Gerry Hyman has another article for the Toronto Star. Let’s discuss the questions raised:
QUESTION: Is it legal for a small condominium of 24 units not to have a condominium manager?
ANSWER: Yes. A condominium corporation of any size may be self-managed and not have a professional manager.
In fact, referring to a professional manager as the condominium manager is not really accurate. A condominium is managed in accordance with the Condominium Act by its board of directors. A management company — more accurately an assistant manager — offers advice to the board and carries out the board’s instructions, but not to run the corporation.
Most condominium corporations, particularly the larger ones, have professional managers to provide the advice that is required by directors who are often inexperienced.
Yes, it is certainly better to have a professional management company assisting the Board with operations. In many cases, the management company can provide many services for the Board of Directors that make their lives easier such as: collecting maintenance fee and special assessment payments, providing status certificates, preparing financial statements, providing advise on operations, ensure the condominium’s annual report to the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) is prepared and filed, preparation of the Periodic Information Certificate (PIC), etc. Theses benefits outweigh the costs associated.
Many condominiums have problems finding volunteers to serve on the Board of Directors, and a management company can make the lives of directors easier.
Another question raised was:
QUESTION: You wrote a couple of years ago that a condominium corporation was obligated, under the Human Rights Code, to permit an owner to install a sun screen because she had a skin disorder. I have a similar problem and have been advised by my family doctor, surgeon and dermatologist to stay out of the sun. Am I within my rights to ask the board to allow me to install an awning, at my expense, on my balcony which faces east and which I can’t use for most of each day?
ANSWER: Absolutely! You might insist that the corporation install the awning on the common element balcony, at the corporation’s expense, in order to comply with its obligations under the Human Rights Code.
Alternatively you could consider purchasing an umbrella which will not be attached to the balcony and thus will be no different than a chair or other piece of furniture which you place on your balcony, and for which you do not require the corporation’s consent.
This is a prime example of where a Board of Directors needs to be reasonable. If you can get a doctor’s note stating the reason(s) why you need to stay out of the sun then there is no reasonable excuse not to grant the request. And this is where the CAO needs to have some teeth – if a Board of Directors refuses to make a perfectly reasonable exemption to the rules for a medical condition then the directors should be disqualified from being on the Board. A condominium who’s Board would refuse a request like this seriously would need new directors.
And lastly, we have this question:
QUESTION: Our property manager refuses to enforce the rule that dogs must be leashed in the common element spaces. He refused to post a reminder in the elevators. What can we do, other than complain to the property manager’s head office?
ANSWER: You could write to the directors, pointing out that it is their obligation to ensure that the corporation’s rules are followed. If necessary, at least 15 per cent of the owners could require mediation with the corporation, pursuant to the Condominium Act, for an agreement to be reached about how the corporation will enforce the rule.
If there is no agreement about what those steps will be, the matter will proceed to arbitration and the arbitrator will determine what steps should be taken by the corporation.
Alternatively, owners might be persuaded to vote to replace directors whose terms have expired with directors who will enforce the rule. Owners of at least 15 per cent of the units could even requisition an owners’ meeting to vote on the removal and replacement of some or all of the directors.
Again, this is where the CAO needs to have the power to reprimand directors. The property manager doesn’t have the power on his/her own to enforce the rules. However, the Board should be providing support to ensure that the manager does deals with issues like this in a timely manner. An investigation would quickly determine where these dogs live and the owners of the dogs should be reminded about the rule. If they do nothing, the Board has the power to get a compliance order to make the owners of the dogs follow the rule.
I often hear about how directors don’t like enforcing the rules (the “I don’t want to be the ‘bad guy'” rationale), but guess what it isn’t the Board member who is the ‘bad guy’ it’s the person who may very well be knowingly breaking the rule. If rules are not being enforced then problems will occur. It’s better to be reasonable but to ensure that the rules are enforced.