Managers and Management Companies

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This chapter on managers and management companies has been totally revamped as a result of the complaints, suggestions, and concerns sent by readers. These letters are analyzed in Readers Respond where many are also posted in several subsections.

Most managers, administrators, and assistant managers are affiliated with a management company. That is, although working for one or several condos, they are in reality employees of a management company, from which they receive a salary as well as benefits. In turn, the company has a contract with the condo corporation and receives a monthly fee.

This structure of employment has advantages but it also gives rise to several problems. These will be discussed later.

Managing condos is a challenging, interesting, and very worthwhile occupation. Managers’ role is multiple, varied, and requires the development of a wide range of skills. 

But, as we will see later, too many managers and management companies fail in their duties to the condo corporation and to individual owners. Furthermore, owners have no recourse when this occurs because the Condo Act is ineffective in protecting owners.

First, let's ask:

What Are Managers' Duties?

(a) To the condo

Managers are responsible for the maintenance and repairs of their buildings, and have to ensure that all systems are in working order. They supervise staff, do paper work, have the bookkeeping done by their management office, and see to it that owners pay their condo fees in a timely fashion.

Managers need to have good organizational and people skills.   Managers attend to owners' relevant needs. They are in theory also supposed to advise the board, plan for future maintenance, help find appropriate contractors for maintenance and repairs and seek bids. They have reserve fund studies carried out, plan AGMs, and may prepare the agenda for board meetings.

However, in practice, not all managers accomplish these duties. The less experienced managers as well as those who are not much invested in their work or have little knowledge do far less. As a result, board members, usually presidents, have to "pick up the slack," or else problems go unattended: When board members are themselves inexperienced or uninvolved, condos may be in double jeopardy--and this occurs more often than acknowledged.

In contrast, experienced managers as well as those who are truly interested in learning and enjoy the challenge of finding solutions to problems are a blessing for condos. They find ways of saving energy and money, are responsive to ethical boards’ suggestions, help inexperienced boards, and communicate with staff and residents effectively.

Managers’ usual workload may include one large condo or 2 to 5 condos depending on condo size. It is rare that a condo has one full-time manager on site 40 hours a week, especially when there is a superintendent and concierge on staff. Therefore, boards should expect value-added services from managers who have only one condo with less than 350 suites: They have more time than others managers and this one-site system is far more expensive.

With some management companies, an administrator is the equivalent of a manager. But in many other companies, an administrator or assistant manager requires, in theory, fewer qualifications. However, the reality is that many administrators are actually as competent as are many managers.  When on site in a condo, they often do much the same work as a site manager does and their role also varies accordingly.

Administration

Generally, when a building has an administrator rather than a manager, an experienced manager comes on site several hours a week to attend to building maintenance and contractors. This manager also has the role of planning for the future, is in touch with the board of directors, and may attend board meetings.

(b) To individual residents

Managers or administrators are the persons residents go to with requests for repairs to common elements, especially for exclusive-use common elements, such as their suite door, lock, security system, their heating or air conditioning system with noise problems, smoke that gets into their suite, dogs that pee on the corridor’s carpet, lost keys, etc.

Some condos have a high turnover of office staff because too many residents complain about so many things and are so uncooperative that managers or administrators become demoralized. As well, they are left with little time during which to carry out their regular duties. 

What Is It that Managers Should Not Do?

This section has been added because too many letters have been received on the following issues.

Managers and management companies

  • should not prevent owners from contacting the board of directors;
  • should not refuse owners' requests to see board minutes, AGM minutes, financial statements, etc;
  • should not charge fees to just show condo documents to owners;
  • should not impose special fees to punish owners who don't follow rules (unless a by-law has been passed and I am not sure that this is permissible under the Condo Act);
  • should not demand to inspect a suite before issueing a status certificate (suites are private);
  • should not sign cheques to themselves;
  • should not refuse to do repairs for damage caused by common elements, such as water leakages;
  • should not refuse to investigate noise complaints and ignore them;
  • should not talk or gossip against some residents with other residents;
  • should not side with boards who are engaging in unethical practices.

What Are Management Companies' Duties?

In general, employees at the head office of a management company do all the bookkeeping, financial statements, status certificates, emergency coverage after hours and during weekends and holidays.  Head office also provides a replacement when managers go on vacation or are ill.

Certain management companies are structured in such a way that they use few site managers.  Instead, assistants and administrators tend to office hours and an experienced district manager, responsible for 5 to 10 condos, spends several hours weekly at each condo to do the planning as well as supervision of maintenance and repairs.

One company uses a computer system: The site assistant enters all invoices and work orders, addresses, security reports, and resident requests on the computer. District managers have access to this material from other condos in their portfolio and from their head office. In theory, these managers are experienced, knowledgeable, able to analyze situations and make recommendations to the board. This may well be the pattern of the future—especially if the supply of competent and experienced managers does not catch up with demand.

Other managers work independently and do not belong to a management company or have formed their own small company. They then work for one to three condos. They may outsource the bookkeeping to an accounting firm or a management company. They may work from their home or the condo itself and they have little overhead, which is financially advantageous for a condo. This can be a great situation when these independent managers are highly competent because they are more focussed on their one or two condos. But if they are ill or take vacations or additional condos, complications can emerge because they may have recourse to totally inexperienced persons to replace them, even if temporarily.

Which is the Best System?

No system of management is the best currently. What counts are the qualifications and experience of the personnel, their desire to learn, dedication, and ethics. Some condo boards “swear” by a given management company because they have had wonderful managers from this company or, yet, a superb district manager. But another condo in the same area has had only bad experiences with managers from the same company: The president says, “I’ll never deal with them again — they are the worst.” (Click here for What Should Be Done to Improve the Management Situation?)

In a nutshell, the quality of site managers or administrators constitutes about 75% of the degree of satisfaction that a board of directors and owners will have regarding a management company or system of management.

Townhouse developments that are not linked to a high-rise condominium often have difficulties with managerial assistance. One reason is that they rarely have an office or manager on site. As a result, residents and boards may have difficulty contacting them. As well, some of these managers have many more condos to attend to. These issues are discussed in Factors to Consider when Buying a Condo, section on townhouses.

For further information, a section appears at the end of this chapter to highlight problems that occur as a result of incompetent and inexperienced managers: please go to Examples of Specific Management Problems that Arise (below).

Since this website has been posted, countless letters about incompetent managers have been received from owners, directors, and competent managers. To read these letters, please click here on Issues with Management Companies and Managers.