On 04 November 2013, the
CBC reported that a Vancouver strata (condo) director was sentenced
to to two years
less a day imprisonment — to be served in the community — after bilking
his fellow homeowners and neighbours out of more than $160,000.
In court Monday, Patrick Au was also given two years probation and
ordered to pay back the entire $160,000. He pleaded guilty to theft and
fraud over $5,000.
Au was a volunteer director for Gardenia Villa, a 250-unit
condo building near Broadway and Nanaimo Street in East Vancouver.
Patrick Au at
four-year period, starting in 2001, Au slowly took control of
the strata's finances and started siphoning off funds for his personal
The condo, built in 1994, had serious water leaks from the beginning.
Mr Au, a real estate agent, got elected to the condo's board by
promising to use his contacts to get the repair work done quickly and
The condo, twelve
Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners
Association, says the case is a clear warning for those living in a
strata (condo) building.
"We need strata corporations to really closely monitor invoices that
are being submitted by council members (directors) for compensation, or
parties for compensation,” says Gioventu.
“You need to verify that the companies exist, that it was a valid
claim, that the expense is reimbursed in the appropriate way and deal
with original receipts. Don't deal with photocopies or photocopies of
photocopies of original receipts."
Gioventu says there are 27,000 stratas (condos) around the province,
this type of fraud isn’t common, it is not without precedent.
He recommends that two strata members should handle the finances: one
to authorize expenses, and the other to issue the cheques. Beyond that,
he says, there needs to be constant vigilance.
"The most important thing is getting monthly reports,” says Gioventu.
“Get a reconciled financial report where you can verify [expenses].”
Comment from CBC
If you think that hiring a licensed strata manager would be a way to
this kind of problem, think again. Even if caught and
disciplined by the Real Estate Council such a manager would face an
"administrative penalty" of as little as $1000.
I live in a 16 unit complex where the same strata council has been in
for ten years. They are controlling and have refused me access to
the financial records.
The majority of owner are over 80 and don't care
and don't want repairs made as they refuse to pay. I have had major
leaks which they just refused to repair, so after $3,000 legal fees I
repaired it myself.
What help is the new legislation that does not provide
owners with clout?
Maybe they should hire a property management company, but there to you
have to keep an eye on them as some are pretty shady!
Been there dealt
On TV news , CBC has twisted the story a bit. Patrick Au is one of the
sole pre-selling agents for this development.
This condo was built in 1994 when it is still under condo act. But at
the pre-sell show room, only sweet talk, deception, dirty tricks being
presented to us.
Then when our sale was completed, leaks found everywhere, developer
throw us a small cheque and disappeared after one year.
Lawyers at that time not knowledgeable enough about this kind of sale.
We went to three
levels of government for help due to the leaks.
How can city engineering dept
allow occupancy paper approval? Was told they hired a lawyer to sue
Asked builders why, they said they drew a tough contract and rushed the
project . But after many yrs, govts depts changed, condo act changed
to SPA Act.
Then lately owners found out Patrick Au has close relationship
with a member of the legislative lawyer of SPA Act.
How our governments
wanting real estate boom industries and how we were sacrificed as
Most SPA lawyers refuse to take our cases, saying we only got four
years to sue the government. etc etc.
During first 10 years, 1994-2005, Patrick disguised
as owner, use his sweet promises of cheap maintenance ( SPA
maintenance agent) compare to (BC Real estate board management
members). Divided the
owners. We didn't notice anything wrong, until lately when
comparing the insurance documents.
Re: "A former member of a Vancouver strata council has been sentenced
to two years less a day imprisonment — to be served in the community "
This sentence is not justice. This sends a message to others that this
type of theft is not punishable. Our justice system is a joke.
How does this crime go unpunished? Community service? Wow, and they say
crime doesn't pay! This guy should face serious jail time. For many
reasons! One being to discourage others from doing the same.
I have estimated that Mr. Au has stolen more than $500,000 over the
last 18 years and what is sad is that people at Gardenia Villa still
believe he is innocent.
The current president, Jack Ng knowing that Mr.
Au has been stealing money still gave him the position of building
manager until last week.
In the condo where I
used to live, if you complained about something,
the property manager
would note it in the minutes every month and then
never fix it.
meant you couldn't sell your unit if you complained about anything, and
if the bank holding your mortgage found out you could be in a very
Sometimes false things were written about condos
owned by troublemakers, and the property manager would not remove the
comments. The only option was the Supreme Court.
This is a form of
blackmail and a way to punish people who want things fixed.
there is no proper oversight of condos in BC, they attract unscrupulous
individuals who milk the system. As it stands, buying a condo invites
another level of government into your life and they are unaccountable
on many levels. It can be way worse than having a landlord!
Unfortunately most strata boards have little experience with
construction or financial management. They are usually elected because
they are "popular" with everyone and promise everything to everyone.
They have no clue what to do when something goes wrong and rely on the
judgment of the strata management company who are usually equally
The people who actually try and control the spending and
have some construction of financial background usually get turfed
out.... sad but true.
Why are people such fools with their trust? It is only common sense
that cheques and bank withdrawals require two signatures. It is only
common sense that deposits and withdrawals be reconciled by a third
It is because of a lack of common sense and basic vigilance on
our part that the likes of Patrick Au can prey on us.
In all the years
I dealt with fraud like this the most common comment from victims was
"he/she seemed so nice.They seemed so honest".
No wonder he volunteered to be on the board!!
Our strata & council is controlled by one family (original
developer) who has often secretly paid contractors then "approved"
reimbursements to their company - isn't this fraud too?
Gets all excited whenever questioned about it - maybe time for an
The Province needs to out more teeth into Strata Property Act
The other problem with the strata act is there is no one to address the
problem if one arises. The costs of going to court are so far beyond
the average condo owners grasp that even if you can prove your case you
probably cannot afford to try it.
That leaves you with an AGM or an SGM
and then the other major problem becomes obvious with owners who buy a
condo but cannot be bothered to read the act.
Our corporation has a
certifiable disaster going on and we are in the courts now. But it
might bankrupt a few of us before it's solved. There needs to be an
affordable way to address these issues outside of the courts. CHOA is
great for information, but they don't have teeth to solve the problems.
Gotta love condo boards. Over achieving wannabe boy scouts finally
grasping power after failing the psychological test to be a security
guard and grasping the brass ring.
It's been over 14 years since I have had to deal with any condo board
and my life couldn't be better. I'm so thankful I moved away from the
trailer park mentality.
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