Real Estate

Condo board's blog keeps residents in the know

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

An engaged board of directors can lay the foundation for healthy condo governance, Toronto condominium lawyer Deborah Howden tells AdvocateDaily.com.

One director is the president of the board of a 479-unit condo in the city and operates a blog that provides updates on the board’s activities and the building's day-to-day operations.

As well as giving residents a front-row seat to negotiations with vendors and matters of interest in the building, the blog also attracts a broader following from readers across the province who use it as a resource.

Howden, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP's Toronto office, says the blog’s content reflects the board’s hands-on approach, one that she says is unusual in corporations of a similar size.

“Directors of smaller corporations tend to be more engaged because they may not have an on-site property manager,” she says. “Whenever you have a high-rise with lots of units and underground parking, it comes with a certain amount of daily issues that are often left to a management company. But this board is very involved in the day-to-day running of the corporation, alongside management.

“Every condo community is unique, so they all have different needs, but here is a model where the duties aren’t completely carved up between the directors and the property managers. In my view, it creates a really balanced, healthy relationship,” she adds.

Howden says the condo's unit owners do not suffer the gaps in knowledge that many unit owners complained about during consultations prior to the recent major update of the Condominium Act.

“When the government heard from stakeholders, one of the biggest problems was about communication between boards and owners," she says. "They complained the only time they heard anything was at annual general meetings or in one or two newsletters a year from directors.

“But this board is immediately available to respond, and involved with property management at the front line of issues, and residents get timely, detailed accounts about what is going on in the building,” Howden says.

Indeed, many of the recent changes to the Condominium Act were spurred by concerns that boards of directors were not up to the often-onerous tasks expected of them, which include holding funds in trust, maintaining the property, as well as enforcing the Act and condominium documents, she says.

“Training is now mandated for directors because there were fears some directors did not have the requisite base knowledge about condominiums to either self-manage the property or direct their property managers,” Howden says.

Since November 2017, in order for directors to remain on the board following their election, they must complete a free online course and a multiple-choice questionnaire that takes between three and five hours to complete.

“It’s valid for seven years, but if they don’t complete the training within six months of their appointment, then they are automatically disqualified,” Howden explains, noting the updated Act also enhanced disclosure requirements for directors.

“The provincial government has responded to the push from stakeholders to raise the bar and make sure people who are elected to these boards have a certain amount of knowledge,” she adds.

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