Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Real Estate

Property management shortage could be brewing 'perfect storm'

A potential crisis is brewing as the shortage of qualified condo property managers intensifies, Toronto condominium lawyer Armand Conant tells AdvocateDaily.com.

While Ontario now has more than 11,300 condominium corporations, Conant, senior partner with Shibley Righton LLP, has heard that there are only about 2,500 licensed condo managers.

“Not every corporation needs a professional manager, and you get some smaller ones that handle it themselves, but demand is definitely growing for management services. Meanwhile, we’re not seeing a corresponding growth in the supply of people entering or staying in the profession,” he says.

“At the moment, we’ve got a perfect storm of factors coming together that I believe could result in a property management crisis.”

Anecdotally — and through his work — Conant has heard of management companies attempting to poach managers from other buildings, as well as individual managers demanding large raises to stay in their positions.  

“Some of these management companies are already operating razor-thin margins or running at a deficit, so they may struggle to stay in existence if they have to pay that type of increase,” he says.

Recent legislative changes created a new licensing and training regime for condo managers, and while Conant says it will ultimately benefit everyone in the industry, for now, it's "amplified” an existing shortage of people prepared to do the job.

“It’s a very difficult occupation because, in addition to your workload, you’re at the front line, dealing with all the complaints of angry unit owners and residents. It's also never paid particularly well,” Conant explains.  

As a result, he says the ranks of property managers tend to be filled with individuals in their second or third careers.

Raising the threshold to entry has made the job less attractive to younger people coming in, and created retention problems as older managers — taking advantage of transitional licensing provisions for those with experience in the job — are reticent at the prospect of the licensing fees and testing.  

In the long run, Conant believes the professionalization from the new licensing regime will be a crucial step in getting condo managers the respect they deserve.

“They work very hard, but they’ve never been given the recognition they are due by the industry at large,” he says.

With owners' fees being the major source of income for management companies, Conant says condo boards have traditionally reacted to pressure from the owners to keep the common expenses as low as possible, and one way is by squeezing their managers for savings and cutting corners on property management services.

“They’re the ones who get beat up on to keep costs as low as possible, but the recent reforms have meant there’s even more work being given to them,” he says.

Conant proposes a two-pronged approach to address the shortage problem.

“First, we need to work at the condo corporation level to educate owners and boards that they get what they pay for. You don’t want to be cutting corners on window cleaning and property management, but you’ve got to pay a proper fee to get good services,” he says.

“The other part is educating the industry at large about the need for specialist property managers and the importance of the job they do. When you look for a lawyer or engineer, you don’t look for the cheapest one to save a few hundred dollars. If you go to someone who’s not qualified to deal with condos, you run into trouble.

“At the end of the day, we need good, qualified condo managers, and we should be prepared to pay a little more for them,” Conant says.

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