Election corruption will not be solved by Pollyanna solutions
In the Globe, Konrad Yakabuski writes that condo dreams often turn into condo nightmares. He writes:
Condo towers are essentially city-states unto themselves, and they’re
often engulfed in civil warfare. Board elections are subject to all
kinds of abuses. Cases of collusion among cliques of owners to gain
control of the board are common. A Globe and Mail report on one
apparent instance of undisclosed co-ordination among three investors
vying for board seats at several different condo corporations in
Toronto comes as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed condo politics
Mr. Yakabuski offers two.
The first is increasing condo owners awareness of how expensive nasty and self-serving condo politics can become.
Shawn Pulver, a condo lawyer states: “What really needs to be done is educating
owners and prospective owners about what they’re getting into.”
His second solution is to make condo election fraud a criminal offence.
is to condos what Muskoka is to cottages, just passed legislation that
explicitly provides prison sentences for anyone convicted of committing
condo fraud—electoral or financial.
From the CBC news reports
The CBC interviewed condo law expert Audrey Loeb who has
advice for condo owners who are concerned that their building could be
targetted for a takeover.
She says owner disinterest in board elections can make a building vulnerable.
"Don't sign a proxy. Go to the meeting, Ask questions of the
candidates: What unit do you live in? Are you a resident? Are you an
investor? Why do you want to sit on the board?," Loeb told CBC Toronto
"See the whites of their eyes."
And if you live in a building that you believe has been hijacked by
people who may not have the residents' best interests at heart?
Loeb said any condo dweller has a legal right to call a meeting without
the board's approval, providing they have the consent of 15 per cent of
Those meetings can result in new board elections, she said.
As well, an ongoing provincial review of the Condo Act could result in
changes that better protect owners from aggressive board takeovers,
How practical are these solutions?
It is one thing for the mice to agree that cats need to wear bells and a whole different thing to agree on who
will bell the cats. Lets take a look at these suggested "solutions".
The problem with educating condo owners comes down to who approves the
curriculum and who will do the teaching? Realtors, condo developers and
the industry lobby groups would teach a completely different course
than would CondoMadness.
Property managers are often involved in manipulating condo elections so
it can't be them. Even some lawyers play games by favouring a condo
board, or the director, that hired them.
The biggest problem is that many/most condo owners don't want to be
educated. They are not interested, claim they don't have the time,
can't grasp the complexities involved or will vote for anyone who
promises to keep their monthly expenses low.
Excellent idea. However, do our police forces have enough detectives to
gather the evidence and prepare the cases needed for convictions? Will
they be given funds to do this work? I don't think so.
Don't hand in proxies
Condo managers, boards and candidates love proxies. Low owner turnouts
make AGMs easy to control. The condo industry is pushing for condos to
allow electronic proxies which will guarantee that even fewer owners will
attend their AGMs.
Examining the documents can be easy enough, or it should be, but how many
owners are knowledgeable enough to be able to understand what they are
reading? Keep in mind, management is under no obligation to explain
what the documents mean, nor do they have to answer any questions.
Read your Declaration
How many owners can read these clauses in a condo declaration and fully understand what they mean? Read this clause:
Section 33—Use of the dwelling units
a) …each dwelling unit shall be occupied and used only for residential
purposes, and for the business of providing transient residential
rental accommodation on a furnished and/or unfurnished site basis (with
or without ancillary maid, cleaning and /or laundry services), through
short term or long term licence/lease arrangements, in accordance with
the provisions of the applicable zoning bylaw(s) of the Government
Authorities, as may be amended from time to time, and for no other
purpose whatsoever, provided however that the foregoing shall not
prevent or in any way restrict:
ii) any unit owner, or any property manager acting on behalf of any
unit owner or group of unit owners, from leasing or renting any
dwelling unit(s) in this Condominium from time to time, for any
duration and on any number of occasions, and whether in a furnished or
unfurnished state, with or without ancillary maid, cleaning and/or
This means that anyone can rent their residential unit as a hotel room and no one can interfere or restrict this practice.
Go to the AGM; ask questions
This answer is extremely misleading. Condo elections are chaired by
property managers or condo lawyers who refuse to allow the owners to
ask the candidates any questions.
Sure the questions can be very awkward. I was at an AGM in May 2017
where there were credible reports that the president did not pay his
condo fees for the previous year and there were incidents of cash going
missing from the management office, yet the corporate lawyer—who
chaired the meeting—would not allow the owners to question any of the
candidates about these serious allegations.
Read the candidates' campaign literature
They are often packed with exaggerations and lies. In this case,
an incumbent who was running for re-election, bragged about how much
money he saved when he was the vice-president of a nearby condo. Read
the second bullet point and then the last one:
Which point is accurate? The 28% reduction in fees claimed in the
second point or the zero percent increase claimed in the last line?
They both can't be true; can they?
How many owners picked up this contradiction? Very few I suspect. Even better, lets look up his previous condo on Condos.ca to see what we find.
Green line–his old condo's fees Grey line–the area average fees
Oh my! The Internet tells us a different story. It tells us the condo
fees in his previous condo corporation went up every year since it was
incorporated. A 44.4% increase in the monthly maintenance costs for an
average annual increase of 8.9%. Not so impressive is it?
So you pick up on this candidates BS. So how do you inform the other
owners that this incumbent should not be re-elected if the majority of
owners vote by proxy and you are not allowed to ask questions at the
That property manager should be independent of the board, with a good reputation
No manager is independent of the board. The board hires and the board fires and many boards are quick to do so.
A good reputation? How can condo owners determine that? There are no
guarantees. Some companies have good reputations, well deserved at
that, but individual managers and regional managers can be competent and honest or dumb,
incompetent or crooked in the best of management companies.
Conflicts of interest on condo boards
Sure owners need to watch out for conflicts of interest by the
directors and the property management. Nothing said about how can the owners can go about doing this. Personal
interests are well hidden and it takes a smart and diligent director, or owner, to
ferret them out.
Codes of conduct
Meaningless in preventing fraud or unethical behaviour. Used mainly to
force minority directors to remain silent about any suspicions they
Call an owners' meeting
Sounds easy. Collect signatures of owners of at least 15% of all the
units to remove some or all of the current directors. Yet as anyone who
went through one of these knows, if the board resists, trying to get enough signatures to force an owners meeting to remove the directors can be both expensive and difficult.
Wait for the new Condo Act regulations
don't know how much help the new Condominium Authority of Ontario will
be. The new Act is far more complicated than the one it replaced and
for now it is a wait and see proposition.