CondoBusiness November/December 2020

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Canada’s Most Widely Read Condominium Magazine

December 2020 • Vol. 35 #6

WORKPLACE EVOLVES PM#40063056

HR takes on new role

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Remote managing, closing the PM skills gap, requisitions and mental illness during COVID.

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NADLAN-HARRIS

PROPERTY MANAGEMENT INC. 500 Champagne Drive, Toronto, ON M3J 2T9

AN ACMO 2000 COMPANY

We are a team of dedicated experts, specializing in professional property management of: • High-Rise/Low-Rise Condominiums • Residential/Commercial/Industrial • Town Home Condominiums

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Contents FOCUS ON: MANAGEMENT & HR

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Is Remote Management Working? By Val Khomenko

12

Creating a Condo Sustainability Plan for 2021 By Brad Pilgram

16

Closing the PM Skills Gap By Bogdan Alexe

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Human Resources Takes On New Role By Murray Johnson

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Mental Illness Amid A Pandemic By Rebecca Melnyk

DEPARTMENTS

30

Insurance How Is the Insurance Crisis Affecting Reserve Fund Planning? By Justin Tudor

34

Governance Seven Tips for Building Trust in Condo Communities By Pat Crosscombe

38

Legal Requisitions: Waiting on Changes to the Condo Act By David Thiel

40

Condo Market Supply, Selection and Negotiating Power By Christopher Alexander

IN EVERY ISSUE

6

Editor's Letter

8

Ask the Expert

42

New & Notable


Our Business is to Make Yours Shine! Whiterose is an Industry Leader with a long list of condos in the downtown and surrounding areas Whiterose Janitorial Services Ltd. believes in servicing its customers with professionalism, communication and appreciation. The Key to our success is service, quality and value. We clean beyond the surface! Quality management begins behind the scenes prior to commencing a job all employees are evaluated and or training to the whiterose standard given special attention to health and safety policies. Whiterose Janitorial Services is a full service company and a member of ACMO and CCI. Specializing in cleaning and live in & live out Superintendents for the past 30 years. Spectrum of Cleaning Services: • Facility assessment • House keeping and general cleaning services • Customized cleaning service plan • Customized cleaning schedules • Window cleaning (Exterior high rise) • Garage cleaning • Marble restoration & Polishing • Carpet cleaning

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EDITOR’S LETTER

The Evolving Workplace 2020. Some say it’s been

a year to forget. Most say it’s been a year to remember: one of deep reflection and many lessons learned. The progression of the novel coronavirus has undeniably impacted the way condos are managed and how managers view their role in a condo community. It has revealed new ways of working from anywhere and important skill gaps that need filling. Intricate parts of the management industry, such as human resources, are also being redefined. The evolving workplace is calling for more organizational excellence, especially as new policies and procedures unfold. All these topics are featured stories in our management and human resources issue. Our last publication of the year also ventures into everything from building trust in a condo community to updates on requisitions. On the popular topic of insurance, another piece looks at how the insurance crisis is impacting reserve fund planning. We also take a look at mental illness during the pandemic and the role a condo corporation plays in the life of a resident living with a pre-existing condition. Other pieces offer advice on how to create a sustainability plan for 2021 and simple upgrades condos might want to consider to make their buildings more resilient to changing weather patterns during winter. As the pandemic rages on across Canada, the looming challenges of climate change haven’t gone away. Looking back over the past several months, I would like to thank all the industry experts who have contributed editorial content to our magazine this year. Your wisdom, experience and unique perspectives allow for learning and growth and ongoing debate in an industry that is constantly changing—especially now. We are grateful for the knowledge you share.

Associate Publisher Bryan Chong Editor Rebecca Melnyk Advertising Sales Bryan Chong Kelly Nicholls Blair Wilson Senior Designer Annette Carlucci Production Manager Rachel Selbie Contributing Writers Christopher Alexander, Bogdan Alexe, Pat Crosscombe, Murray Johnson, Val Khomenko, Jim Mandeville, Brad Pilgram, David Thiel Digital Media Director Steven Chester Subscription Rates Canada: 1 year, $60*; 2 years, $110* Single Copy Sales: Canada: $10*. Elsewhere: $12 USA: $85 International: $110 *Plus applicable taxes Reprints: Requests for permission to reprint any portion of this magazine should be sent to info@mediaedge.ca. Circulation Department Rob Osiecki circulation@mediaedge.ca (416) 512-8186 ext. 234 CONDOBUSINESS is published six times a year by

President Kevin Brown Director & Group Publisher Sean Foley Accounting Anna Kantor

Rebecca Melnyk Editor, CondoBusiness rebeccam@mediaedge.ca

2001 Sheppard Avenue East Suite 500 | Toronto, Ontario M2J 4Z8 (416) 512-8186 Fax: (416) 512-8344 e-mail: info@mediaedge.ca CONDOBUSINESS welcomes letters but accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photographs. Canadian Publications Mail Product Sales Agreement No. 40063056 ISSN 0849-6714 All contents copyright MediaEdge Communications Inc. Printed in Canada on recycled paper.

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Simple Upgrades for Winter Resilience As colder days rush in across many parts of Canada, bringing with them changing weather patterns, Senior Project Manager at FirstOnSite Jim Mandeville answers the question: What are some simple and cost-effective upgrades a condo corporation can implement to make their building more resilient in winter? When we think about resilient buildings, we often think of the worstcase scenarios: catastrophic flooding, wildfires, wind or tornado damage. What we often fail to consider is that sometimes it’s the little things that can cause the biggest issues, especially over time. Similarly, we are all guilty of thinking, “winter is not like it used to be” and, “it really doesn’t get that cold anymore.” While our changing climate certainly makes these statements feel true, often it is extreme fluctuations in temperature that can cause larger issues for our condominium buildings than a sustained deep freeze.

8 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

As winter approaches, consider the little things around your building that can add up to major savings. Condo corporations and property managers should focus on building envelope issues, heating and ventilation and access/entry controls. When we think about our buildings, we must remember that in some places the protective skin of a building can be weak and require regular attention. Simple things like clearing gutters, drains and catch basins of leaves and debris can dramatically reduce the risk of flooding later in the winter, especially when the spring thaw comes.


ASK THE EXPERT

Another weakness of that protective skin is often the sanitary drain lines. Installing back-flow preventers can be a relatively simple and economical way to minimize the risk of flooding, while at the same time often warranting a discount from insurers or even potential grant funding from the government. An additional enhancement that may be eligible for discounts and funding is upgrading windows. While this seems like a major endeavor (and it certainly can be), if properly planned and managed, these projects can be done in small segments over time. This not only makes it more affordable from a budget standpoint but also less intrusive to the owners and occupants. Remember, upgrading to the latest in thermal window technology can result in more than 15 per cent in annual energy savings. Often when we think about the heating and ventilation in our buildings it is because something is wrong. Additional maintenance (especially during the pandemic) can go a long way toward having a cleaner, healthier environment for everyone inside. Consider not only enhanced duct cleaning but also upgrading the filtration to remove additional airborne allergens and particulates. Simple things like ensuring the system is properly balanced, providing even heating to all areas, can help toward the health and comfort of a building. Even something as simple as uneven ventilation can lead to condensation issues in the winter. While this may seem innocuous, it can often lead to water damage and mould issues if left unresolved. The often overlooked and generally overused front door of a condominium is another area that can always use an upgrade. With high traffic, and the moving of goods through a single-entry point, comes additional maintenance. Given enhanced cleaning protocols and a focus on energy efficiency this is another great area to investigate. In older facilities, there is often only a single stage entry (without a vestibule) and some simple winter floor mats. This allows for a great deal of heat loss as well as considerable mess from wet feet in the winter. Adding a second set of doors, automation to control them and a walk on/walk off system, can greatly increase energy efficiency, security and accessibility for everyone, not to mention eliminating the hourly mopping of the entire lobby. This can also help with that “clean feeling� we are all striving for,

with less hands touching the doors and glass. While complete replacement and redesign of these systems can be costly, simple things from replacement of weather stripping and caulking, to adjustments of the hardware can make a big difference on energy efficiency for a very marginal cost. Building resiliency into our homes and businesses sometimes seems like a mammoth task. When we take the issue apart and address it in smaller pieces,

the road to resiliency gets a lot smoother. Having a plan (and a good supporting cast of contractors and responders) can help make ever y building more resilient and, in the case of something catastrophic, allow it to bounce back much faster and more easily. 1 Jim Mandeville is the senior project manager — Large Loss North America at FirstOnSite Restoration

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Is Remote Management Working? A s a l a r g e p or t ion of t he c o u nt r y ’s w o r k f o r c e shifted

BY VAL KHOMENKO

towards work-from-home settings, this trend also affected condominium managers and condominium management

service providers. As we are entering into the tenth month of the pandemic, the question arises: is remote condo management working? The answer is – it depends. As with many aspects of condo life, management has had to adapt to the “new normal.” Many on-site managers have now returned to their buildings, some with parttime schedules and some full-time. Portfolio managers and supervising managers remain in the wilderness of the home office, strategizing, planning, and serving clients from the comfort of their home.

While managing in your pajama pants topped with a shirt and a tie sounds like a rosy scenario, there are some downsides to remote management. Overworking: The effects of the pandemic and resulting responsibilities have increased the amount of communication required for distribution within communities and organizations. While more resident

10 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

communication seems like a great idea, the time constraint it imposes on other responsibilities is significant. Tasks that could be completed by sticking your head into the office next door, now involve a dozen emails. More and more managers report working longer hours and feeling overwhelmed, affecting their mental health and other life responsibilities. This can lead to reduced


MANAGEMENT

productivity and work-related stress, not to mention the risk of a burn-out. Isolation: Remote work affects face time with residents, vendors, colleagues, and other stakeholders. The majority of time is spent in front of a monitor, working independently. Some things are just easier to explain and collaborate on face-to-face. Ambiguous Schedule: The opportunity to work from home may have been presented as a win-win, with work-life balance, no commute, and the ability to set your own hours. However, home-based managers are presented with a flow of distractions and disruptions. In addition, many managers slip into the habit of working through and into personal time. But remote condominium management is not all doom and gloom. In fact, it offers many benefits, including time savings, flexibility, and smoother operations. Time Savings: Portfolio managers have reduced travel time from commuting to the head office and visiting sites. While performing inspections has not wavered, this remains one of the PM’s main contractual obligations. Holding meetings can now be

done remotely or via phone. Managers are now adopting more technological tools to stay on top of their tasks, ranging from implementing tracking sheets to hosting/ chairing virtual meetings. Board meetings and owner meetings are now much shorter than when held in-person. Flexibility: Management providers have adopted technology, taking full advantage of VPNs, cloud storage, digital solutions for financial management, and virtual meeting software. Managers are increasingly improving prioritization and delegation skills leading to increased productivity. There is also the potential for reduced administrative cost savings. Printing, mail, and deliveries are now increasingly substituted by e-mail, cloud storage, and software. Smoother operations: Many communities have reported increased owner participation as managers have employed various technological solutions to moderate meetings and engage residents through management portals. Community discussion boards and virtual events are hosted instead of physical meetings. One creative manager created a YouTube channel for

the community, which has boosted morale during this difficult time. Annual General Meetings have seen record participation levels and owner engagement. Numerous bylaws have been passed as a result of instituting technological solutions. There are even examples where a virtual meeting has allowed for a calm removal of board directors, which can be controversial. Is remote management for everyone? The answer is also – it depends. Recent developments have shown that condominium managers are highly adaptable creatures, pillars, and sometimes, heroes of condominium communities across the province. Remote management will be an integral part of the condominium management for years to come. It is up to us as managers to lead the way. 1 Val Khomenko is the principal condominium manager for Regional Group, a full-service real-estate investment and management firm, based in Ottawa, Ontario. Val leads Regional’s condo team with 7+ years of experience in the condominium industry. He can be reached at 613-230-2100 Ext. 7409

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Creating a Condo Sustainability Plan for 2021 Forest fire smoke in west coast cities ; wa rm ba lmy weather

BY BRAD PILGRIM

in late autumn; flooding in dense urban neighbourhoods. It’s undeniable that climate change is looming and it’s affecting our urban environments--including condominiums. The more Canadian governments ramp up efforts to meet sustainability goals by 2030, the more apparent it is that all businesses and business operators, including condo managers and boards, should follow suit by planning and implementing a sustainability plan for 2021 and beyond. What does a sound sustainability plan entail? Whatever your plan looks like, it

needs to take into consideration all the moving parts that make up a residential building: occupants, staff, management, operations, facilities, common space and outdoor grounds. This plan should have several goals that meet the condo’s specific needs, but overall, the outcome should be to achieve better environmental performance within

12 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

the residential community. The plan should aim to include these strategies for smooth implementation: Foster Innovation – Innovate beyond the minimum environmental performance standards. An LED light bulb is fine, but what other solutions are out there? Raise the Bar – Building performance standards should look to increase current


MANAGEMENT

“The continuity of information helps everyone, no matter who the audience, adopt and accept the plan’s existence.”

environmental performance. Where can we do better? Build Capacity – Build more capacity and time for your staff and occupants with more access to information. Information like building operation insights can support owners and their managers to identify, approve and implement more sustainability projects more frequently. Activate Upgrades – Access incentives to overcome challenges like grants or rebates; use the tools available to you. Empower Communities – Focus on communities to lead the way. Value their environmental performance and encourage them to choose sustainable behaviours.

Where to Start? A green strategy can start anywhere, but a few key areas of focus can include g re e n h o u s e g a s re d u c t i o n , w a s te reduction, energy efficiency and improved access to green living. Get creative and look at how you can tackle any of the following according to what works best for a building’s individual needs. Perhaps one condo is limited to concrete surroundings and green space isn’t as accessible, but creating welcoming common spaces with indoor greenery can be a strong alternative. Perhaps a building already works with eco-friendly product vendors, but there are ways to reduce the frequency of

orders to reduce waste. With any existing or non- existing sustainability plan, be sure to audit the current status of your building’s footprint; this sets a guideline for areas that can improve. Communicating A Plan There’s always an opportunity to improve communication and engage residents, boards and management to work together. Getting people on track to meet sustainable goals might seem daunting – especially when other parties like staff or management may see other tasks as a priority versus fostering sustainable action. As with any good communication, this kind of ongoing dialogue is a marathon, not a

www.REMInetwork.com | December 2020 13


MANAGEMENT

sprint. Start with easy-to-use and accessible mediums to deliver the sustainability plan. Now that the world is virtual, hold a town hall or a bi-monthly sustainability meeting through a team-meeting software. Engage building occupants early and often before rolling out the plan’s deliverables. Ask if people are willing to volunteer or participate in managing the execution of the plan. Encourage repetitive touch points and reminders of the plan by putting up physical marketing materials around the building’s common areas, like digital notices, T V slideshows in lobbies, email or newsletter blasts. The continuity of information helps everyone, no matter who the audience, adopt and accept the plan’s existence.

expensive. A sustainability plan and budget should be made with the mindset of plan and prevent, instead of react and pivot. Understandably, with the ongoing challenge of a global pandemic, condos have seen an uptick in expenses, such as more cleaning costs, higher utility bills and increased minimum wage to pay staff. With any strategic plan, the budget should be taken into consideration. Implementing sustainable action in 2021 is not exclusive to saving money; in many ways, both concepts intersect in ways which result in more cost savings because the plan should look to increase cost efficiency through operations, utilities and staffing. Adoption and deployment of new technologies in your building can often Budgeting A Plan accomplish multiple objectives. On the In determining a budget for this, there are energy use side, tools that may initially seem creative and cost-effective solutions to like an expense will actually lower your utility implementing a sustainable plan. Yes, bills by minimizing the total amount of energy going green might result in fronting some your building uses, the savings from which up-front capital, but over the long term, that can be reinvested back into your condos investment will result in significant financial reserve budget to offset increased costs DelProperty_Condo_March_2018_torevise.pdf 1 2018-04-13 2:44more PM savings, ultimately translating into being less elsewhere or even fund sustainable

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projects. At the very least, they'll be a major factor in reducing your condo’s carbon footprint, while injecting capital back into your corporation. In sum, sustainability planning for 2021 should be forward thinking. Much like we had to pivot in 2020 to innovate beyond our normally scheduled programming, we now understand, more than ever, the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Much like our planet, our buildings can’t afford to wait to become more sustainable l ate r. I t ’s i m p e r at i ve t h at b o a rd s , managers, staff and occupants implement environmental action in 2021 to maintain sustainable wellness within condos and the communities that live within them. 1 Brad Pilgrim is the CEO and co-founder of Parity Inc. Over the past three years, Brad has led the company to develop and deploy an AI-powered energy management platform for multi-residential buildings in order to eliminate energy waste in buildings and cultivate more sustainable urban environments.


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Closing the PM Skills Gap Managers usually have a chance to stress test their aptitudes when a crisis strikes. As

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16 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network


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This pandemic has taught many lessons. If anything, it helped managers to identify relevant skill gaps in relation to being prepared for the unexpected. Back in early spring, when the government imposed certain measures to slow the spread of the virus, most managers were forced to work remotely or rely more heavily on technology to communicate. We had to quickly adapt to using new software, being unfamiliar with Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, etc. We had to adapt to working efficiently from home, to overcome the challenge of good internet infrastructure, and we learned how important it is to have electronic records. Communication Gap We all know how important communication was before COVID-19. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, communication is paramount. Being able not only to use virtual tools to communicate but also to do so concisely, to tailor not only the content, but the tone of our message became equally important. It's not easy to infuse confidence and compassion when you are anxious and worried. Managers had to learn

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“We have been able to not only identify our skill gaps, but also adapt and find ways to overcome them.”

how to overcome their state of mind to better support communities and staff. The content of their message had to be correlated with the rapidly changing messaging coming from local, provincial and health departments and, of course, had to be relevant and tailored to the specifics of their communities. Planning and Organizing Gaps Operating plans were in place before the pandemic. Everything was lined up. From regular maintenance to future projects, managers were all looking forward to

the beginning of spring; instead, their world came to a full halt. W hen the first lockdown was imposed, everything went up in the air. Planning was now in need of adjusting, without disrupting the life of the condo communities and with financial implic ations in mind. A ll p ro j e c t s h a d to b e re a s s e s s e d and rescheduled. Access to buildings and units was restricted. How do you plan regular in - suite maintenance in the middle of a pandemic with social distancing in place? Again, we learned and adapted and changed priorities and

actions, adapting projects to the newly created conditions. Never theless, all this was a learning curve. Procuring Gap Pre - p a n d e m i c , p ro c u r i n g m a te r i a l s a n d s e r v i c e s fo r b u i l d i n g s h a s i t s regular schedule. In a time of crisis, the “normal” disappears. I remember in early March placing orders for PPE and disinfectants for our staff. All email requests received no response. We had to switch to a personal approach, working the phones and using

Experience Counts Although the name has changed - the company, our services and our dedication to our valued clients stays the same. Take advantage of proven, comprehensive services and a dedicated team that is always ready to make a difference. As the largest condominium property manager in Ontario, we help to create great communities by focusing on the needs of owners and residents with a level of expertise that is second-to-none.

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net works — asking for favours to be able to at least get even some limited quantities.

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People Skills Gap How we always interacted with residents, members of the board and staff was somewhat constant and built on developing good working relationships and good ethics. But when a crisis strikes, there is another dimension that adds to this interaction: anxiety. There was worry about what tomorrow could bring, and everyone reacts differently under certain factors. During the first wave, many members of the building staff were afraid to come into work. It took patience and compassion to understand their worries and put their mind at ease. It became clear that, as leaders, managers have to instill confidence and calm. Being truthful is another important characteristic. These are not times for mixed messaging or even “massaging” the message. Interactions have to be based on total transparency. I remember being asked questions to which I didn’t have the answer. I struggled between the need to show confidence and the fact that I had to admit that I don’t have all the answers. In the end, I chose to be candid and said “I McGregor_Condo_March_2020.indd don’t know.” The interesting fact of this pandemic was that, all of a sudden, experience took secondary place. Managers were not experienced enough for something of this magnitude, and adaptabilit y became the primar y ingredient for a good community leader. The past eight months have been a learning curve for all managers. We have been able to not only identify our skill gaps, but also adapt and find ways to overcome them. We are far from being out of the woods in the middle of a second, more aggressive wave of infections, but we learned a thing or two. We now know how to overcome our skill gaps and be able to better serve our communities. 1

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Is Your CONDO Well MANAGED? A condominium is more than a mere asset; it is possibly the largest investment the owner will ever make. More importantly, it is their home. Understandably, condominium boards and owners want the best for their homes, and that extends to how they are managed. As such, they are motivated to hire a property management firm and condo manager with the necessary expertise, experience, and customer-focus to best serve their interests, protect their investment, and provide a desirable place to live.

F

inding a condo manager and property management firm that fits this description can be tricky. While mandatory licensing provides some level of assurance that management firms and managers can do the job, it is no guarantee. There are advantages to seeking professionals committed to rising above minimum standards. In addition to the condo-specific knowledge and expertise necessary to manage a condo community in accordance with the Condo Act, management firms and managers must be skilled communicators, problem solvers, decision-makers, team leaders and community-builders. Above all, they must be skilled in the art of client service and adept at

dealing with the unexpected, as was the case with the 2020 pandemic. “Even before the pandemic, the role of the condominium manager was beginning to grow more complex,” says Eric Plant, Director with Brilliant Property Management Inc. “In addition to tracking and implementing an ever-changing set of provincial and municipal regulations, managers have largely had to go digital in an industry that requires a high degree of in-person interaction.” LIVING TO A HIGHER STANDARD “Having a license is basically the minimum table stakes to get into the condo management game,” notes Paul MacDonald, Executive

Director with ACMO. “Given how the condominium management profession and its’ challenges have evolved and grown, there is a need and opportunity for those willing to exceed that minimum.” Enter ACMO’s Registered Condominium Manager (RCM) designation for condominium managers, and the ACMO 2000 Certification for property management firms. These voluntary programs go above and beyond mandatory licensing requirements. “Managers who have the RCM are, by definition, people who want to take a more challenging path, and who want to invest more in their education and career,” notes Plant. “Using an RCM in buildings ensures that the


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“Managers who have the RCM are, by definition, people who want to take a more challenging path, and who want to invest more”

manager not only has the technical skills needed, but the hands-on experience. It also ensures the building has a manager who takes their own education and career seriously and is committed to exceeding industry expectations and delivering a higher standard of service to their clients.” Earning the RCM designation is no easy task. In addition to successfully completing ACMO's four condominium management courses through a recognized college and securing a General License, RCM hopefuls must have two consecutive years of full-time condo management experience (approximately 3,500 — 4,000 hours), complete a host of additional management and administrative tasks not required with the general license, and achieve a minimum score of 75% on ACMO’s comprehensive RCM exam. Furthermore, RCMs must complete 10 hours of continuing education seminars each year to maintain the designation and stay up to date on industry regulations, best practices, and trends. Notwithstanding these differences, perhaps the most important distinction between a general license and RCM designation is that the former is mandatory while the latter is voluntary. It speaks to a different attitude and higher level of commitment to the profession. In a recent ACMO survey asking RCM holders why they pursued the designation, the most popular response was “To demonstrate to clients that I am competent and have achieved a higher standard”. Similarly, ACMO 2000 Certified condominium management firms have secured their mandatory provider license but go further by committing to a quality management system like the ISO 9001 standard. ACMO 2000 Certified firms adhere to a series of vigorous management and operational standards, principles and best practices and undergo regular independent audits to ensure ongoing

compliance. Like the RCM, these firms strive to deliver a higher level of service to their clients. EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS Neither the RCM designation or ACMO 2000 Certification are an industry requirement, so it is important that condo boards and owners understand that they represent a standard above the minimum as set out by the Condominium Management Services Act. “While those standards were an important step in the evolution of our profession, the RCM and ACMO 2000 certification go a step above,” adds Dean McCabe, Founder and President of Meritus Group Management. “Condo boards

should insist on these qualifications to give their owners greater peace of mind that their home is in good hands.” McCabe notes that the RCM designation and ACMO 2000 Certification will continue to keep pace with the evolution of property management profession and represent brands delivering a higher standard of performance in condominium management services compared to the minimum government standard. “ACMO’s goal has been, and will continue to be, to help its members differentiate themselves as the gold standard in condominium management services,” he adds.

To learn more about ACMO, or to find an Registered Condominium Manager or ACMO 2000 Certified management firm, visit acmo.org or call 905-826-6890.


MANAGEMENT

HUMAN RESOURCES TAKES ON NEW ROLE BY MURRAY JOHNSON

22 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network


TECHNOLOGY FEATURE

www.REMInetwork.com | December 2020 23


MANAGEMENT

During pre-pandemic times condominium managers and support staff looked at human resources as the driver of the intake/hiring process and perhaps a department that does other things we never see or hear about. In fact, it might be accurate to say that staff who reports to a high-rise building twenty kilometres from head office never stops to think about human resources once the intake is behind them. But that was pre-COVID-19. Once a state of emergency was declared and governments at all three levels started rolling out new bylaws and mandates, human resources had no choice but to team up with operational staff to ensure that processes put into place at the remote work sites not only met pandemic operational requirements, but also protected workers. Employers have obligations under the occupational health and safety legislation to keep workers safe. There is also an obligation to keep the workplace safe and this is a joint responsibility between management and the board. Human resources became a key player on pandemic response teams set up by management companies to identify what restrictions, processes and mandates were needed to continue working, but in a pandemic safe environment. While we can see human resources supporting head office staff, the involvement in operations is, for the most part, something new. Human resources is not the only group seeing their scope widen: boards of directors are also being bombarded with policies and processes they have no control over. In pre-pandemic times, we worked out site office hours with boards and now we see employers (management companies) mandating that site offices remain closed to resident and director visits. Criteria for reopening offices during the pandemic, mandated by the management company, are no longer up for debate. Directives that management staff are not to attend in-person meetings and the criteria that must be in place should the boards push for these dangerous meetings were delivered to the board, not negotiated. It’s not just the management company saying and doing this; the government has moved slowly from an educational approach of physical distancing and masks to a more punitive approach with high fines and, in some cases, incarceration. Add to these recommendations from the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario on what managers should be doing for their client communities and you have an environment where the persons who are most knowledgeable about the many services covered by the

24 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

management contract are dictating to the boards what must be done. When a management company starts dictating how services will be provided, support from human resources is a must. Imagine the pressure that the manager is under from the client to open the office on one hand and, on the other hand, the employer placing what might appear as restrictive conditions on that opening. The manager looks at the board as their quasi-employer and their real employer as being at odds. Residents wanting to come to the office, getting too close to concierge, heightened emotions because of the pandemic—all of this is a recipe for manager burn-out. Again, we have to look to human resources to offer emotional and mental support venues for staff, talk about and clarify corporate directives on staying home with kids when no daycare is available, remote working policies, information resources and so on. Human resources now has an obligation to communicate on a regular basis (weekly is good) to all staff, head office and field operations, not just to offer tips and resources but to offer a means of communication that offers the field staff a means to reconnect with their employer. New regulations disallow litigation against a firm or organization as long as the firm or organization has taken reasonable steps to protect workers and workplaces. Better managers and boards will take a serious look in the postpandemic period to ascertain what went well, where the process may have broken down and, consequently, this joint governance team should prepare an updated emergency preparedness plan for working and living through a pandemic. Human resource professionals will most certainly be analyzing steps taken during this pandemic and updating pandemic control plans. We shouldn’t be looking at this as a one-time event. Scientists are saying that we may see more and more viruses and pandemics going forward. Will you be ready? 1 Murray Johnson, GL, CCI (Hon’s) is vice-president of client operations at Crossbridge Condominium Services Ltd and president of CCI-Toronto and Area Chapter.


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MANAGEMENT

Mental Illness Amid a Pandemic After 20 years in the industry, BY REBECCA MELNYK one property manager says he’s seen a fair number of residents struggling with mental

health conditions. “We face these things all the time,” says Vadim Koyen, president of CPO Management. “Unfortunately, the number of people who

suffer from mental illness are increasing tremendously and those people are living in condominiums among us.” In Canada, nearly half the population will experience some type of mental illness by age 40 and, in any given year, one in five people is living with mental health problems. Fears and anxieties that COVID -19 is generating may likely have a greater impact on people with pre-existing conditions. This is something high on the radar of mental health professionals right now. “We’re very concerned because the isolation and the economic effects and social limitations can

worsen mood and exacerbate pre-existing depression and anxiety conditions,” says Dr. Thomas Ungar, psychiatrist-in-chief at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Pandemic impacts are affecting people differently. For some, there is a real worry they may be catastrophizing and magnifying the effects with their anxiety disorders, Ungar finds. Others, with a paranoia or social anxiety, are managing a little better because they are isolating at home.

26 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

Post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use as a way of coping are other worries. But it’s not just people with preexisting conditions who face an increased risk of mental health difficulties due to COVID-19. As the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports, essential workers, COV ID -19 sur vivors and vulnerable populations need special attention. This includes people in precarious jobs who cannot work virtually.


MANAGEMENT

“Unfortunately, the number

of people who suffer from mental illness are increasing tremendously and those people are living in condominiums among us.”

“I’m most worried about the economic effects for those who can’t cope or distance because of their physical space or who can’t maintain their incomes,” says Ungar. “Those are the vulnerable populations— the ones bearing the extra burden and the population we’re most worried about. They might be more at risk of both COVID and the downstream effects, including mental health, as they can’t distance or keep food on the table or pay rent.” If negative economic impacts kick in, some mental health issues could “start off as real-life stressors and maybe develop into a clinical disorder.” The possible effects of economic damage seem to be of utmost concern. Also referred to as a fourth wave, the mental health communit y is bracing for a potential echo pandemic. Canada is currently in a second wave. If a bad economic wave hits, worsening mental health effects could follow. But this is a maybe. As Ungar notes, it’s important to have real scientific evidence backing up concerns, as this fourth wave might be more worried-based. “We will see if

it is actual, or maybe it will be limited to vulnerable populations; we just don’t know yet.” According to a study published this year in peer-reviewed medical journal, The BMJ, suicide rates are not going up in the developed world; reports suggest no rise or even a drop in the early months of the pandemic. But as the study cautions, it is too early to declare what the ultimate effect of the pandemic will be, and people should remain alert to emerging and known risk factors. For those struggling with serious conditions, COVID-19 has also disrupted access to care. As CAMH states, many with more complex mental illnesses benefit best from in-person services. There is also concern that this marginalized group will continue to be neglected, as they have in the past, by mental health and social services systems.

O ften, property managers and condo boards won’t know someone is suffering from a condition until there is an episode or behaviours escalate. “We can try to be very gentle with them—to help them without interfering with their privacy, without any sharp movements and make them comfortable,” says Koyen. He thinks back to his own experiences with residents who were recovering in mental illness after an episode. “It’s like living on an island with no one else,” he says. “Sometimes there are no family members around, so in these very traumatic times we need to be helpful. When they are recovering, we sometimes

buy their groceries, offer a listening ear, direct them to a safe place to get some fresh air and try to stay in contact. There is nothing in the Condo Act which directs us to do that; it is strictly a social call.” The Role of the Corporation The role a condo corporation plays in the life of a resident struggling with mental illness can often be a delicate matter, especially if the resident has no family support system to help de-escalate troubling behaviour. Condos have a duty to accommodate residents they suspect may be struggling with mental illness—a recognized disability under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is a duty that is both procedural and substantive, says condo lawyer Natalia Polis of Lash Condo Law. She explains that corporations must engage in “good faith discussions with the resident to determine their needs, obtain relevant information, and consider various options for accommodation,” but they must also “apply accommodation plans for the resident and adhere to the policies in a nondiscriminatory fashion.” She adds this duty to accommodate is only up to the point of undue hardship, and, in the process, documentation is key, including all correspondence, verbal discussions or meetings. “In the event that either the resident is unwilling to engage in the accommodation process or, if an accommodation plan is set in place and the resident’s behaviour continues to the point of undue hardship, the corporation can take enforcement steps and the documentation

www.REMInetwork.com | December 2020 27


MANAGEMENT

“We’re very concerned because the

isolation and the economic effects and social limitations can worsen mood and exacerbate pre-existing depression and anxiety conditions.” A number of training programs teach de-escalation techniques. Among them are safeTALK, Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Most CMHA branches regularly offer these licensed training programs.

would be necessary to show that the corporation took reasonable steps to try and accommodate the resident without success.” Managers may be tasked with difficult conversations to inquire about one’s mental health state, while not encroaching on their privacy. As Polis says, such

medical information can be obtained, but with certain limitations. “The board has a duty to undertake proper due diligence in all matters concerning the corporation’s affairs, including with respect to exemptions from the restrictions in the declaration, bylaws and rules for

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accommodation purposes,” she says, adding, “Corporations can inquire what the resident’s medical needs are, but not the diagnosis. The corporation can request the information directly from the individual or, if the individual permits, the corporation can seek this information from a family member, friend or their physician.”

In the event an episode occurs, it is often a sensitive situation. If it appears a resident is having a severe episode, if there is concern for the individual’s safety and the safety of others in the condo, especially if no family or friends can be contacted and the resident has not provided any documentation or confirmation that they suffer from a mental illness, she advises the corporation might then want to consider obtaining a psychiatric assessment—to help determine whether a condition exists and how best to accommodate the resident. This can be obtained through a justice of the peace or by calling 911. “It really depends on the nature of the behaviour,” she says. “If the individual is threatening to inflict self-harm or threatening others, calling 911 would be the most appropriate in the circumstances.” The corporation should advise police that the individual is without family members and request an assessment and, once they arrive on scene, should give them a onepage document outlining the individual’s conduct that prompted the call. “Under section 17 of the Mental Health Act, police have the authority to take the person to the hospital for assessment,” she adds. “The police must be satisfied that the individual has a mental health issue and there is a risk of harm to themselves or others in order for them to proceed with taking the individual to the hospital for an assessment.” If a resident is checked into a hospital, corporations are advised to offer up any other information that can support the assessment. “This requires the physician


MANAGEMENT complete a Form 1 pursuant to section 15 of the Mental Health Act,” she says. “If the individual has no one in their family to act as their substitute decision maker, the public guardian and trustee may be contacted.”

Provincial

initiatives have highlighted the urgency for better response to such mental health emergencies, as police officers often lack specialized training and hospital visits are not always ideal. “We know that more needs to be done to tackle the mental health crisis in our communities,” says Stephen Warner, press secretary and issues manager at the Office of the Solicitor General. “The nature of community safety and policing is changing: police officers are increasingly being called upon to respond to complex situations involving vulnerable individuals experiencing mental health crises.” The Canadian Mental Health Association has long been advocating for 24-7 mobile crisis intervention teams to arrive first on the scene when a mental health or substance use emergency call is made. Police services in several jurisdictions, including Hamilton and Toronto, have

“The nature of community safety and policing is changing: police officers are increasingly being called upon to respond to complex situations involving vulnerable individuals experiencing mental health crises.” already implemented these programs, which can assist condo management with such delicate situations. Mental health professionals are paired with police officers to respond to calls reported through 911. They are able to help de-escalate and stabilize persons in crisis, divert individuals from emergency depar tments whenever appropriate, and connect that person to community

res o urc es to a d d res s p hysic al an d mental well-being over the longer term. Peel Regional Police and the CMHA Peel Dufferin Branch partnered to launch the program earlier this year. And as COVID19 has fueled the demand for services, in mid-November, the province announced critical new funding; the goal is to help 33 communities expand or launch mobile crisis programs. 1

www.REMInetwork.com | December 2020 29


How Is the Insurance Crisis Affecting Reserve Fund Planning? Property managers and brokers believed for years that condominiums

BY JUSTIN TUDOR

should not make a loss claim unless the loss is estimated to be three times the deductible. Seems to make sense. If

your water deductible is $25,000, it may not be worth risking a premium increase to save $50,000. Certainly, however, a claim would be made if the loss were $500,000 or a cool million.

30 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network


INSURANCE insurable losses. What can we do before the next claim to mitigate the risk of a leaking toilet 200 feet in the air, wrecking the lobby and emptying a bank account that was needed next week to replace the 19-year-old roof? Reserve fund planners cannot put a line item into a reserve fund plan that will allow for payment of a deductible. And even if they could, how would they know what year to put it in? Planners cannot assume that a tornado will come in 2021 and not 2022. And even if they could, how would they know if it will hit a specific condominium or not? Assuming an optimized 30-year work requirement, planners only have so many tools to work with when creating a condominium reserve funding model:

1 2 3

They can change contributions. They can special assess. They can modify the minimum balance that the condominium will hold year-over-year.

It’s within this last point that effective reserve fund planners can assist proactive condominiums. Adequate funding of a reserve is based on the concept of maintaining an appropriate minimum balance—the minimum balance is the lowest value which the account will drop to over the duration of 30-year study. This value, typically developed by the planner in conjunction with the board, is based on factors such as the age and type of the condominium, the

But what happens when the deductible is so high that virtually no claim can ever fit this rule of thumb? The insurance crisis in condominiums is affecting how boards are planning for disasters in Ontario. With claims increasing in frequency and value, coupled with what the brokers call a hard market, many condominiums are finding their water-loss premiums doubling or tripling, while being essentially stuck agreeing to untenable deductibles ($250,000 in some cases). Avid readers of this publication will already know a few key points about reserve fund planning and spending as it relates to insurable losses for condominiums in Ontario.

1

Reserve funds exist to cover foreseeable major repairs and replacements of the common elements.

2

Reserve fund accounts can be used to pay insurance deductibles, provided the repair is to a common element.

3

The reserve fund is often used to pay for repairs to the common elements after an insurable loss if a claim is not filed.

That’s great knowledge to have after a loss. But how can a condo be proactive? Because insurance repairs are not foreseeable, they cannot be planned for as an expense in a reserve fund study. Market forces are creating an unplanned risk to reserve fund balances due to the likelihood of communities using their reserve funds to avoid a claim on

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“Because insurance repairs are not foreseeable, they cannot be planned for as an expense in a reserve fund study.”

number of units, and the proximity to the year of the low balance and the year of maximum expenditures. This low balance is often a reflection of the condominium’s risk tolerance. In this new world, where insurance deductibles and the potential to fund insura b le los s re p air s throu g h the reserve put reserve fund plans at risk, condominium corporations should speak with their planners about two options:

1

Ensure that the minimum balance at least allows for the deductible amount (that there is always enough money for the deductible, even if the claim is not three times the deductible value).

2

Ensure that the minimum balance allows for three times the deductible

amount (that there is always enough money to ensure that a claim can be avoided if strategically reasonable). In appropriately funded condominiums, adjustments to the fees to accommodate these options may not be overly noticeable and could add a level of security for proactive boards. In underfunded condominiums, however, these options will have the effect similar to an urgent unexpected expense, which can require aggressive contribution adjustments. C ondominium corporation reser ve fund planners are an integral part of a building’s team. They will not know the details of a condominium corporation’s loss history and insurance agreements.

It’s impor tant that you communicate w ith them to ensure they h ave all the information. C or p orations must consider the risks of maintaining a low balance that is below their deductible threshold and work with their planner to implement one of the options above. And remember— although this sounds unpalatable, it’s 2020. It could definitely be worse. 1 J u sti n Tu d o r, P. En g . i s p re s i d e nt and engineer at Keller Engineering, a building envelope engineering and build ing sc ienc e firm th at p rovid es building and systems assessment and associated repair and renewal consulting services since 1982. He can be reached at jtudor@kellerengineering.com.

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Seven Tips for Building Trust in Condo Communities It is unlikely that the condo’s declaration, bylaws, rules, or policies

BY PAT CROSSCOMBE

include any reference to trust; yet good governance cannot be achieved without it. Directors might assume that meeting their fiduciary responsibilities is enough, but specific actions that provide the evidence on which trust is built are also required. In communities where trust exists, the condo hums with vibrant energy. These condo boards are active, directors debate vigorously amongst themselves, owners question the board at every opportunity, and meetings are well-attended and lively. People are satisfied with their boards and know that they are well informed and the properties are well managed. The opposite is true of communities where a lack of trust exists. Directors must spend a lot of time defending their decisions, responding to owners who complain continually about everything, and coaxing

owners to attend meetings. Directors in these communities become frustrated because they can never seem to get beyond defending themselves, and move from being reactive to proactive. No one wants to live in the latter community. Read on to learn how to build trust in condo communities. Speaking with one voice Condo boards must speak with “one voice.” This means that directors may disagree and debate at board meetings, but once

34 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

a decision is made, the directors end their disagreements and wholeheartedly support the decisions made. Most often, boards speak via “official channels.” It is the only practical way that a board, composed of individuals, can speak with “one voice.” This ensures that the voice of the board is accurately reflected in any communications with owners. It also means that directors never discuss board business with anyone– not even a spouse. Directors, especially new directors, may need guidance in this area. It is easy to start chatting with neighbours


GOVERNANCE and then veer into a discussion about board business. In theory, following this principle is easy; in practice, it is much more challenging. It helps if the director already knows what to say when the situation arises. A potential answer is to politely explain that he or she can’t discuss board business outside of meetings because doing so would be a breach of the condo’s code of conduct. Keeping owners up-to-date Any time the board has news, it is essential for the board to update the owners and send it to everyone simultaneously (as much as this is possible). Owners must know that everyone has the same information, and no one is receiving preferential treatment in getting information that others do not get. Making documents available O w ners are the st akehold ers and shareholders in the condo corporation and pay the corporation’s operating costs. It follows that the corporate records be available to owners, minus any documents with personal information. Digitizing the condo’s records makes it possible to provide documents easily, quickly, and at no charge. Better still is to utilize an online service that provides 24/7 access to documents. Making owners wait for weeks after requesting documents via the process created by the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) is unnecessary if all the documents are already available online. Even more annoying is making owners wait for documents to be mailed to them and charge a photocopying and postage fee.

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Giving more notice than required The Condominium Act provides precise guidelines for the number of days notice t h a t m u s t b e g i ve n to ow n e r s fo r events such as meetings or special assessments. The standard specified in the Act should be interpreted as the minimum. The Act does not prohibit a board from providing more notice than the minimum, so it is a good practice to do so anytime it can be provided. When a special assessment is required, the more notice that can be given the better. More notice gives the owners additional time to arrange for financing, if necessary, or to arrange for payment—something that also takes time for some owners.

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GOVERNANCE

“In communities where trust exists, the condo hums with vibrant energy.”

Asking owners for input Condo boards are not required to ask owners for their input or opinions. The exception is at annual general meetings or special meetings when owners have a responsibility to attend and vote. This does not mean that boards can’t ask for input from the owners, only that they are not required to do so. A better approach would be to ask for input on things that will affect them. With the many free online tools available, it is easy to create a survey and ask owners their opinions. Being nice It is not helpful when owners, directors, or property managers fail to be civil. Nothing

destroys trust faster than nastiness in emails, meetings, chats on the property, or at the property manager’s office. Good manners remain essential at all times. Stopping negative talk Gossip is a part of everyday life. Anyone who shares false information or maligns directors or owners needs to be stopped immediately. By providing regular updates of accurate information, negative gossip can be held in check. Informal townhallst yle meetings are excellent venues to discuss updates and offer owners opportunities to ask questions on anything condo related. It also provides owners

with lots to gossip about with positive and accurate talk. Getting it done Even after implementing all of the recommended tips, it may still take time to build trust in the community. This is especially true if it has been lacking for many years. Taking time is expected, and boards must persevere because the results will be worth the board’s efforts. 1 Pat Crosscombe is the founder and CEO of BoardSpace, a company that provides board management software for condo boards and property managers.

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Costa advised that he no longer wished to occupy his role as president. The emergency meeting took place at the defendant’s (MTCC 1292’s) premises. At the emergency meeting, the plaintiff and Mr. Da Costa entered into a heated argument, which led Mr. Da Costa to “lose it” and strike the plaintiff on the head with a chair. Mr. Da Costa was charged by the police and received a conditional discharge for assault with a weapon. iff commen The plaintiff commenced a civil action against Mr. Da Costa fo for his use of force as well as MTCC TCC 1292 for fo failing to ensure her safety and nd failing to employ security meet measures at board meetings. MTCC 1292 brought a motion summary judgment otion for su to dismiss the plaintiff’s plaintiff’ claim against it nly opposed by Mr. Da Costa which was only given his crossclaim MTCC 1292 ossclaim against ag on and indemnity. inde for contribution

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their premises reasonably safe for those who enter it. But what about when an individual commits assault while at one of these meetings? Should the occupier or organizer of the

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In Omotayo v. Da Costa, 2018, the defendant occupier, Metro Toronto Condominium Corporation 1292 (MTCC 1292), was successful in dismissing the plaintiff’s claim and the assailant’s crossclaim when a member in attendance at a condominium board meeting struck another meeting attendee with a chair. Justice Nishikawa found that the duty the condominium corporation owed to the plaintiff did not include preventing an assault that occurred during their condominium board meeting. Facts of the case T he plaintif f, J ac queline O mot ayo, was a resident and former chair of the condominium corporation. The defendant, Jose Da Costa, was also a resident and former president of the condominium corporation. An emergency board meeting was held on Oct. 4, 2011, to discuss the future organization of the board as Ms. Omotayo had recently been removed from her position as chair and Mr. Da

By Steven Chester

SERVING THE FACILIT Y CLE ANING & MAINTENANCE INDUSTRY

Let’s face it, we all want our businesses to be social media rock stars, and we know it ain’t easy. It’s becoming more prevalent that some of the most popular social media platforms have been infiltrated by those who game the system. This includes those that buy fake followers and “likes” in order to create the illusion that their social media profile is more popular than it is. These fake followers are predominantly bots – accounts run by software designed to look and act like real people.

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New services are also popping up that allow authentic social media accounts to become part of the bot game. By signing up for the service, the user authorizes their account to automatically like, follow and randomly comment on other users’ posts, and in turn they trade that fake engagement with other users. Sound harmless enough? The thing is you have no say in in the message your account is spreading or where it ends up.

CARING FOR FRAGILE FLOORS

Summary judgment motion udgment m positi MTCC took the position that its duty w is confined confine to the physical under the law condition of the premises premise and foreseeable e unforese risks, not the unforeseeable conduct of individuals in attendan attendance. Meanwhile, Mr. Da Costa that MTCC 1292’s a argued th s to having rules of conduct duty extends s, policies re for meetings, relating to abusive l an gu a g e, thre at s aan d intimid atin g d a duty to h behavior, and hire and supervise competent professional professionals to oversee its luding, if appropriate, ap business (including, security Cos further argued personnel). Mr. Da Costa ult was foreseeable fore that the assault given the M quarrelsome nature of MTCC 1292’s board nd a prior unrelated u meetings and incident involving the plaintiff and another member of MTCC 1292 wherein the police was 292 wherei called. ng her dec In reaching decision, Justice Nishikawa looked Coleiro v. Premier ooked to C s where summary sum Fitness Clubs judgment d in favour of the defendant was granted

MALL GERMS: TOP FIVE HOT SPOTS

Ask yourself this: What’s more important, having 50,000 cosmetic followers, or having

500 followers who are in your target market REMEDYING FOUR that actually want to hear from you? COMMON CARPET As a consumer, it’s even simpler, as PROBLEMS deceptive tactics are easy to spot. If you’re using underhanded methods to promote your business, this can be viewed as a reflection of your product or service. Your integrity is at stake. This is one of the more complex topics that can’t be fully covered in this space. As always, I invite you to stay social and continue the conversation on Twitter at @Chestergosocial where I’ll share a link to the full article.

SCENT OF

SUCCESS Steven Chester is the Digital Media Director of MediaEdge Communications. With 15 years’ experience in cross-platform communications, Steven helps companies expand their reach through social media and other digital initiatives. To contact him directly, email gosocial@mediaedge.ca.

www.REMInetwork.com | June 2018 15

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Requisitions: Waiting on Changes to the Condo Act Pot e nt i a l l y lo s t i n a l l of t he ongoing c ha nges to t he

BY DAVID THIEL

Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) since 2017 (really, 2015) are the proposed amendments concerning requisition meetings, which have not yet been proclaimed into force. Those amendments will drastically change the requisition process. Requisitions are essentially petitions signed by at least 15 per cent of owners requesting that a condominium call an owners’ meeting for a particular purpose. The most serious and common requisition would be a requisition for a meeting to remove and replace one or more of the directors from a condominium board. One fundamental feature of the process has been the authority of requisitionists to call their own official owners’ meeting if the condominium board does not do so within 35 days: a ‘self-help’ remedy.

38 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

That said, it has always been exceedingly difficult for requisitionists to actually call their own meeting. In particular, if the requisition is to remove board members, a condominium board may take the position that the requisition is invalid. If the requisitionists disagree and decide to proceed to call and hold a meeting, there is potential to elect a ‘competing’ board. These situations can create chaos for a condominium, and often result in expensive litigation. A case in point is the recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation


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No. 2510 v. All Unit Owners (2020 ONSC 6582; October 27, 2020). Here, a requisition to remove board members was submitted to the condominium, which took the position that the requisition did not meet the requirements of the Act. The requisitionists attempted to call the meeting, but the condominium applied to Court to prevent the meeting from proceeding. Ultimately, the Court found that the requisitionists had failed to comply with all requirements of the Act relating to calling owners’ meetings including: providing 14 days notice of the meeting instead of 15, not using the mandatory form of Notice of Meeting, and apparently delivering the notice of meeting through social media (at least in part) which is not a permitted method of service. The facts of this case also raise other interesting legal issues such as whether a requisition can be 'supplemented' by sending additional owner signatures after the initial submission of a requisition, and also whether requisitionists may withdraw their signatures. These issues were not addressed in any final way since the requisitionists had failed to call the meeting properly. It is also worth pointing out that the requisitionists in this case made several substantive procedural errors. What is less clear is whether or not more limited, technical errors in procedure would also invalidate such a meeting. Would some extra procedural flexibility be permissible in the midst of the pandemic? All of which demonstrates that requisitions and the self-help remedy can be extremely complex, not to mention the litigation that may ensue. In the aforementioned case, the court made a very clear statement in bold text, as follows, in part: “As they have learned in this endeavour, this is a complicated field in which to navigate.” So, how will amendments to the Act (the “Amendments”) presumably improve the requisition process as discussed above? The main changes to the procedure pursuant to the Amendments would essentially be as follows: a. the requisition itself will be on a new mandatory form; b. upon receipt of the requisition, the board will have 10 days (or another time period as per the regulations) to respond to the requisitionists, either confirming that the owners’ meeting will be held, or stating that the meeting will not be called, and stating the reasons why not;

has not been expanded to include such requisition matters). If such an application is not made, the requisition would be deemed to be abandoned. The primary change is to eliminate the self-help remedy of requisitionists calling their own meeting. This is substituted with the option to apply to Court or the CAT, as the case may be, for a resolution. This feature alone should help eliminate the complications associated with requisitionists calling their own meetings. What remains to be seen is how efficient the process will be for requisitionists to apply to Court or the CAT. It would seem that having requisitionists apply to Court may be an inefficient procedure with what presumably would be a potentially significant delay. Hopefully, the CAT’s jurisdiction would be expanded to include handling requisition matters, at the same time when the Amendments come into force. Provided the CAT can efficiently (both in terms of cost and time) address the requisition issues, and subject to actually reviewing the regulations, these improvements to the Act should be welcome and address the growing complexity associated with the self-help remedy as discussed above. 1 David Thiel is a partner in the condominium law group at Fogler, Rubinoff LLP. He can be contacted at dthiel@foglers. com or 416.941.8815.

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c. if the board does not respond as per (b) above, then it is deemed to agree to proceed to call the meeting; d. the board essentially has 40 days to call and hold the owners’ meeting if it has confirmed that it will do so, or if deemed to respond in such manner as per (c) above; e. the requisitionists will have 10 days (or another time period as per the regulations) to revise a requisition if they deem fit; f. where a board responds to state that it is not calling an owners’ meeting, the requisitionists will have 20 days in which to apply to the Condominium Authority Tribunal (“CAT”) for a ruling on the requisition (or apply to the Superior Court if the CAT’s jurisdiction

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CONDO MARKET

Supply, Selection and Negotiating Power Canadian real estate has been remarkably resilient in the face of

BY CHRISTOPHER ALEXANDER

COVID-19, but despite record-breaking home sales and continued price growth across many markets, the Greater Toronto Area’s condo segment hasn’t emerged completely unscathed. But it’s not all bad news.

What shocked everyone in the wake of the pandemic, is despite the lockdown and its economic aftermath, housing prices continued to rise. Market matchers predicted declines and bursting bubbles— forecasts that have not yet materialized as we approach the end of 2020. While the prediction was contested by RE/MAX, nobody could have foreseen what’s actually transpired. The latest data released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reveals that home sales in the GTA in October 2020 were up 25 per cent year- over-year. Prices followed suit, reaching an average $968,318. The average detached home now carried a price tag of $1,204,844, a 14.8-per-cent increase year-over-year. The housing market’s rapid return in the summer months can be attributed to pent-up demand from the delayed spring market, coupled with severely limited supply, low borrowing costs and a slow but steady economic recovery. The continuing strength through the fall speaks to a broader trend of growing demand overall which is likely to continue. Meanwhile, condos in the 416 were the only property segment to see a decline in sales and a plateau in prices, which increased just 0.7 per cent to $622,122 year-over-year in October. This is certainly a far cry from the condo sector’s meteoric growth over the last decade. As the price of detached homes reached record-breaking highs time and time again, an increasing number of homebuyers sought condos as a viable option for ownership in a city where “home” was quickly becoming an unaffordable, unattainable dream. As demand for condos grew, so too did their prices. By the same principles that previously prompted skyrocketing housing prices (which continues to be the case across the detached housing segment), condos have lost some of their lustre. Demand has waned due to the halt in immigration, business and tourist travel, stricter short-term rental rules and a shift in consumer demand toward larger suburban homes. Indeed, condo market research firm Urbanation reported a vacancy rate in the GTA of 2.4 per cent in Q3-2020, which is three times higher than it was in Q3-2019, and the highest in the last 10 years. Those investors who were once accused of monopolizing the GTA’s

40 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

lucrative condo market and driving up prices, were now flooding it with listings thanks to long-term uncertainty. According to TRREB, new condo listings coming on stream more than doubled in October 2020 compared to year-ago levels, and sales were only up 2.2 per cent over the same period. If this trend were to become more pronounced, prices may start to decline. But that’s just speculation at this point. What we’re experiencing right now is a softening GTA condo market. This is not a bubble on the verge of bursting, but a slight deflation. And this could be the break first-time homebuyers and young families need, in order to achieve ownership in this pricey market. From an end-user’s perspective, current market conditions mean more choice, less competition and a real chance at a secure place to call “home” at a price they can afford. For investors the view may be dimmer, but there is light ahead. Borders will eventually reopen, travel and immigration will resume, and the world will return to a version of its former self. In the meantime, right now is the best opportunity to buy a condo in the GTA in years. There’s lots of inventory, which means great selection for buyers with room to negotiate. Before COVID -19 closed borders, Canada was welcoming roughly 300,000 new Canadians every year, which carried a substantial demand for homes. Those numbers have been cut dramatically due to restricted travel and immigration; however, the federal government recently announced its intention to increase immigration to Canada by 1.2 million newcomers over three years as part of its 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan. In my humble opinion, Canada—and specifically the GTA—is still among the best places in the world to live. 1 Christopher Alexander is the executive vice-president and regional d irector of RE/ MA X I NTEGRA Ontario - Atlantic Canada. Christopher is responsible for all areas of day-to-day operations including franchise management, membership services, training and development, marketing, advertising, promotions and finance.


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NEW AND NOTABLE

ACCESSIBILITY PROGRESS New Tax Credit May Apply On Common Area Upgrades Condo corporations may be able to leverage Ontario’s newly announced Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit for qualifying upgrades made in 2021. The one-time personal income tax credit of up to $2,500 for seniors who do not live in care facilities was announced in the Ontario budget in November. The credit will cover 25 per cent of up to $10,000 worth of eligible capital improvements intended to safeguard seniors and enable mobility and independence within their current principal residence, or a residence they plan to move to before the end of 2023. Senior homeowners and renters are eligible, as are younger owners of intergenerational family homes where seniors reside. As outlined in the budget document, seniors who own condominiums could pass the credit through to be applied to common area upgrades. “The credit could also be claimed for an individual’s share of improvements done by a condominium corporation, or similar body, to property that includes the individual’s principal residence, provided the improvement meets the eligibility conditions,” it states. Promised future legislation will provide more details, but qualifying expenses are expected to include: • Wheelchair ramps, stair/wheelchair lifts and elevators; • Non-slip flooring; • Additional light fixtures throughout the home and exterior entrances; • Renovations to permit a first-floor occupancy or secondary suite for a senior; • Grab bars and related reinforcements around the toilet, tub and shower; • Automatic garage door openers; and • Modular or removable versions of a permanent fixture, such as modular ramps and non-fixed bath lifts.

42 CONDOBUSINESS | Part of the REMI Network

New Standard For Accessible Homes Announced CSA Group is developing a new, national standard for affordable, adaptable and accessible homes that will form the foundation of a new Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) module to help rate the accessibility of residential buildings. Based on the National Standard of Canada, CSA B651-18, Accessible design for the built environment, RHFAC is the only national program that rates, certifies and celebrates the meaningful accessibility of buildings from the perspective of persons with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities. The new standard will help suppor t the development of accessible homes across Canada by providing evidenceinformed guidance, along with the application of new and existing knowledge related to best practices for design, construction, and modification. As a member of the advisory panel, the Rick Hansen Foundation will guide the standard’s development and provide expertise in housing accessibility. “Having the opportunity to age at home is increasingly important to Canadians, and the need for accessible housing in Canada is a huge issue,” says Brad McCannell, vice-president of access and inclusion at the Rick Hansen Foundation. “We’re thrilled that CSA Group will be developing this new residential standard and to incorporate it into RHFAC to help industry address this critical gap.” Public polling released by the Angus Reid Institute in January 2019 shows that one in three Canadians have issues getting around their own home and a majority are anticipating challenges moving around at home in the future. The federal government, through the National Housing Strategy (NHS) delivered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), is providing $190,000 in funding for this new standard, which is scheduled to be published in May 2022.


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