Hayhurst Village Condominium began as a 148-unit rental complex built in the early seventies.
It is a four story building located in the heart of the city and is convenient and within walking distance of most amenities. In 1987 it was converted to condominiums. At the time of the conversion, non-resident investors purchased the majority of the units. Those purchasers used one management company to rent and administer the units as well as to manage the Condominium Corporation. The Board of Directors consisted of five people at least three of whom were representative of the management company. The Superintendent and other personnel were hired and supervised by the Management Company. On site visits were brief and contact with owner residents occurred mainly at the Annual General Meeting.
The Annual General Meetings were the occasions for owner residents to raise questions about the amount of time the Superintendent spent painting and repairing rental units, the cost of repairs, the rising costs of general operations, the enforcement of the by-laws and the Declaration, etc. The answers to many of these questions were often vague and unsatisfactory. The audited financial statements left questions unanswered.
In 1996, three owner residents decided to run for the Board of Directors. By that time the number of units directly managed by the Management Company was slightly more than 50% and so the group felt it had a chance to have at least two members elected. A fourth group member had one more year remaining and so that would give owner residents three out of five places on the Board. Working from an owner list obtained at the city hall, the group campaigned vigorously and visited all units occupied by their owners and asked for their vote and/or their proxy for the upcoming AGM.
Three of the group were elected and the fourth owner continued on the Board for the one year remaining of her term in spite of the Management Company’s claims to have held the proxies of all the units they managed. Only one representative of the company was elected to another three-year term. At the same AGM, the Management Company President announced that his and another Management Company had amalgamated and that management of the Condominium would now be handled by the other company. It was later learned that this transaction was, in fact, an assignment of contract to the new company.
The four owner residents met several times a week trying to understand the financial status of the Corporation and to become familiar with the day to day operations. They learned that a reserve fund study had been done some years earlier and more recently a study of the brickwork and repairs had been initiated; however, little action had been taken.
What the new Board also discovered was that the Corporation was not in a sound financial position. There were insufficient funds for major repairs such as the brickwork, and there were no policies about tendering. It also learned that the budget was not broken down sufficiently to analyze costs and to track transfers to the reserve fund. As well, they became aware that some of the bylaws and the articles of the Declaration had not been enforced, particularly with regard to ‘no pets’.
As its first task, the newly elected Board set down some very specific and measurable objectives for itself. They drafted the budget in their first year in office and prepared a meaningful breakdown in order to monitor costs. They agreed that the articles of the bylaws and the Declaration would be enforced. They established a policy ‘grandfathering’ existing pets but stipulating that they could not be replaced when they died, and maintained a register of existing pets. They published a regular newsletter keeping all residents informed of the Board’s initiatives. The Board also educated themselves, by joining the Canadian Condominium Institute and taking advantage of the courses offered through that association.
During the first year of the new Board’s mandate, the representative elected by the Management Company was not able to attend most of the meetings and ultimately resigned. In accordance with the act and corporation’s bylaws, a resident owner was appointed to complete the term.
The assigned Management Company had a management style that was not compatible with the Board of Directors and so three management companies were invited to submit proposals. Wilson Blanchard Property Management Inc. was selected to take over management of the Corporation. The changeover was difficult. The former company was requested to turn the files over to the new company; however, the files were not immediately forthcoming. It was a case of starting over almost from scratch. The Board had faith in the company it selected and with their direction and leadership were able to establish policies for the Corporation and to address the many outstanding issues it faced including the initiative to have a new Reserve Fund Study completed and to set out a long term plan to meet the needs identified in the study.
Because no systematic upgrading of the building had taken place in the twenty-five or so years since it was built, the Corporation was facing a number of major upgrades. Since there was very little money in the Reserve fund, a special assessment had to be levied. These assessment monies are kept separate from the regular condominium fees and will be adjusted as work is completed. The special assessment is paid monthly and has been geared so as to be affordable to the owners. These special assessments and the regular transfer of money from the condominium fees to the Reserve Fund will allow the Corporation to continue the work as outlined in the study, without imposing large lump sum payments from the owners.
Residents are regularly informed of the work of the Corporation by means of a newsletter. Queries and complaints are dealt with in a timely fashion. Owner meetings have been held so that the Board could learn what owners feel are the most important issues to be addressed.
It has been three years since the renaissance began. Owners are pleased to see the building being upgraded and well cared for. The majority of the units are now owner occupied. The market value of the units has increased dramatically, and units coming up for sale are sold quickly.
It has taken a good deal of time and energy on the part of a few people to bring the Corporation to its now healthy state, but it was worth it.
It is vital that owners ask questions until they get satisfactory answers and it is vital that owners familiarize themselves with their Condominium documents. Owners need to be aware that not all management companies and building managers are competent to administer a large Corporation and it is up to the owners to ensure that their investment is protected.
The effort and the work of this Corporation and its management has paid off in spades!