Condominium governance is undergoing greater public scrutiny after an investigation by CBC Toronto unveiled questionable practices at a series of downtown Toronto condominiums.
Owners and property managers in those buildings say a group of people have aggressively sought control of the boards and budgets of multiple condominiums. Allegations of misconduct include voting irregularities and contentious contracts.
If you’re wondering whether your condo board is operating in a scrupulous and trustworthy manner, or if you simply want to gain a better understanding of how condos work, check out these insights from experts in the field of condo governance.
1. The board should be filled with competent members.
Not just anyone should sit on the board of directors at a condo corporation, according to the experts.
“You want people who are financially literate [and] who have some business experience, preferably,” said Audrey Loeb, an attorney at Miller Thomson, which specializes in condo law. “You don't want the board of directors managing the building; you want the board of directors overseeing the manager.”
The condo’s property manager should be independent of the board, with a solid reputation, Loeb said. Additionally, condo board directors should own a unit in the building, and ideally live in that unit. If not, that’s a potential red flag for owners.
2. Condo owners need to review the legal documentation.
Condo owners need to take the time to read their building’s declaration, which is essentially the condo’s charter or constitution. They should also read any bylaws and rules instituted by the board, according to Brian Antman, who audits condo boards as a partner with accounting firm Adams and Miles.
Potential owners of new condo buildings need to read the disclosure statement provided by the developer, and should have it reviewed by a lawyer familiar with condo law, said Antman. (Note that for resale condos, a status certificate replaces a disclosure statement.)
“It's probably the most significant purchase they’ll ever make, and they shouldn't be surprised by anything going into it,” Antman said. “I see a lot of people who don’t do their due diligence up front, and are surprised.”
3. Condo owners should keep an open line of communication with the board.
“The best way to tell how well-run your condo is… is to ask for documents, and see if you get them,” Loeb said. Minutes of board meetings are common records that the board should be willing to share. "If you get them in a timely fashion, ask for the monthly financial statements. Any owner is entitled to see that stuff.”
Most condo board meetings are closed, but Loeb said owners should take the time to attend annual meetings.
If condo owners can’t attend annual meetings, but still want to vote on condo issues by proxy, Loeb recommends electronic proxy voting, which allow owners to receive proxy documents through email.
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