From the Winter 2022 Issue
Governances are the structures and processes designed to ensure stewardship with accountability, responsiveness, stability, equity, and inclusiveness under the rule of law, with broad-based participation. So, why is good governance so difficult to achieve in Condoland? Or perhaps more appropriately asked, why do homeowners perceive their communities to be failing them on the governance front more than ever?
I have been a professional condominium manager for more than 20 years. However, I have only had properties under my purview requisition meetings in the last year or less. Yet, owners’rights to requisition a meeting have been embedded in the Condominium Act, 1998, for decades. We have more robust governance in Ontario compared to past years with the advent of the licensing of condominium managers, mandatory education of condominium directors, and the creation of the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) and the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO).
I might flippantly attribute the increase to the frequency of communications from the CAO telling homeowners of their right to requisition a meeting and how to do it. I sometimes attribute this increase in requisitions to a COVID-19 hangover. Condominium owners and residents may want to take back control after the perceived lack of it felt during pandemic restrictions. Or they might be frustrated with escalating costs, higher utility prices, and increased project costs and delays (the result of supply and materials shortages and a glut of deferred work), all of which are uncontrollable by the manager and the board.
I could attribute the intense desire for more meetings in general (both information and requisitioned meetings) to the sheer complexity of the issues being addressed by condominiums, their boards and their managers. Such complex information is poorly received in notices or newsletters and is better understood when face-to-face interaction is possible.
Ultimately, the problem boils down to misunderstanding the authority of the board, management and owners. With rights come responsibilities. Achieving good governance should not be so difficult. Setting and meeting expectations should require straightforward obedience to regular, routinized standard rules of engagement. However, are the expectations changing? I dare say yes.
In routinely emphasizing the obligations of the condominium corporation, we have failed to identify the homeowner’s responsibilities. I think the time has come for an Owner’s Code of Ethics. Directors and managers have them. Notwithstanding, we have a duty to deliver professional service that homeowners will be satisfied with only once governance mechanisms are in place – ones designed to protect them if they understand them. More support from the CMRAO and the CAO should be identified and reinforced regarding owners’ engagement with their boards. We are all on the same team.