Condo News

ACMO/CCI–Toronto Annual Condominium Conference
29 September 2012

This annual conference features two days of educational sessions and a trade show for condominium directors and the industry professionals.

It will be held at the Toronto Congress Centre on Friday November 2 and Saturday 3, 2012.


YCC # 42 elects board of directors
29 September 2012

On 27 September 2012, in an election that was monitored by a retired Justice, YCC # 42 (consisting of 897 units in 320, 330 and 340 Dixon Road) elected its first board of directors in over six years.

There were two elections. The first election, with six candidates, was for the director elected only by the resident-owners.

There were approximately 100 owners voting in person and between 600-700 proxies. It took six hours to count and tabulate the proxies for both elections.

There were approximately 100 owners voting in person and between 600-700 proxies. It took six hours to count and tabulate the proxies for both elections.
(At past elections about 40 owners cast ballots.)

There were three Intelligarde security officers and ten uniformed police officers to provide security.

The first election was won by:
• Shah Jahan Khan

A second election was then held, in which all the unsuccessful candidates from the first election, five in total, were free to run for the remaining four positions.

The second election had 20 candidates running for four positions.

The successful candidates were:
• Anver  Karim
• Safdar Sardar
• Ataul Haq Malick
• Waqar Khan

It was a complete sweep for this slate of five candidates.

This group can now call themselves the “Elected Board of Directors”. In a judgment in March 2011, Justice Brown reprimanded them for using this name when their was no board of directors at that time.

This slate campaigned on a promise, based on their Viable Financial Plan, to reduce the common element fees by 25%. (In fact all the slates campaigned on a promise to cut the fees by a minimum of 20% or more.)

The challenge
This condo corporation will be replacing an unpopular administrator with a board that is mistrusted by many of the owners. One of the new directors was involved with a conflict of interest when he was last a director that resulted in the corporation paying $200,000 in legal fees.

It is alleged that another director is currently facing criminal charges; the particulars were not stated.

There are serious political, social and economic problems that need to be addressed and the new board will have to build credibility among the owners if they wish to be a successful board.


Condo smoking bans
28 September 2012
Another Vancouver condo complex has banned owners from smoking in their private suites.


2nd Public Information Session held
20 September 2012

The second Ministry of Consumer Services meeting was held yesterday in Mississauga.

Learning from the owners' displeasure at not being given the opportunity to tell their condo woes at last week's Toronto meeting, the ministry spent only a half hour explaining the consultation process and allowed the 120 owners in attendance an hour to tell the minister of their issues which include:
intimidation by the property managers and the corporation lawyers.
property managers being constantly changed.
director elections being popularity contests.
owners in fear after receiving threatening lawyer letters.
owners having to hire a lawyer to represent them at AGMs to stop loan bylaws and to protect the owners' rights.
boards and managers treat the condo as a big piggy bank.
lawyers working for the boards and not for the owners.
boards working in secret.
managers are in cahoots with the contractors.
managers do not listen to the board as well as owners.
one manager told the minister that the property management companies who stand up to the boards get fired.
the directors need to be educated about their responsibilities.
there is a need for term limits for directors.
the need for a neutral party to monitor board elections.
condos make the most corrupt industry.
we need a third party to audit the condos' books.
corruption is a big problem.

Golan Chowdhury told the meeting that too many owners do not want to be involved in condominium governance.They bought a condo so they can pay a monthly fee and don't do anything. He said that there are corrupt boards and property managers and he urged the government to study what went wrong at the failed condos so they can prevent it from happening again.

Minister Margarett Best told the gathering that the ministry was there to inform and to listen. They were looking for collaboration and unity from the different stakeholders as in the end, we will all have to work together.

Local MPP Dipika Damerla told the gathering that she worked hard to inform all the condominium owners in the area about this meeting so they can be informed on the the government's consultation process.

She also asked everyone who attended to register with her so she could keep everyone informed on the process as it moves through the different stages.

Alberta builders accept some blame for leaky condos
CBC News
14 September 2012

Alberta's homebuilders are joining the call for more homeowner protection in this province.

Greg Christenson, past president of the Canadian Homebuilders Association, agrees that there is a significant leaky condo problem in Alberta and says the province should require builders to offer a five-year warranty on the building envelope, as well as 10 years on structural problems and two years on workmanship.

Christenson also thinks a building envelope engineer should be involved in the design and construction process.

"You'll find that a building envelope technician as part of the building process will go a long way and increasingly you're seeing a requirement for what we call a rain screen," he said.

"You put an airspace between the stucco siding and the building paper or the sheathing. Those things together should go a long way to solving the leaky condo problem."

The province has known for several years that Alberta's homes and condos are leaking.

Five years ago, Alberta Municipal Affairs and the City of Calgary, conducted a building envelope survey.

They looked at 15 single family homes and five condos — all of them recently built — all of them known to be leaky.

They also looked at a random sample of new construction. Not a single building was up to code, including both the completed ones and the new builds.

"Not a single building was up to code"

About a year later, Thomas Lucaszuk, who at the time was the parliamentary assistant to Municipal Affairs, made some recommendations: the construction industry needs to be more accountable, consumers needs to be better protected, trades need to be better trained and certified and inspections need to be tightened up.

Those recommendations were made in 2008, but nothing concrete has happened since then.

In June 2011, the Stelmach government promised that it would make new home warranties mandatory, that it would extend the warranty coverage on building envelopes from one year to five years.

So far, that hasn't happened.

Mike Ball is a building envelope engineer with Morrison Hershfield and has been part of the discussions at the provincial level.

"This started back in 2007 or 2008. At that time, they were suggesting a six month turnaround to get some legislation, but the ministers keep changing, the process keeps stalling," Ball said.

"But I did sit in on one roundtable last summer and people were still relatively unsure of what they were going to do."

What the homebuilders industry is suggesting is not that different than the British Columbia system, at least in terms of warranty protection.

Since the leaky condo crisis of the 1990s, B.C. has required mandatory third party warranties that were supported by an insurance company.

If you are a builder, you can't get a building permit unless you have an insurance company willing to guarantee your building for two years for labour and materials, five years for the envelope, and 10 years for structural problems.

Since the insurance companies have a financial stake, they often send their own inspectors to check on the building process.

Tony Gioventu is the president of the Condo Homeowners Association of B.C. He says the changes have made a big difference in the construction standards in his province.

"Compared to what we had in the '90s, we have an overwhelming improvement in the system — there are peer reviews, the construction standards and codes have changes; all of those things in conjunction give us a better system today."

Ontario's Condominium Act Review
12 September 2012

Tonight, in the downtown Toronto YMCA auditorium, the Ministry of Consumer Services spent an hour explaining Stage One of the consultation process that they are going to use to consult with condominium owners and residents along with industry "stakeholders" before drafting proposed changes to the Act.

Ten thousand invitations to participate have been sent out to condo residents asking for a couple dozen volunteers to participate in a "Stakeholders Round Table" with associations, builders, developers, condo lawyers, property managers and real estate agents to try to come to a consensus on what changes are required.

After being selected by age, gender, income, location and type of condo they live in, the owner-resident participants will be selected by a lottery. The Round Table will produce a Findings Report that is scheduled be completed in early 2013.

Hon Margarett R. Best told the meeting that the recent government survey showed that condo owners were concerned about:
– condo governance
– disputes
– financial management
– consumer protection
– property management qualifications

The audience was also told that condo owners can email, use Facebook or write a letter to the ministry to express their ideas and concerns.

The ninety-minute meeting was attended by approximately 130 owners. One told the meeting that she was concerned that the condo industry will dominate the consultation process. Other members of the audience stated that the residential owners in mixed use condos bare too much of the expenses and that far too many Reserve Funds were underwater.

It appears that Rosario Marchese's private member bill, that was focused on consumer protection, has been kicked aside in favour of a bill that will consider the industry's interests as well as the owners. It was interesting that Rosario Marchese, who was in attendance, was not invited to say a few words.

Would it be beneficial to attend the rest of these meetings that will be held around the province? The Liberal politicians did not seem to interested in hearing about our problems, they just wanted to answer any questions about the process so I am not sure I would bother.

The Calgary leaky condos—the story continues
CBC News
12 September 2012

At least a dozen unit owners fell into foreclosure because they were unable to pay their share repair bill, with some assessments coming in around $80,000. It was reported one owner had to pay over $180,000, which is a record high in Alberta.

Read the continuing story about the costs of leaky condos. Years after the Bella Vista complex was repaired, the huge special assessment costs still have to be paid.

Bedbug company fined in downtown condo fire
CBC News
Posted: 11 September 2012

An extermination company is on the hook for $10,000 after pleading guilty to starting a $3.5-million fire at a downtown Edmonton condo building last summer.

Bed Bugs Task Force Ltd. was charged under the Alberta Fire Code in connection to the Royal Scot Condominium fire on July 12, 2011.

The company was fined $10,000.

Four people were hurt in the fire which began on the top floor of the three-storey building at 92nd Street and 105th Avenue.

Two adults and two children were taken to hospital with severe smoke inhalation with one adult and one child listed in critical condition.

Two firefighters were also hurt from falling debris.

Bed Bug Task Force was exterminating bed bugs using a propane heater in a suite on the top floor of the 66-unit building.

Condo owners warn Calgarians to be careful when buying
By Tracy Johnson CBC News
10 September 2012

Like many people, the first home that Tracy Hyrhoruk bought was a condo — a cute townhome in Calgary’s inner city, one of eight units in the complex.

Practically brand new, she bought it before the boom for $160,000.

All was well until one weekend she came home from a camping trip with her boyfriend and stepped into a puddle in her kitchen.

“We figured maybe the dishwasher leaked,” says Hryhoruk.

"We started walking through the kitchen and there were about two and a half inches of water. Then I stepped on the carpet, and the carpet was full of water, so put I towels down. Then I walked around the perimeter of the unit and it was everywhere.

"The water was coming in and we couldn't stop it."

Hyrhoruk and her boyfriend later discovered that the stucco on her condo was so thin it didn't meet the building code. Her walls were porous.

She had to shell out $75,000 to repair it.

This is the dark side of Calgary and Alberta’s building boom of the last decade: shoddy construction and leaky condos.

Hryhoruk’s story is one of the few that we hear about publically, but that doesn’t mean that leaky condos aren’t a substantial problem.

Architects, engineers, builders and realtors all say that construction standards in this city are not up to par.

Architect Tang Lee specializes in building envelope repair. The building envelope is a term that refers to the skin of the building: the roof, the siding and the windows.

Lee has fixed a lot of condos in Calgary and he compares what's happening here with the leaky condo crisis that happened in B.C. a decade ago.

"We're starting to see more and more of these buildings that are put up in such a way that doesn't really stand the test of time," he said.

"They are put up very quickly, or they are using inferior materials or [it] doesn't have good quality management or construction in such a way that it fails.

"It's not going to fail in the first couple years, but it will fail five, 10 years, 15 years down the line."

Common problems include roofs that have not been put on properly, windows that have not been set in properly, stucco that is too thin or decks that slope into the building instead of away.

Once water gets into a building, it gets stuck.

Since 1990, buildings have had to meet energy efficiency standards. That means they are more tightly sealed than a building put up more than 20 years ago, so they don’t breathe. When water gets in it has nowhere to go, it doesn't take long before there is mould.

It’s difficult to put an exact number on the crisis because no one keeps track of the number of buildings under repair and owners are very reluctant to talk because of fears about their property values.

Lee says he’s sees problems like this everywhere.

“It's hard to give a number, but when I go around I can spot buildings which have defects. Just from the street, there are signs. We see clues … it could be water staining, or cracks forming; it could be a musty odour.”

There’s not much in the way of consumer protection for condo owners facing big special assessments.

The courts are littered with lawsuits launched by condo boards looking for legal recourse.

Hyrhoruk has been fighting for eight years with no end in sight.

She is now a realtor who is very cautious when it comes to selling her clients condos.

“Nobody is there to protect anybody," she said. "It's basically buyer beware and there is a list of buildings that my clients know very well that I will not sell to them in Calgary because I have identified them as potentially leaky condos.

"I don't want them to go through what I did. It was a disaster — nightmare."

A leaky condo also created major headaches for Barbara Miller and her husband.

It began with wet walls and carpets and eventually an inspector deemed the unit unlivable and they were out of it for several years.

"We had mold," she said. "We had to move out, and that's when the expenses really began."

They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairs.

Miller says damage was so bad the insurance broker wouldn't even come and take a look.

Read and watch the full CBC series.


Weather hot, condo sales cool
06 September 2012

The Toronto Real Estate Board has released the August sales figures. The bottom line is that the prices of houses increased but condo prices have dropped.

The biggest decline in sales was in the condo sector where sales plummeted 34% year over year in the City of Toronto.

The average price of a condo apartment was down four per cent in Toronto, to $349,489 as the inventory of unsold units remains high.

Condo prices were up, on average, about two per cent across the 905 regions to $275,150, according to the monthly TREB figures.

While mortgage brokers are still compiling numbers, many are seeing close to a 15% decline in mortgage applicants.

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