.

Letter: I will not bore you with all the problems I have encountered with my condo suite but I think that had my real estate lawyer and even the agent informed me of the importance of the status certificate and especially of the declaration, I would either not have bought in this condo or I would have been better prepared to face these problems. I think that these real estate lawyers and even agents should themselves be better educated about condo problems. What would you say of a physician who sends patients home with new medicines and fails to tell them how to take them? That’s about how I feel.

— August 2009, Toronto

Added January 2012:

This problem with some condo lawyers is even problematic for me because, not being a lawyer, I advise about 25% of the letter writers to consult a lawyer or a legal referral system. But, in any case, most of these owners cannot afford legal help. So the problems remain.

Nearly all the letters received on this topic also included complaints about boards and/or managers. Therefore, one may conclude that it is extremely rare that problems with lawyers arise when a condo has a hands-on, knowledgeable, ethical, and accountable board. Indeed, in such a healthy situation, neither boards nor owners need to have recourse to a lawyer except for routine legal issues. Therefore, the best protection against unethical legal practice is a good board! Click here for What Is a Good Board? But the best protection should come from a redefinition of condo lawyers' role in the Act.

Two owners also reported the case of two different condo lawyers who told boards that they were wrong and even terminated their relationship with that corporation. As well, three owners have reported that their condo lawyer suggested that they read this website rather than waste their money on consultations!

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

"Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined

Also see letters in Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens and in "Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

Letter: A couple of owners and myself have been concerned about the amount of money that is paid to some of our contractors for work that could be done by the staff. At any rate, our staff is rarely busy and it is us owners that pay. So what follows is that the president probably asks the solicitor ahead of time to say something against us at the AGM. So at the AGM when one of us makes a point, the solicitor chimes in with something about us and that takes the focus off the topic and puts the spotlight on us so the president and his fawning manager just get off the hook. The president's little group of friends that benefit from his attention to their petty issues cheer this and the solicitor then says that "owners should be careful not to harass the hard working board and manager." Then we receive a letter from the president saying in effect that if we pursue these topics, it will be brought to the attention of the solicitor and he will pursue legal action against us. It's unbelievable. We have considered moving but we also don't want to give in to corruption.

— January 2012, York Region, ON

Letter: I went to talk to the Manager about the water penetration problem I have, for the 3rd time in two months, and she said that "we'll take care of it in due time, you're the only one complaining" and I told her that this should be done as it is a health hazard due to the mold that is forming. She was furious, for no reason. Two days later I received a letter from the Board telling me in no uncertain terms to stop "harassing" the Manager and learn "to cooperate with others."

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: I asked the janitor, the manager's good friend, to please come and clean up the vomit that a drunk had left two nites ago in the garbage room on my floor. This wasn't the weekend and this wasn't done until two additional days later but right after my request, the manager phoned me and told me to stop harassing the janitor. Well I had asked him only once and never had talked to him before. So how can I be harassing him?

— February 2011, Mississauga, ON

Letter: We used to have a great recycling system with a recycling bin in the utilities room on each floor, near the garbage chute itself. Then we lost our great superintendent and the new one didn't like this system and he got his wish because the bins were removed after some city's dept complained. They complained because the superintendent is lazy and didn't clean them properly. Then that same man stopped doing a good job with the cleaning of the sauna and the health dept closed it. It's been closed for 3 months. We complained at the AGM but nothing doing. So I wrote the board of directors and was told that they would sue me for defaming the superintendent they believe is "highly qualified." Can they do this? Is this superintendent working for us or we for him?

— February 2011, Toronto

Note to Readers: Please see the fourth letter below.

Letter: I have written the board at the address they give to ask if I could have a copy of the report of the engineers that came to assess some electrical circuit problems. (I am an electrical engineer and the work they are doing is useless.) They wrote back and said it was confidential and that I should not "harass" them. I know it's not confidential and their refusal makes me even more suspicious. If a request makes them feel "harassed," they shouldn't go on the board. Business is business.

— February 2011, Toronto area

Letter: Our Board is totally under the influence of our Manager. While I understand that advising the Board is part of the role of a Manager, as you mention somewhere, I can't see how a man with no education, no experience, but very set views, and attachments to many contractors that influence him fits the bill. In fact, he and all these contractors are misleading the Board into spending money for no good reason. This money will never come back. I have written the Board about this issue and they said that I was defaming them and the Manager and would begin legal action against me if I wrote them again. Isn't the Board representing us owners? Shouldn't we be able to bring to them legitimate concerns that students in Business 101 are taught without fear of receiving a letter from the condo lawyer? And by the way, isn't this lawyer working for all of us and should a Board have the right to hide under the cover of the law, which they are interpreting very loosely, to begin with? [Please also see section on Conflict of Interest]

— February 2011, 905 area, Ontario

Letter: The people above me are very noisy and that's an understatement well into the night, and it has been well recorded in the notes of our security staff whenever I report it. Unfortunately these people above me are the cousins of a board member and when I finally wrote the manager with an attached documentation of times (that I took from your website) and duration, she told me to stop harassing them about this. This was the first time and I was well documented. Then the fellow at security received a note from the board warning him that he would be fired if he kept harassing the people above. [The remainder of this correspondence refers to what to do about the noise issue. This letter also points to a conflict of interest.]

— February 2011, London, ON

Letter: We complained to the board about the fact that the manager's husband owns the company that the superintendent works for and she protects him and pampers him and the chap does no work. I can't even understand that the board does not see this, I guess they are blind to anything that this manager does. So in no short time we received a letter from the condo lawyer threatening to sue us for defaming the manager's good name and character and he billed us for this letter. Now if we don't pay it, they will put a lien on our suite. Can they do this?

— February 2011, Greater Toronto Area

Answer: No, but they do it. First of all, the board should have been in touch with you to acknowledge your justifed complaint and discuss it with you. (I receive many similar letters from owners like you.) And if your complaint is not justified, they should politely tell you this. But if your complaint is justified, they should do something about it. A legal letter when you have merely made a complaint to your board is unethical because it is your right to complain to your board: In fact, it's your board's duty to listen to owners and hear them out. I suggest that, for the time being, you either pay for this letter in order to avoid a lien or hire a lawyer yourself. [Click here for Liens; also click on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens to read other similar letters]

Note to Readers: Generally, only boards that are dysfunctional in other areas as well respond the way this one did. It is unfortunate that the lawyer followed up in this fashion.

A lawyer who is told by a president or a manager that an owner is "defaming" them or "harassing" them should be able to recognize a red flag and ask to see what the owner wrote. He or she should suggest to the board to talk to the owner first. The solicitor should use his sense of ethics and verify if indeed an owner is "defaming" or "harassing" board and management before setting forth with a letter. Complaining to a board and raising issues do not constitute harassment. Most owners just can't afford to pay for unfair legal letters that are then charged back to them.

Words such "harassing" and "defaming" are used very liberally by vindictive and small-minded boards and managers. They are meant to scare owners who "bother" them, especially when they are not doing their job properly. Other such words are "this is a serious allegation."

Please refer to the letters in the section on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens.

"Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

Letter: I am a director in a high rise condo and I think that the rest of the board is behaving unethically, having repairs done that don't need to be done and the manager gets bids for work to be done from contractors that work together to present a ridiculously unrealistic range of prices. The way it works is that the manager, with the encouragement of the board, arranges for these quotes so that the contractor that they like unavoidably sends in the best bid and wins. So we're stuck with these contractors and of course they always recommend more work. I suspect kickbacks but how to prove this? The worst part in all of this is when I tried to talk to them about this, they told me I was a "traitor and a trouble maker." They are all putting a lot of pressure on me and told me that if I talked to anyone about this "ridiculous nonsense," they would put the lawyer on my case for defamation.

— February 2011, Ottawa

Answer: [This letter and the answer constitute an abbreviation of a long correspondence with the owner. Readers may want to consult the new section on Misuse of Funds, Kickbacks and Fraud, which was added after receiving many similar letters. As well, you may want to read other letters from owners under the category of  Issues of Money. Or, yet, consult other letters in the previous section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined. Many of the letters in Issues of Conflict of Interest are also relevant.]  I suggest that you keep a very good record of what is going on. I would even go so far as to suggeste that you record these meetings, if you can (although I am not sure about the legality of this advice and I would advise discussing this with a litigation lawyer)... and keep copies of these bids to build a case. At a later stage, you may be able to obtain a court compliance order under section 135 of the Condo Act, “Oppression Remedy.” But I am really not qualified to discuss this in depth. What never ceases to amaze me is that there is no government oversight over what goes on in condos nor improvements to the Condo Act to prevent such situations. Yet, these situations are not isolated cases.

Letter: I have lived in this condo for a year and really like it. The place is clean, there is a great staff and for a small tip they even come to help with carrying your groceries or to change lightbulbs. And  the President lives on my floor and tells me all kinds of interesting stories; he is really working hard.  We also have this very funny newsletter full of recipes and jokes and travel ideas.  But a group of troublemakers is having a petition signed to replace this Board.  Why would I want this and I refused to sign and told the Manager and President about it right away. What should I do to help the President?

— February 2011, Ottawa area

Answer: [This is the first of five letters exchanged with this owner. The requisitionists are reasonably asking to have annual AGMs, audited financial statements, and a reserve fund study--none of which has yet occurred in this 4-year-old condo. They also want a reduction in the more than plentiful staff because this is too costly an item and this staff is basically there to work for tips!] I know that you will not like my answer but I want you to seriously consider it because the well-being of your investment in this condo is in serious danger. The reason why you don't agree with the requisitionists is that you occupy a priviledged position in your condo: You are friends with the president, you get a great deal of information from him/her, your floor is kept clean, and you are helped by the staff who should instead be working for the entire condo. Your condo has no budget, the fees are already too high, and you really don't know where monies are going. [....]  Don't sign the petition because, in your case, this president will learn of it. But do attend the requisitioned meeting and vote for these petitioners because they are not troublemakers: They understand what is going on. A cute newsletter does not replace communication from the board and owners' rights, as per the Condo Act, to have AGMs, etc. Added for Readers: Eventually, the board was voted out but with great difficulty. This is a good example of how an owner does not see the problems that are afflicting his/her condo corporation. Indeed, condo owners' perception of problems largely depends on where they are located in a building, their involvement, and their knowledge. (See the last letter in this section.)

Letter: I have a problem with noise coming from a rattling sound in my fan coils or heating/AC. I have documented it on a daily basis and submitted this to the manager after she failed to respond the first time around. So when I presented this to her, she got very angry and gave a copy to the board and the president wrote me to tell me to stop being a troublemaker and stop harassing the manager. I never harassed her and have been very polite. We just can't sleep and we have headaches. It has been 3 months and they also wrote that I am the only one complaining about this. I mean, I can't believe this rationale for refusing me this service because, of course I am the only one complaining, this is in my suite! and the fan coil belongs to the corporation and is its responsibility. This is affecting our health. How long is it reasonable to wait? And is it acceptable to be accused of being a troublemaker for a reasonable request? 

— February 2011, 401 area east of Toronto

Answer: No, you are being perfectly reasonable and within your rights. Continue documenting this noise. Have you also thought of recording it and of renting a sound meter as a further documentation? You may want to have a visit from the Health Department of your municipality. I suspect that, if this manager and this president are thusly responding, there must be other problems in your condo. Try to get a better picture of what is going on. If all fails, you are probably in a position to seek a court compliance order under section 135 of the Condo Act, "Oppression Remedy," because what is going on is a failure to comply with the Act in Ontario. But you will need to seek legal advice, and this can be difficult because you will not be able to have recourse to the law firm that deals with your condo. I know that this does not make sense but, generally, condo lawyers stand by managers and boards of directors and some feel that listening and helping an owner against them represents a conflict of interest.

Letter: I have tried desperately to tell our board and management that we have to look into our garage deterioration and they refuse to listen. I even asked for a copy of an alleged report by engineers and they have refused to show it to me. The report allegedly says that there is nothing wrong with the garage but why is cement falling down all over, why is it full of cracks, and why does water come in after a rain? I tried to requisition a meeting and all owners received a letter telling them that I am a “troublemaker”. What can I do?

— August 2009, Toronto

Answer updated January 2012 for readers: So far, I have received over 30 letters of persons who are “troublemakers” like you. You all have in common the fact that you are trying to force the board/management to face a problem. They label you as such and use you as a scapegoat to deflect the blame. You are a whistle blower and there should be legislation to protect whistle blowers. (In your case, from your description, your garage does have problems that have to be attended before they get worse and costlier.)

I suggest that you read the sections on Requisitioned Meetings in this website and Right of  Access to Condo Records. Indeed, you do have the right to see this report and even to obtain a copy for a reasonable fee. As well, the fact that they sent a letter around should not deter you from requisitioning a meeting, although I admit, your task may be a bit difficult and unpleasant.

You may actually want to seek a legal opinion as to whether this letter that was sent to all owners constituted some form of character defamation (I am not sure of the legal term here). But, before you do so, please consult other readers' letters regarding "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Letter: [This letter is from an owner who had to resign from the board after the president of the board wrote to all residents explaining to them that this board member was involved in activities that were not in the best interest of the corporation--none of these activities have actually occurred.] The letter stated that I was a bad neighbour because I was trying to "make trouble among neighbours" when actually all I was doing was to try to prevent the board from wasting our money and trying to have the manager do her job with issues of maintenance. Owners were given these allegations [deleted] and residents were warned against talking to me."

— February 2011, Ontario

Letter: Some troublemakers are requesting a meeting because the management is not  doing anything, they write, for their noise issues.  This is unfair because my floor is very quiet. How can they complain for nothing because this is not a problem that affects all units?

— February 2011, Mississauga, ON

Answer: It often happens that people living in a same condo do not experience the same problems and noise is one of them. This does not negate the problem, even if only one owner suffers from it: The manager's duty is to try to remedy it, whatever the problem is. Think of it this way: One day it may be you at the  other end of the stick, experiencing a problem, that this manager may then not want to deal with because he/she has a history of getting away with this with impunity. In fact, in a same condo, some owners may have very bad experiences with a manager while others receive only good treatment. This is an issue that a good board can sort out. These people are not necessarily troublemakers: They are simply exercising their right to obtain a redress.

Issues of Owners’ Right to Information & Access to Documents

Fully 33% of all persons who write report that they are refused access to condo records they are entitled to view or receive as per the Ontario Condo Act. Many of these letters are described in the sections on Issues with Boards of Directors and "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

 Letter: It took many months before the manager agreed to let us see the minutes of Board Meetings and she only gave us three sets of minutes to see; we wanted to see the three most recent ones but she refused these and we are concerned because this is where the Board supposedly approved some contracts for work that does not need to be done (I am a [deleted], so I should know). That's the first and the second problem. The third is that she then charged us $180 to pay for the time she spent digging up these minutes while it is my understanding that she should have charged us only if she had done photocopying and she refused to do this and instead we had to view the minutes in her office. So we refused to pay and now we have a letter from the condo solicitor threatening to place a lien on our unit if we don't pay up. Isn't this all illegal?

— January 2012, Mississauga, ON

Answer: Everything that you write about is totally unacceptable and probably illegal because none of this follows the Condo Act of Ontario. You have the right to see and have a photocopy of the minutes for a basic fee of a few dollars. But the Act doesn't support a fee for "digging up" documents — especially so as they pertain to the current year: Not much "digging" should be required. You were right to refuse to pay. And a lien for such an issue is not as per the Condo Act either. This lawyer is making money at your expense... Read some of the letters in Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens . As well, you may ask yourself who will benefit from the work that is planned but which you believe is unwarranted in view of your professional expertise? Is there a conflict of interest somewhere down the line?

Letter: If it were not for the AGMs we would never know that we have a Board of Directors. The only info we get is from the Manager's postings of maintenance work to be done but we never know why. We do however have a Newsletter done by a volunteer group of owners about social events, things in the community and this sort of things. It's something positive but not in terms of the condo business itself. Seeing this, I wrote our Board to point out to them that they can't delegate our right to information about the business of the condo, which is our business after all, to a group of volunteer owners that write about social activities. They never replied! Even at the AGM, we get very little information and questions are not taken; it's generally the management company that chairs the AGM. The few owners that I know here (most are tenants) are also concerned and after reading your info, we fully realize that we would never be able to get the number of votes necessary to get rid of this board. So we are stuck. I think that the Condo Act should be much more helpful and dictate that boards at least inform owners of board meeting decisions and discussions. I don't even find the financial statement in the AGM package and the budget very helpful because there are not enough details. What can you do with just two pages? It really never explains why fees are going up.

— February 2011, London area, ON

Letter: After I showed the pages from your website to the president and the manager [about the fact that they were refusing to let him/her see the minutes of board meetings], they sent me a note stating that I would have to pay $100 for each set of minutes and as I need to see all the minutes of the past year, this will cost me $1,000. What do I do now as I can’t afford this?

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: [This owner needed to see the minutes because the board never provides information and refuses to answer questions--while, at the same time, the board is making decisions about very large expenditures that seem unwarranted and without going through the tendering process. The president was very angry at this person for asking.] The Condo Act, Section 55(6), clearly stipulates that the fee they charge you has to be reasonable. The fee they demand is not reasonable. It’s extortion! They are trying to make you back off, intimidate you, for one reason or another. There is very little in board minutes that an owner can’t see: These are discussions about personnel and residents and on-going litigations; such discussions don’t even occur at each meeting. Therefore, discussions that need to be erased certainly will not require $100 each for labour—unless these minutes are nothing but gossip...

Letter: I requested to have a copy of the Minutes of the Board Meetings for the past 3 months and received 3 pages. Please note: 3 pages for 3 meetings, one page per meeting. It said nothing, really: only that the minutes of previous meetings were accepted, that a discussion followed, that the financial statements were accepted, and other agenda subtitles. No idea of what was discussed. Second, they charged me $5.00 per page and sent them to me via email as an attachment. I refused to pay because imagine how much I would have had to pay if the Minutes had been good ones? So now they want to lien me for the $15. Help, please.

— August 2009, 905 area, ON

Answer: There is really nothing in the Condo Act that forces boards of directors to be transparent in the minutes of their meetings. But the minutes of your board, as you point out, are not even informative. Perhaps someone should ask about this at the next annual general meeting? I might add that some believe that the less written in the minutes, the better. I disagree because a future board might want to revisit some decisions made by a previous one and may not understand the reasoning that guided the decisions if there is no information on the process and the substance.

As to the fee, Section 55(6) clearly states that the fee has to be reasonable to cover copying and labour. But, in your case, there were practically no costs as it took the manager at most 3 minutes to email you the 3 pages. At best, $3.00 would have been acceptable. And they certainly cannot lien you. This is not covered among situations that can be the source of a lien. I suggest that you write back and offer $3.00 and point to Section 55(6). Added January 2012: Click here for the section on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens.

On the positive side, the manager has forwarded you the minutes via email, which saves paper, and has done so quickly and without questioning your motive. This is excellent: In many condos, they refuse to comply or question your motives.

Letter: I trust that we are a good Board of Directors: we communicate and communicate. We even post the Minutes of Board meetings. We study what we can do for the future and make promises only when they are realistic and then follow through. We do due diligence and follow the Act, our Rules and our Declaration. We even have passed a set of Rules to help in the transition from one President to the next, including a Rule that requires that a notice is placed on our notice boards to the effect that the incoming President and the outgoing President have held a meeting in order that the knowledge accumulated by the outgoing President has been passed to the current one. Both signatures have to appear. We have posted your website on our notice boards because we believe that the more residents are aware of their rights and responsibilities and the Board’s and Manager’s responsibilities, the better we can all run this business.

August 2009, Toronto


Letter: In my condo we do not know what is going on. There are no special notices or newsletters and we do not even know when and if there are any board meetings taking place. We have no idea of what is going on except when we receive the budget and that budget does not explain much. At the AGM, the president’s report is very sketchy and he does not seem to be able to answer questions in any lucid manner. When we go to the office and ask a question, it is never well received and one of our neighbours dared asked for a copy of the latest board meeting minutes and was told that he didn’t need them and the manager has since been unpleasant to him.

August 2009, Mississauga, ON

Comment: Your neighbour should consult the section on Right of Access to Condo Records? Added January 2012: Lack of communication from management and boards as well as difficulties in obtaining documents together constitute the most frequently mentioned complaint. The problems related to access to condo records and unfair fees charged are widespread. See also the section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined

Horror Stories About Special Assessments


A surprisingly high number of letters have been received about special assessments that seem unwarranted, that occur without prior notice, for which boards give no reasonable explanation, and for which boards refuse to give proof that quotes were sought for the jobs. Owners are totally helpless in these cases. This is one more reason why we need a Condo Umbudsman and a stronger Condo Act to protect owners' rights. Also click here for section on Waste of Money and Condo Fraud, Kickbacks and Conflict of Interest

Letter:  We just have been told that we would have to pay for a special assessment of around $27,000 each unit in two instalments, one in two months and the other in six months. Not only we can’t afford this but it is very unfair because it is for the roof and owners have been complaining about leaks for three years now and they have refused to do anything or even never answered us, so they knew about it and could have saved some money; instead they went ahead with stupid expenditures such as replacing gates, doors and repainting the garages and others that could in all cases have waited until there was no emergency such as leaky roofs. As a result our reserve fund was depleted of around $450,000 in just over two years just for cosmetic reasons that were we all agreed not important at all except for the pride of the board and perhaps the benefit of some of the contractors all good friends of the manager. How can we stop this and instead take a loan that we could repay in smaller and longer special assessments? How can we get rid of these people? Thank you.

— September 2013, Toronto

Letter: My condo just spent over $500,000 of upgrades this year on the lobby (small lobby), the manager’s office (small office), guest suite (only one), back entrance (emergency entrance nobody ever uses). There was no need for any of this because all they did was to buy more expensive stuff and added features that were not there in the first place and this was not in the reserve fund plan at all. As a result we now have a 20% increase in fees. I learned of all these details by mistake as I happened to receive a copy of an email from a board member to another and this board is worried. I think that he sent me a copy by error because my name is very similar to the receiving board member. I was horrified because our budget is less than one million, not more and the best I can recall our reserve fund has about one million also.

— September 2013, Ottawa

Letter: Please my wife is having a nervous breakdown. We live in townhouses with plain hard working people like us and the roofs are leaking and the board has decided to replace them in three stages starting with the worse case ones and that happen to be the block where three board members live. Our reserve fund is supposed to cover this but because it was short a bit, it was decided to have a special assessment. But then the board decided to replace the roofs from shingles that had lasted for 20 years to tiles from Spain and that will cost us three times the price. They have hired one contractor and he happens to be related to the manager. That means a large special assessment of at least $10,000 per unit right away and we can’t afford this and we can’t sell because everyone is trying to and no one wants to buy with such an assessment coming. We tried to appeal to the auditor at the AGM and he said that he was not a lawyer, even though it’s clear that it is a huge upgrade but he advanced that this will add “tremendous value to your homes” to which the lawyer added that it is also great against fire (we don’t live in California or in a woodland!). Our argument is that they can’t use our reserve fund for this upgrade and we should not have to pay for it and it is well over the 10% limit of our budget. Our other argument is that as the roof will be done over 3 years we should spread the payments over 3 years. That was the end of the AGM and the lawyer ruled against us. We are all immigrant and we don’t know what to do. Please help up because we can’t afford it and my wife has had to seek medical treatment as she is so worried

— September 2013, Brampton

Letter: We just received a special assessment to replace the boilers for a total of $160,000 so that it is over $1,000 per unit and we have to pay in one month. Can you help us here because we have a reserve fund of over $1,000,000 and the schedule in the reserve fund study shows these replacements are due for between next year and three years from now. I don't think that we should have a special assessment if we have an adequate reserve fund.

— January 2012, Mississauga, ON

Answer: This is the purpose of reserve funds: to prevent special assessments. A priori, your reserve fund seems to be adequate. At the very least, the replacement of these boilers will not exhaust it. There is probably no rationale for this special assessment. To compound this problem, they are not giving you sufficient time to find the money. It might make sense to have another reserve fund study carried out. I suggest that you requisition a meeting of owners to discuss this issue with the board and make your concerns heard. Click here for Requisitioned Meetings.

Letter: We got a special assessment of just over $5,000 per unit without prior notice and the work on [deleted to preserve anonymity] has already started at the same time that we received the notice. We wrote the board and manager to ask to see the tenders for the contractors that are doing the work but they said that they would look into it but we don't think that there were tenders and we wonder whose friends are getting the money. Then we never heard anything about it and the work went on and we never either received a good explanation as to what is wrong with the [deleted] and the condo is only 8 years old. We tried to  do a requisitioned meeting to discuss it but the board members went door to door and told owners not to sign the petition and that we were only troublemakers. We wanted to have the work stopped but apparently it would be too expensive to cancel the contract even if we got rid of the board because there would be a large financial penalty. The only thing that we obtained was to spread the payments over 5 months but it's a lot of money to add $1,000 to our budget each month and some owners are trying to sell and they have to sell for less because of the assessment and it is not even in the status certificate and I read what you wrote about this in the chapters and this could mean that new owners could refuse to pay and this would be an even greater problem for us.

— January 2012, Toronto

 Letter: Eight months ago we got a special assessment of 20% of our yearly fees that for me amounted to $64 a month or $720 a year and this is going to last for 3 years. They didn’t give any reason and we had had a 10% increase in fees as part of the regular budget. Now they just announced that our fees are going to go up by 20% again so that suddenly in less than a year my monthly fees are going up by $64 in addition to another $64 for three years for the special assessment for a total of $128 a month or $1,536 a year. That’s a lot of money and all the owners are very upset as most of us can’t afford this especially in these times of recession. Please tell us what we can do about this. 

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: This is, indeed, a huge increase and I understand the predicament that this puts you in. Generally, special assessments and steep increases in fees occur when a condo, usually one built before 2001, does not have an adequate reserve fund and has to carry out serious repairs and replacements. Boards are then to be congratulated for such a decision, otherwise the building would keep deteriorating. But, in your case [several letters were exchanged], your reserve fund is adequate to meet whatever they need to do and your total yearly budget also seems to be adequate for a building your size. Also, normally, one would applaud spreading a special assessment over three years rather than within a few months, as often occurs. (Click here on Owners' Money Facts for additional information on special assessments.)

The main problem here lies in the fact that owners do not even know the reason behind the special assessment and the large increase. One can be concerned that the board may be proceeding with expenditures that may fall under the rubric of those for which owners should be asked for their permission. (Click here on Owners’ Permission.) You do need to requisition a meeting of owners to request a detailed accounting of and rationale for all these new expenditures. (Click here on Requisitioned Meetings.)

Letter: Please help us because we are totally lost here in our townhouse because we just received a notice and we are going to be assessed $46,000 for each of the [less than 35 units] in our development [about 25 years old]. They have informed us our underground garage needs to be entirely redone inside. We have to pay in three instalments beginning in two months from now with 3 months between each payment. They say that the work will be done next summer and that it may cost even more than this. We don’t have this kind of money and we need to sell. How is this going to affect how we sell?

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: [Here as well, several letters were exchanged in order to make sense of the situation.] Don’t sell yet! The total special assessment is around 1.5 million and this is huge. The first problem here is that special assessments have to be proportional to the fees paid and this development has three different fees so that, in your case, your assessment should be lower because you own one of the smallest units. Second, the garage project has not yet been confirmed by any engineering firm nor has it been tendered for contracts. Therefore, the board and management have no idea of the costs: They cannot exact a special assessment because they have no figures on which to base it. Third, compared to similar work done in other townhouses, the price quoted seems a priori to be excessively high. However, it is possible that your board has decided to levy a special assessment to refloat the entire reserve fund in addition to paying for the garages—this would be good but they should consider spreading the burden over 2-3 years or simply raise fees.

You want to sell but here is the problem: When a board is aware that there will be a special assessment, they have to include this information in the status certificate. (Please click here on Why Is a Status Certificate So Important?) So, if they do this, it will be more difficult for you to sell your house. And, even if they don’t do it, you have to declare it to the real estate agent, otherwise you could be liable in the future and so would your board. As well, other owners may panic and try to sell with a resulting reduction in the value of your property. Better bite the bullet and requisition a meeting of owners [see above letter] to get all the information needed and to protest this special assessment based on few facts: They need to tender this project first. If this fails, all owners together should seek a solid legal opinion and this will be cheaper than remaining in your current situation.

Letter: We had problems with water coming into our unit and it took us years to have the property manager do something about it but they said that they needed a special assessment just for us. As a result of this special assessment that was not large by the way, other owners have stopped talking to us and some told us that it was our fault if our condo is in bad financial shape.

— August 2009, Toronto

Answer:  [This letter was abbreviated] points to several problems. First, neither the board nor the management should have let it be known that the reason for the special assessment was to repair your particular unit. You deserved anonymity unless owners wanted to check to make sure that money was really spent for this problem. As it is not the case here, this represents a breach of confidentiality, which is not fair to you.

Second, your condo only needed a small (around $300 each suite) special assessment to repair your water penetration problem: If the condo could not absorb this expenditure, it may mean that there is something wrong with the general health of your condo’s finances. A condo’s budget ought to be able to absorb doing such repairs—especially in view of the fact that your building has over 100 units, and the repairs to your unit surely didn’t cost over $30,000. Therefore, either there were other suites that had the same problem or you can start asking, “where did the money go?”

Letter: I am new on the board of directors of a [less than 45 units] townhouse complex. We just completed redoing the sidings because the board before me had been told by the management company that there were leaks coming into units. We have proof of only one such a unit with this problem but the engineer that the management company hired documented the problem as being widespread. No one has ever seen this report but the go ahead was given and we had a special assessment for a total of $450,000 and each suite paid from $10,000 to $18,000 roughly. The work is completed and I have learned that there was no leakage in any other suite and that even if there was, the water would not have come from the sidings but from the window frames. I also learned that the price we were charged was too high. We would have had eventually to replace the sidings but it could have been done later and have given us the time to increase our reserve fund that is now totally flat, so that in addition to this special assessment we now have to pay nearly half of our monthly fees into the reserve fund because we know that we will soon have to replace the roofs because these have started leaking as well. I feel totally helpless because it seems to me that the previous board, the management company, the engineers and the contractors were all in this together. We live in a nice area and I am torn between leaving and staying and what my duty now is and how to go about it. [Abbreviated letter]  

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: Difficult to know where to begin answering this! There are multiple issues from the past and others from the here and now. To begin with, here is what surely went wrong. Your board never tendered the contracts with engineering firms nor interviewed any. They did not do due diligence and neither did the management company, neither in terms of contracts with the engineers nor with the contractors. As a result, you had no way of knowing what a competitive price would have been. You never saw any of this documentation purporting to show that leakages were widespread and where they came from: You are perfectly entitled to see this documentation right now, both as a director and an owner. You would need to have different opinions from other engineering firms but this will cost you and, then, they may be loath to contradict a colleague for work that has already been done.

You absolutely need to walk to each townhouse, knock on doors, and ask if they had a leak, where, and when and if they have one now: You need this both for the past and to document that the roofs are actually leaking, which seems to be your next expensive problem—you are looking at another small fortune here. If you have documentation that there indeed was water penetration, then you need engineers to tell you whether it was coming from the sidings, the window frames, or a combination of both. (And now they say that you have a roof problem...) Do you need to caulk the window frames or has it been done when the sidings were being replaced? When you and the other directors have all the facts, rather than hearsay, then you can think of your next step. But the problem here is that I wonder how you will be able to get at the facts because everyone is so mixed up with everyone else. As you well know, engineering firms that supervise contractors’ work are entitled to a commission that, if I recall, ranges from 8 to 15%. And, in this case, one can also wonder whether your management company is not getting a kickback under one form or another or, yet, may be related to the contractors.

You have to find another management company or, because you have so few units, you may want to self manage with the help of an accounting firm for the financials and bills. Click here on Self-Management for further information. Owners should be told the truth ASAP but not before you can document it.

Basically, the problem flows from the fact that, from the beginning, proper procedures were not followed, proper documentation was not available, poor communication followed, and you have a questionable management company that, at the very least, is withholding documents from you. A previous board of directors did not do due diligence, probably out of ignorance rather than malice. All of which could have been avoided with better government oversight, a Condo Act with more teeth, boards that are better educated, and management companies that are regulated. None of this is any consolation to you.

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.

Lack of Enforcement of Condo Acts in Canada

The issues of lack of regulation and enforcement of Canada's various provincial Condo Acts permeates most of the letters received, whether explicitly or indirectly so. The letters also reinforce the pressing fact that these Acts need updating. The few letters posted below simply address the failures of oversight more directly than others do. 

The Condo Act needs to be improved to better protect owners' rights and condo governance — click here for more information

Letter:  I have read all the letters you have posted and I find it scandallous that our government is not moving to enforce the Condo Act and to update parts that could make life easier for owners. But then again I have to remember that few institutions receive government oversight in Ontario and that consumers, patients, seniors, and condo owners are not protected in any efficient way. There are no condo inspectors, for instance. Shame on our government! They are just protecting the industries that oppress us because these people can contribute to their election campaigns.

— February 2011, London, ON

Letter: My condo is like a little totalitarian state: everyone is afraid of displeasing the manager or even members of the Board of Directors and I think that the latter are even afraid of each other. When we ask for a service, we never know whether it will be considered legitimate or a huge threat to their egos or a bloody nuisance. It is very unsettling and I don’t think that our elected officials in the Legislature understand this.

— August 2009, Toronto

Letter: I honestly don’t know what the use of having a Strata Act is if our government does not enforce it. It’s as ridiculous as installing red lights and then firing traffic cops and as a result drivers drive through. [In BC, the Strata Act is the same as a Condo Act.]

— August 2009, Victoria, BC

Letter: My condo townhouse complex is run so poorly and with no professional experience I have to move. I am so angry that there is no one out there to protect my rights. I have written, phoned, visited, joined every possible group and yet my situation stays the same. I am bullied by 3 guys who know less than I about running a condo and I cannot afford to run to a lawyer to get this place in order. What a mess. I will never again buy a condo of any kind. It's so wrong that our government is so useless in this matter. Things have to change and fast. If I could tell you all the details you would be shocked.

— August 2009, Ontario

Letter: We have a lot of older condos in Montreal and many are conversions. Some of them are turning into slums because preventive maintenance is not carried out and fees are often too low. Some owners even refuse to pay their fees.

August 2009, Montreal

Letter: Don’t we have an enforcement office for licensing, etc? We could have an enforcement office for the Condo Act.

— August 2009, Mississauga, ON

Letter: I am not much in favour of governments regulating the condo industry because governments make such a mess of just about everything they touch. But the police does a reasonable job of enforcing crime laws so what we need is a Condo Police that would make sure that Boards of Directors and Managers enforce rules and treat everyone fairly and take a good care of our condo; our condos are our biggest investment.

August 2009, Calgary

Letter: I totally agree with you that individual Board members and individual managers should personally pay penalties that at this time are paid by the condo corporation itself. I am thinking not only of the $500 that a corporation has to pay in Ontario when an owner is refused access to corporation documents but that such penalties should exist for failure to investigate noise complaints, failure to respond in a timely fashion when there is a problem of water penetration, failure to help owners requisition a meeting, and so on and so forth. I don’t think that having such penalties would end up in penalties being actually paid by individual Board members but the fact that these penalties would be well known would serve as a deterrent.

August 2009, Hamilton, ON

Issues Regarding Townhouses


This website receives a disproportionately high number of letters from owners of townhouses. Small developments are particularly vulnerable to problems of bad management and incompetent and even unethical boards. Developers often build townhouses as condos rather than freehold because it is less expensive to do so. But it is a mistake and owners are the ones who suffer the consequences. Consequently, a new section entitled, "Issues Specific to Townhouses," has been added in Factors to Consider When Buying a CondoIt is also suggested that the letters under “Horror Stories About Special Assessments” be consulted as many come from owners in townhouse developments. Many of the letters about boards, managers, criminality, and abuse of legal letters also come from townhouse condos.

Question: We own a townhouse in a small development of less than 50 units and over the years the Board of Directors have allowed owners to change the gates of their front patio and backyard to upgrade them to better looking ones, and their screen doors both back and front and mail boxes even if these are common elements. But some of these gates have deteriorated and some of these doors need to be replaced as is the case for a few mailboxes but the Board refuse to replace them because they say that they are not responsible for upgrades. They will soon replace the gates for half of the units, those that are not upgrades and next year it will be the screen doors. It seems unfair to us that we won’t get the same service and to top this, when we moved here, we didn’t even know that our gates, doors and mailboxes were upgrades. No one told us of this.

— October 2009, Ottawa area

Answer: On the one hand, the board is correct that the corporation is not responsible to replace what are upgrades paid for by owners. One would have expected, however, that each upgrade should have been noted on the status certificate of each unit—otherwise, how can a prospective buyer know that the doors and gates are upgrades and that he or she will become responsible to replace them at his or her own cost? This has been an ill-advised decision on the part of the board(s) over the years, probably a question of ignorance rather than malice. The management company should have given them better advice. However, it is also possible that the management company saw this as a cost-saving device and a good way to reduce any increase in condo fees in the future.

You can imagine how costly this could be for owners in other townhouse developments if, for instance, a board allowed them to upgrade their windows and interior doors and even the steps to their patio or backyard when these are common elements as spelled out in their declaration. These would become very costly items down the road for future owners who would buy these units. As you can see, several issues are involved here. Click here for information on Requisitioned Meetings because this issue needs to be straightened out as soon as possible. And there are precedents to the effect that new owners who were never informed of these upgrades via the status certificate should receive the same services as other owners whose units have no upgrades of common elements. Click here for Why Is a Status Certificate So Important?

Letter: We live in a small townhouse group of 8 units. Our units are freehold and this includes all of our house and garage. Our common elements are the grounds in front and in the back, the fences and the stone pavements from the street to our individual garages. It is too expensive to have a management and no one wants to volunteer to manage and the services we get from that manager are as good as useless. No one wants to be a director either. Someone told me that we could deregister. Is that true?

October 2009, 905 area, ON

Answer: Yes, if all the owners sign an agreement to this effect and if you then have a requisitioned meeting of owners to set this in motion--this probably would be the least expensive solution for everyone concerned. There is no advantage in being a condo in such a situation. You will need to hire a condo lawyer for this and then you will, I believe, have to register your individual houses again perhaps with the help of a real estate lawyer. The condo lawyer will help you draw up a document to the effect that each freehold townhouse owns the grassy ground in front and the back of its own house, the fences, as well as the stone pavement that leads to each garage. Then, the lawyer will help you divide whatever is left in the bank accounts of the regular budget and the reserve fund among yourselves and share in the payment of the legal fees.

Noise Issues


Noise is endemic in condos--although some condos are much better than others, in part because rules are enforced. In fact, the pages on noise problems are the 3rd most frequently consulted page in this  website. As well, 23% of letters received are from owners asking for help about the serious noise problems they are facing, which often have been affecting them for years--and about which neither the boards nor the managements have done anything. Some solutions: strengthening the Building Codes of various provinces and having a Condo Umbudsman to help residents. It is also important to mention that a large number of owners have to go on disability as their health deteriorates or they become totally depressed as a result of lack of sleep because of noise. This is a serious health issue that is never addressed by a government that does not want to displease builders.

[The following letter is about noise, but it is also about conflicts of interest on the part of the management, bad board behaviour, money mishandled, mistreatment of seniors, abuse of liens, etc]

Letter: We’re trapped here, please who can help us? We have always been happy here for 25 years and we live on the first floor right next to the super’s apartment. Two years ago the board decided to transform this apt into a gym on our side and two guest rooms after this. There are many problems and the first one is that we haven’t slept well a single complete night for 18 months by now because of the noise in the gym and we both ended up on disability, with my husband’s heart problems getting worse and I had a nervous breakdown because of sleep deprivation and the stress of all the problems that followed. We tried to fight this but the board and manager say that we are trouble makers and now lots of people avoid us because they talk against us.

The other problems are that this transformation cost $90,000 and this is over 10% of our budget but most of this was paid for by the reserve fund and we know that this isn’t right. [Note: The Condo Act prohibits such expenditures being taken against the reserve fund.]. We got in touch with the auditor and he said that he was not a forensic auditor and the week after that we received a letter from the law firm [deleted] telling us that we have to cease our defamation ... This letter cost us nearly $700 and when we didn’t pay because we felt that this was not fair, they put a lien on us and that had to be paid and the entire cost went to nearly $2,000. We tried to sell but they delayed so much with the status certificate and the noise that our real estate agent said that it would be difficult to sell.

This idea of transforming the super suite arrived after we got a new management. The guy who did the renovations is her brother and the new plumber we have is her cousin and he started putting clean outs in units and they are not needed and already two older owners have sold because of this. [......] All our directors have been on the board for many years and whenever a new candidate comes up the president goes from unit to unit and he tells the elderly owners that he is their friend, that they owe him to vote for the board and that without them they would get less good service, he frightens them, I know because he did it with us before all this fuss started but now he doesn’t even see us. All directors get help in their units from the super for free even if there is other more urgent work to be done. We can’t live here anymore but we can’t sell. What can we do?

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: [This is a long letter about recurrent noises from pumps and later from renovated elevators that have been going on for nearly a decade and about which the managers from a same company have refused to do anything and have ignored all phone calls and letters. The letter ends:] All of this is cumulative and I am totally unable to sleep now. I have had to take a leave of absence on account of stress. If we had known what we know today, we would never have bought a condo.

— January 2012, Brampton, ON

 Letter: [Another letter about party room noise ends:] I have had to get psychiatric help because of the stress caused by the noise and the added stress caused by the failure of the management and the board to do something, and not to forget the fact that they are all angry at me when in reality it should be the other way around. I desperately need some help because I can't afford a lawyer.

— January 2012, Ottawa

Letter: [A letter about noise from the exercise room from 6 a.m. to midnight that has been going on for nearly two years ends:] The lack of sleep and the way the manager is discriminating against us because I continue to ask each month that she does something has contributed to worsen my husband's heart problems. [This is one of several letters that refers to heart problems.] His health problems is what is preventing us from selling and moving out because he is too weak to cope with all of these changes. He has been sleeping in the den because there the noise is a bit less obvious. We are at the end of our rope. Help!

— January 2012, Toronto

Note to Readers: The above are some examples of letters received from desperate owners who have begged managers and even boards of directors to rectify the source of well-documented noise coming from common elements into their suite, even late at night or throughout the night. Various sugggestions were made to these owners, such as getting a court order to comply under Section 134 of the Condo Act of Ontario; however, as such a move requires legal help, most owners can't afford this option. Another option is to contact the referral services of the Ontario Law Society (Upper Canada) which allows persons to consult a lawyer for up to 30 minutes for a few dollars. Also suggested was to see if other owners were similarly afflicted and, together, requisition a meeting to discuss the issues or, this failing, to replace the board of directors. As well, contacting their municipal Health Dept is another possibility. But, overall, these examples clearly illustrate the need for an institution that would enforce condo rules, such as a Condo Ombudsman.

Letter: We moved into a 2-bedroom suite and we can hear the neighbours above us and next to us carry out conversations (although we can’t hear what they are saying and I guess that we should be thankful for this), get out of bed, go to the toilet, have sex, and you name it we hear it. Before this, we lived in a 30 year-old building with no such problems. We complained to our manager and management brought in a consultant because he says that a lot of other suites have the same problem. The consultant concluded that the noise just (but barely) meets standards. Are they on the take or what?

— August 2009, Hamilton area, ON

Answer: No comment... except to say that building standards are often more accommodating to the building industry’s bottom line than to us residents. I have received several letters on noise. And Noise Problems is one of the pages that receives the most hits on my website....

Letter: I was the treasurer of my condo for 4 years and resigned nearly two years ago when my term expired in order to spend more time taking care of my ailing mother. The president also completed his term after nearly 9 years and so did the secretary after 5 years. I will not bother you with all the problems that the new board has created and that are costing us a lot of money, but the point is that the former president and myself have tried to help and the new board is very angry at us about this. The former president is very elderly and a wonderful and intelligent man and all kinds of nasty things are happening to him, such as his parking being taken by someone and the manager refuses to do anything. In my case, the people above me happen to be the new treasurer... and they are now making so much noise, especially at night, that we can't sleep. Note that they were quiet before that and in fact they used to agree with our work before. (You would think that they would follow the good work we did. It's surprising how some people change completely when they go on the board.) This noise has been heard by friends who have slept here and we have recorded it and followed all the steps you detail in your website. The manager refuses to do anything about it and of course so does the board because they all say that we are the only ones complaining. We called the police once and they have made even more noise after to get even. We can't go to mediation because the condo lawyer that we know well also refuses to do anything, of course, as he doesn't want to risk his contract. Our suite is very lovely and there are two real estate agents with a waiting list for suites like ours so we decided to sell. We feel bad about leaving the old president on his own.

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: They have replaced some parts in the elevators and they are now so noisy that they sound like a truck especially at night. We asked the people living on the other side and they hear it too. We also asked the people above and below us and they hear it as well. We asked the manager to come and listen to it and she did but she said that we were the only ones complaining and it is because our suite is built the way it is. End of the conversation for this really insipid woman. The board is as good as useless because they do what she says. We went back to talk to another owner and he appeared very fearful and didn't want to talk about it any longer and apparently the manager sent a letter to some owners telling them that it was illegal of us to knock on doors. Now everyone is afraid that if something happens in their suites and they need repairs, they shouldn't talk with us about this noise, otherwise the manager will not take care of their needs. Is there something we can do? We feel so isolated, and of course we can't sleep much.

— February 2011, 905 area, ON

Note to Readers: The two letters above are very representative of some other letters received concerning noise issues. Owners are too often told that they are the "only ones complaining" and this seems justification for not doing anything. As the owner above writes, they feel very isolated. Feeling "isolated" is a recurrent theme in complaints received on a wide range of topics. A board and a manager have to attend to noise issues, even if only one owner is affected. At this point, there is no quick solution for such owners nor any inexpensive remedy. These two letters are also related to other issues with boards, managers, and lawyers already presented in earlier sections. In other words, problems tend to come in multiples with bad boards. Problems also repeat themselves from condo to condo. See also some of the letters in "Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

Useful Tips for Buildings

Kitchen Stacks and Pipes Clogging

Letter: My board asked me to follow-up with you about the progress we have made since you helped them requisition a meeting last year and get a better board and manager. I am the new manager and the previous one had "something" for the plumbers and the board was very worried because these plumbers were asking for new clean outs in the basement and the ground floor and they did this, but then they wanted about 25 clean outs in units and they were cleaning the stacks at least twice a year and this is too aggressive and will deteriorate the pipes too quickly. Our building is only 7 years old.

Just to tell you that we followed what you suggest in your website but we did it with a new twist and our new plumbers just can't believe how well this has worked out. First, we post notices asking people not to throw grease and cooking oil and kitty litter down the drains and we explain why, just as you suggest. We do this at least 3 times a year, one time just before Christmas.

Second, 4 times a year, we post this other notice about combining baking soda powder and vinegar and we buy huge amounts of these. On a predetermined Sunday, the super, janitor and myself come to the building and we distribute the stuff to all the residents that come and get it downstairs. So about two thirds of the people come and then go to their unit and do it in their kitchen sink and then in their toilet sinks. We keep a list of the units that do it and then we go upstairs and for two hours we go into units that have not done it and do it for about 25 of them, with a prior proper notification.

So it means that on the same day, all the stacks are flushed by mostly the residents with baking soda powder, followed by hot vinegar, flushed down with hot water, all units within a few hours. We haven't even had to have the plumbers come in to clean the stacks this year so far.

I should also say that when I arrived and because we also changed plumbers to get honest ones, it was difficult to figure out where the clean outs were in the building. We have since made a list and designed plans that show exactly where they are so that if there is another change of management, plumber or board, the new people will know where things are. his is saving us thousands of dollars each year and it is much less disruptive. As the president says (the one that wrote you), this also helps us do some "community building" by engaging all the residents at solving a costly problem together. Some residents now do this every week in their units.

-- January 2012, Ottawa

Balcony Deterioration

The information below was provided as a courtesy to a question I had about balconies. I am reproducing it here because it provides very useful information, especially for boards and managers.
— A.-M.A.

Balcony deterioration is a poorly understood issue. Condominium Corporations are sometimes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairs which do not address the root cause, due to a lack of understanding of the failure mechanism.

Steel embedded in concrete is immune to corrosion, except under two key circumstances: exposure to chlorides and carbonation.

  • Chlorides (salts) usually get into concrete from application of de-icing chemicals, but also salt-water spray from oceans, and in older buildings salt that was added to the concrete during winter construction. Salt causes embedded reinforcing steel to lose its immunity to corrosion.
  • Carbonation is a process where carbon dioxide in the air reacts with the moisture in the concrete, forming carbonic carbonate in a process that reduces the pH of the concrete. It progresses in from the outside surface, penetrating deeper into the concrete over time. With a reduced pH, embedded reinforcing steel loses its immunity to corrosion.

The primary cause of highly disruptive slab-edge concrete repairs is usually related to the simple drip slot at the edge of the slab. Drip slots are the small grooves at the outside edge of the balcony slabs. Their purpose is to intercept water running off the edge of the balcony so that it does not dribble back onto the balcony soffit, thereby preventing damage to soffit finishes and keeping water from dripping onto people on the balcony. An unintended consequence of the drip slot is that it reduces the thickness of the concrete covering the embedded reinforcing steel. This makes the reinforcing steel directly above the drip slot more prone to corrosion than any other steel in the balcony slab (because the rest of the steel has a thicker layer of concrete over it).

The primary failure mechanism for balcony slabs is carbonation. The layer of carbonated concrete typically only reaches 10 to 25mm deep, largely on the underside of the slab (not the topside, because the wetting related to rain reduces the depth of carbonation penetration). In most areas of the slab, 10 to 25mm of carbonation is not an issue, because the steel is typically protected by 25 to 40mm of concrete. However, right at the drip slot, this cover may be reduced to 10 to 15mm, allowing carbonation to advance to the depth of the embedded steel, making it free to corrode. The reinforcing steel right above the drip slot corrodes; the corrosion product is bigger than the steel; the expansion causes the concrete to crack (typically along the drip slot); air and water get in the crack, increasing the rate of corrosion. Eventually the outer edge of the slab works loose and needs to be repaired.

This failure mechanism is characteristically different from a chloride-induced failure. If there are chlorides in the concrete, or applied to the topside of the concrete, there will be slab edge concrete deterioration (similar to carbonation-induced damage), but there will also be topside damage and/or soffit damage away from the drip slot.

To properly repair a slab it is important to understand the underlying failure mechanism. Concrete repairs must be designed to avoid recurring damage by selecting an appropriate extent of removal, appropriate materials, and applying features which protect the adjacent concrete (which remains in place beside the patched areas) from suffering the same fate. Many buildings are waterproofing their balconies during repair as a preventative measure. Waterproofing a balcony that is failing due to carbonation may be a waste of money as it does not address the underlying failure mechanism, while waterproofing a balcony that is failing due to chlorides can sometimes be an good investment if the extent of remaining chloride contaminated concrete is known and managed through proper repair techniques.

We typically recommend a balcony condition survey, sampling at least 15% of balconies, when condos are about 15 years old, and about every 10 years after that. The evaluation budget should allow for chloride testing, carbonation testing, hammer-tap sounding and visual review. This can usually be done from within the suites, so outside stage access is not typically required.

Note that some balconies are reinforced by joist chord extensions, rather than conventional reinforcing steel. Their failure mechanism is somewhat different from that described above.

Sally Thompson, P.Eng.
Halsall Associates Limited

Swimming Pool Environment-Friendly Initiative

Over the years, we have had our share of complaints about the chlorine used to purify the water in our swimming pool and whirlpool, for the cloudy water, the unpleasant smell (a constant even down the ground floor hallway), eye irritation and skin concerns. Several residents refused to use the pools due to the presence of chlorine.

The building's Club Sommerset Committee, which focuses on the quality of our recreational facilities, has spent some two years discussing, studying, researching the solution. Salt water was considered, then rejected on expert advice (due to its corrosive effect on the pipes). Then our property manager received information from a pool maintenance company about this new and better way: the UV 254 Sanitizing System.

The Committee invited several experts to brief them and learned that it:

  1. destroys 99.99% of bacteria, algae and micro-organisms (including chlorine-resistant bacteria such as cryptosporidium);
  2. significantly reduces the need for chlorine and bromine;
  3. destroys the chloramines that cause red-eye, chlorine smell and skin irritations;
  4. requires minimal maintenance (15-20 minutes a year);
  5. provides significant reduction in dependence on chemicals; and
  6. uses technology proven in sanitizing drinking water.

In June 2007, the Committee formally recommended the installation of the UV system, and the Board approved. The cost was $3,187.95 and $1,859.89 respectively for the swimming pool and the whirlpool. The maintenance required involves the annual replacement of a UV bulb for each pool, costing under $500 for the two. To our knowledge, we are the first Toronto condo to have UV-treated pools.

What a difference: the water is crystal clear; you can read a dime on the pool floor. The smell is gone. Real estate agents have started using our pool as a major selling feature.

After the installation, our corporation applied to the City Public Health department for permission to eliminate or reduce the required use of chlorine and bromine. With the help of our City Counsellor John Filion, the officials took us seriously, and relied on World Health Organization (WHO) data to give us written permission to reduce the chlorine in the swimming pool by 75% to 0.5 mg/l = parts per million, and the bromine in the whirlpool to 2 mg/l.

Andrew Simon,
President, MTCC 1273,
Toronto (Willowdale)

Added February 2011: Two years later, Andrew Simon reports that "this system still works as it did at the beginning and it's a delight to swim in (almost) unchlorinated water. The City reduced our requirement for chlorine by 75%, so we still have  25%."