Before you start even the first basic steps, you must understand the pitfalls that you can get yourself into before you begin your battle against the board. Starting such a fight before you have an idea what you are doing could be very expensive.

The rules of the game

You need to read and understand the Act, your corporation’s declaration, by-laws, rules and policies. You also need to understand the basic problems that Condo Commandos get themselves into.

Check the Reference section of this manual to get a list of books, trade magazines and websites that can be of help.

However, I cannot over emphasis the importance of talking to a lawyer who is experienced in condominium law. A few hundred dollars before you start your fight can save thousands later on.

Getting advice
Be careful who you listen to.

When I was fighting with my board, an owner of a condo property management company advised me to organize a maintenance fee strike. He suggested that the owners set up a trust fund and put our monthly fees into this fund until the board resigned or at least held a long overdue AGM.

I am sure he was hoping that we would take his company on if we won control of the board. I checked his advice with my condo lawyer who assured me that this was terrible advice that would bring high financial costs to any owner who tried it.

The power of the board
The manager and all the contractors that work for the corporation, with the exception of the auditor, are hired and dismissed at the pleasure of the board.

The manager or board do not have to answer any questions or give any explanations to the owners on what decisions they made or the reasoning they used. The owners have no right to start an investigation into the decisions made by the board.

It is the board's responsibility to enforce the by-laws, policies and the rules and they can chose to ignore violations if they wish. Your behaviour has to be very clean if you are challenging them as they may try to give you a hard time even though they allow others to do as they please.

Talking with board members and the manager
Always be polite, never raise your voice, never swear, mock or make unsupported accusations towards the board members or the manager either to their face or behind their back. Do not use threats or state that you will take legal action against them. This is not wise and all it does is give them reason to refuse to communicate with you.

Don’t be a pest by constantly asking questions, dominating the conversations or trying to make them look bad in front of the other owners.

Always be polite towards the condo's employees. If you are rude or threatening towards them, it can be used to discredit you.

Always leave open the possibility for further discussions and you can only do this is you always appear approachable and reasonable.

Start documenting
When there have been incidents between the manager or directors and the owners where the manager has abused, belittled or threatened the owner, these incidents must be documented. The time, place, the people involved, what was said and all witnesses must be recorded. Later, you can ask the witnesses if they would be willing to sign an affidavit in support of the owner.

A folder should be created on your computer to maintain all the condo records that you have collected, including all e-mails.

Paper records need to be filed in order so they can be easily retrieved when needed. Keep everything: all condo notices, newsletters, AGM packages and all the papers you received when you bought your unit.

You will need to refer to your condo’s declaration, by-laws and rules on a regular basis so that you know exactly what they say.

If, and only if, you are dealing with a manager or board that lies or bullies and threatens you when you talk one-on-one with them, you may want to record these conversations using a smart phone. You can store these conversations as files on your computer.

Secretly recording such conversations may not be “nice” but they could be very important later if you need to verify what was actually said either to the police or in court.

Allies and supporters
You can’t do this all on your own. You will need support from other owners. You need to learn if they have any issues and what they are and if they want to see changes in how the condo is being run.

Some of the contractors working on the site may be supportive. Cleaners may be fed up with cleaning up after dogs and constantly picking up litter and garbage from the common areas. The security guards may have issues with favourtism or abusive treatment from the manager or board members. If they are not with you then you want them to remain neutral.

You will need all the old condominium records that you can gather; the old status certificates, financial reports, by-laws, rules, notices and newsletters. A couple of owners may have saved some of these. The condo’s history is important.

It is extremely important to know all the current issues that exist on the property. The board hides all the bad news so the owners do not learn that there is a crime wave in the parking garage, that there are serious water leaks entering several apartments or the building has a cockroach infestation.

Keep confidences
If people are talking to you and they want or need to stay autonomous, do not betray a confidence. This is so very important.

At this early stage, you got to act like a union organizer trying to bring the union into a Wal-Mart store. Expect opposition so don't revel anymore than you have to. It would be awful if someone lost their job because the manager found out that he or she was talking to you.

Your opponents
The present board members, or at least a majority of them, the property manager and most likely the superintendent, and the majority of cleaners and security guards will oppose you and your group. The contract employees may be afraid that if your group wins, they will lose their jobs.

For sure the board will have the support of some or even most of the owners. Just because you think it is obvious that the present board needs to be replaced, many owners will not agree with you.

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