TORONTO - Ontario's consumer services minister says the growth of condominiums in the province means changes are needed, including qualifications for condo managers.
Tracy MacCharles says while the condo industry has boomed in recent years, managers currently aren't required to have any training, despite handling massive operating budgets worth millions of dollars.
She says 10 per cent of Ontario residents live in a condo, adding today's condominiums are complex operations that require a high level of competence to run.
So the province has given a "green light'' to bring in mandatory qualifications for condo managers in the first of several expected changes to come out of its Condominium Act Review.
MacCharles says a group of condo owners, residents and industry experts will look at what mandatory qualifications for condo managers should be.
They will also decide how to set up an independent, regulatory authority to oversee licensing and standards.
The group is to give its report to government by the end of the summer.
"There is an overwhelming consensus that condominium managers be qualified to carry out their significant responsibilities,'' MacCharles said Thursday.
"One in 10 people in Ontario live in a condominium and their quality of life depends to a great degree on qualified, well-trained condominium managers.''
In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto real estate lawyer Lorne Shapiro says the mandatory qualifications represent a “highly positive and long overdue” move by the province.
“Although the vast majority of condominium managers are experienced and knowledgeable, as with any emerging or rapidly changing industry, there will always be some players who do not fully comprehend their responsibilities,” says Shapiro, partner with Basman Smith LLP.
“These individuals are the ones who are the subject of the horror stories people talk about and greatly reduce the credibility of the condominium managers who do excellent work.”
Condominium management is a highly specialized and difficult role, and not one that should be taken lightly, says Shapiro.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the role of a condominium manager has become crucially important to the way millions of people in this province live,” he says. “Although there are superb courses available in condominium management, these courses are not mandatory. Currently, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a condominium manager. That is a recipe for significant problems.”
It’s crucial that condominium managers be trained in condominium law and in related legal areas such as contracts, human rights, and agency law as well as financial management, building operations and management and human relations, says Shapiro.
“Sophisticated and progressive condominium managers throughout the province have developed this challenging skill set,” he adds.
“Hopefully, transforming this profession into a regulated industry will result in significant improvements in the overall skill level of condominium managers,” Shapiro tells AdvocateDaily.com. “We look forward to seeing the recommendations and how the province deals with them.”
New Democrat MPP Rosario Marchese said the government has long known that many condo managers are underqualified and mandatory licensing is overdue.
The review of the Condominium Act is taking too long, delaying needed reforms, he said.
Marchese also criticized the government's proposed expert panel, saying it's "stacked'' with people linked to two condo industry lobby groups.
"This government has a fondness for self-regulatory models that entrench private interests while shutting out consumers,'' said Marchese.
The province says there are about 600,000 condominium units in Ontario, represented by 9,000 corporations, and condos represent half of all new homes built in Ontario.
The ministry says managers don't necessarily have an understanding of the bylaws governing condos, including building maintenance or contracting out services such as cleaning and landscaping.
"We are pleased that the government recognizes the importance of a regulated condominium management profession,'' said Dean McCabe, past president of the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario.
"This commitment today will add value to condominiums of all sizes across the province.''
-With files from AdvocateDaily
© 2013 The Canadian Press