Posted on May 11, 2021
April 15, 2021
Ms. Bonnie Lysyk, Auditor General of Ontario
Office of the Auditor General of Ontario
20 Dundas Street West, Suite 1530
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2C2
Dear Ms. Lysyk,
We want to thank you and your staff for giving ACMO the opportunity to participate in and provide feedback to your Value for Money Audit regarding Condominium Oversight in Ontario and more specifically, the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) and Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO). We applaud your efforts to assess the efficacy of these organizations and provide much-needed suggestions for their improvement. The audit was a thorough review of the condominium sector and its various stakeholder groups and identified many issues impacting consumer protection that require attention.
We are disappointed that it has been more than three years since the establishment of the CMRAO and CAO and they have yet to implement effective processes to identify and share information regarding unlicensed managers and management firms and bring them into compliance. Also, home-owner education to increase understanding and reduce conflict remains in its infancy. The impact of these two organizations has been limited when you consider that together they employ 64 fulltime staff and have expended more than 24 million dollars since 2017.
The CAO’s mandate is to “protect the public interest and ensure fair, safe and informed condo community” but to the best of our knowledge the CAO has yet to respond to the recommendations made by the Auditor General. Encouragingly, the CMRAO has recently responded to the Auditor General’s recommendations and identified these four key areas of improvement:
We heartily agree with these initiatives but note that each requires the establishment and implementation of effective policies and procedures. We would add to this list the CMRAO’s plan for educating condominium managers after June 30, 2021. Given ACMO will not be participating in licensing education of managers going forward, fulsome communications with respect to the CMRAO’s new educational path is urgently required.
ACMO is proud of their educational legacy in this space. Having served as the exclusive educational partner of the CMRAO as licensing was implemented over the past three years, the audit report highlights the efficacy of our program which has educated 3652 license holders to date. Looking ahead, ACMO will continue creating continuing educational content that addresses the needs of our profession in order to ensure our members deliver a higher standard of service.
We note that the CMRAO focuses their communications on the broad category of “Licensed” managers and in so doing, fails to communicate the important differences between General, Transitional and Limited License holders. For example, to achieve a Limited License, one has only to apply for a license and complete a background check - they do not have the requisite education or experience to undertake the complexities of condominium management. Conversely, a General License holder has completed four college level courses totalling 168 hours of formal education and has completed a minimum of two years of relevant work experience. The CMRAO’s move to use newly launched acronyms for these licenses further obscures the important differences between them.
More than 20 years ago, ACMO proactively established a rigorous operating and performance standard for our management firms: the ACMO 2000 Certification program. We continue to proudly vet our member companies though certification and compliance audits every three years to ensure that best practices are documented and implemented. We look forward to understanding the CMRAO’s plans and criteria for proactive inspections of property managers and management firms in future.
Prior to the establishment of the CMRAO, ACMO created and enforced a professional Code of Ethics among its individual members and management firms, a task that has necessarily been assumed by the CMRAO. We encourage the enforcement of a Code of Ethics, however, are concerned and disappointed that the CMRAO has not provided clear reporting with respect to the nature of complaints investigated and their resolution. We believe this information would confirm that the vast majority of complaints are frivolous and more often than not professional condominium managers are trusted partners in protecting the consumer. It would also focus attention on the true cases of concern and help eliminate bad actors and criminals in the condo management field who prey upon unsuspecting condominium owners.
We must not forget that condominium boards and directors can also be the source of misconduct and mismanagement. In small communities, volunteer board members may be responsible for all of the functions typically handled by professional condominium managers. We are unaware of any work undertaken by the CAO to pursue issues relating to volunteer board conduct and believe this is another vital aspect of ensuring consumer protection.
The CAO has been focused on the adjudication of conflicts and the expansion of issues that can be taken to tribunal, but this fails to remediate the root cause of so many conflicts – namely the misunderstanding of the role of the manager, the board, and their obligations to the management of and future planning for their communities. While managers often bear the brunt of owner complaints, managers are unable to act without board authorization. We believe that increased transparency of the CAO and an increased focus on educating homeowners and board members will help reduce conflict. Typical sore points for condominium owners relate to finances: increasing maintenance fees, large increases to the reserve fund and the back charge of expenses. Ironically, each of these items are more often indicative of a thoughtful board of directors and a well-managed corporation rather than mismanagement or misconduct.
ACMO has proudly educated volunteer directors through our webinars, seminars and the Condo Conference, an annual conference attended by more than 1,500 people conducted jointly with the Canadian Condominium Institute – Toronto Chapter. We continue to offer ourselves to the CAO as a trusted partner and valued educational resource for those who wish to extend their condominium knowledge. We applaud their recently published guides and hope that additional such resources are launched in future.
Given the CAO has access to the largest database of condominium corporations and board members and robust financial and human resources, they have the opportunity to generate a reliable and comprehensive database. The annual reporting process this past year missed an opportunity to obtain condominium corporation information directly from Land Titles and instead launched a poorly communicated and reasonably complicated reporting process in an effort to improve and update their database.
We invite further discourse on this issue, and hope that the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, CMRAO, CAO, Tarion, condominium managers, condominium management service providers and the public at large continue to view the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario as a trusted resource and a partner in achieving our shared goal: consumer protection.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Executive Director of ACMO
cc. Dean McCabe, President of ACMO, Katherine Gow, Vice President of ACMO