If you’re involved in the management of a condominium this episode is for you.
If you volunteer to be on the board of a condo, you may also have a day job. You may not be an expert on the management of condos or building maintenance. This show will give you the gist of what a condo manager with a general licence should know.
If you own a condo, it’s good to know how your investment is managed.
A condo manager protects the occupants, the owners, their employees and the property.
Up until 2017, any fool could offer condo management services, no education or experience needed. There are bad ones out there. Some property managers don’t answer the phone, don’t return messages.
They do the least amount of work possible. They respond only to repeated complaints and then drag the process out for months. Or they make be great workers in a company that is understaffed.
If your condo is outside of Ontario different laws will apply, but the gist of this remains the same. When Ontario’s Protecting Condominium Owners Act comes into force, condominium managers will have to be licenced.
The condominium regulatory authority of Ontario will administer the licensing system. Hopefully, that will raise the level of professionalism in this sector.
The majority of people are honest and hard working. Most people want to pay their bills on time, quietly enjoy their home and be good neighbours.
The first thing I wish I knew about property management is that every liar, every deadbeat, every trouble maker, lives somewhere. Some of them may live in a property I own or manage.
The Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO) has been around for 40 years. ACMO created the courses and standards for the Registered Condominium Manager (RCM) designation. So far, there are only about 1,000 RCM and I bet there are about 10,000 condo corporations in Ontario.
If you have been managing condominiums for over 10 years, you can try to pass the RCM exam. You’re allowed 3.5 hours for the exam and about a third of property managers fail to pass it. If you pass, you’re entitled to use the RCM designation and you’ll be able to get a general licence.
If you don’t have the experience, you must pass 4 mandatory courses that cover legal, financial, maintenance, administration and HR.
I passed all 4 courses, even got a couple of A’s, but that’s not enough.
The second thing I wish I knew is that my experience managing my own rental properties doesn’t count as experience for a general licence. I’ve been a condo board member, had some condo management experience but you need at least 2 years of full time experience to qualify for your general licence.
The third thing I wish I knew before I signed up for the courses is that most people don’t do all 4 at the same time. It was more work than I imagined it would be. It amused the examination staff to keep seeing me showing up for every exam slot.
The course material is over 2,000 pages, weighs over 25 pounds and cost about $680 all in.
I wish I knew that before I enrolled. I would have ordered the books first and read them all before the course began.
There are questions at the end of each section. That will give you a good idea of what you’re expected to know.
I recommend reading these books before you spend the $444 tuition on each course. You have to invest about $2,500 in cash, plus your time, to pass everything.
You might find a deal on Kijiji where people are selling theirs. Ask to see the receipt to make sure they are recent purchases.
If you work outside of Ontario, the legislation and courses will be different, but the gist of it will be the same.
Mohawk college runs the program. You can signup online through your nearest college, I went to Sheridan. You’ll be writing your exams there.
The college will set you up with an Ontario Learn account.
From there you will go to the actual course on a 3rd website called DesireToLearn
Once you are setup there, you can go directly to it each week.
The fourth thing I wish I knew is that you must be able to logon at least once a week. There are weekly chats, assignments and quizzes. You can’t do them in advance. If you miss them, then you get 0 for that section.
The week after your course ends is exam week.
I recommend starting with intro to condo law.
It’s the law that separates condo management from regular property management.
It’s about consumer protection.
If you own your house, there are loose limits on how you maintain your property.
You can defer maintenance letting the roof leak, paint peel and leave windows broken
It has to get bad before the government will step in.
In a condo, there’s a higher standard to protect consumers. Money is put aside each year for the inevitable major repairs. A wise homeowner does the same thing, but is not required to by law.
Now, you can read the condo act for free, so why pay $195 for The condominium act users manual by Audrey Loeb? Because it’s worth it. A great deal of care and effort went into creating this. If you are on a condo board I recommend having a copy of this.
It’s well organized with first a section of condominium act quoted. Then she explains what that section means and then she provides case law to provide examples of how the courts interpret the law.
The case law is a little repetitive as the same case is cited many times, but that reflects the reality of it.
When I was a condo board member, I felt it was important to read this. There would be fewer disagreements if everyone involved in condos knew and honoured what their rights and obligations are. I found it depressing to read much of the case law. So much of it seemed to arise out of ignorance or malice. The good news is that we’re supposed to get better education resources written in plain English. There will be a tribunal to resolve disputes cheaper and faster.
There’s a glossary where you’ll learn the meaning of words and phrases used in the condominium act, such as subrogation, redound and quantum meruit.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that I had to use reading glasses for the first time. The print is on the small side.
There are also two course manuals, written by a wide variety of lawyers.
Accounting is the language of business.
A condominium is a non profit business.
In the financial course, you’ll setup a zero based budget
You’ll learn the 8 principles of accounting, prepare an annotated chart of accounts, budget variance report, understand accruals and normal balances.
You’ll learn how to setup the operating budget, the reserve fund budget and cash flow budget
The Admin and HR course covers the basics of running any business, with a focus on condominium management.
Physical building management
This was my favourite course because I learned so much and it was one of the ones I got an A on. Before this course, I hadn’t managed a high rise condo. The mechanical, elevators, life safety systems and pool maintenance was all new to me. In here you’ll learn what the various trades have to do to keep everything well maintained.
There’s a saying “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I favour preventive maintenance. I’ve been driving the same car since 2000 and people still ask me if it’s new.
Other people don’t change their oil until the car stops working. For property maintenance, some will defer all work until the city orders them to do it. That’s counter productive.
You will learn what to look for in the daily, weekly, monthly and annual inspections.
Each course ends with an exam
To prepare for it, read the weekly chats and answer all the review questions. That will give you an idea of the kind of questions that you will be answering on the exam.
Arrive an hour before the exam starts
That gives you time to find parking, where to pay for parking, find the exam room and to a relax with a last minute review.
Good luck to you, but if you’ve done the work you won’t need luck.
My thanks to condo property developers Mickee and Seema Singh from Mississauga who suggested this show.
Is there something you’d like to know about? Email me at IWishIKnew@PeterWhelan.com
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