Today, a resident of Ontario can walk into a condominium building and offer their services as a condominium manager, no qualifications required. It’s a scenario being raised by condominium managers themselves, who believe licensing and regulation is needed in their profession. Condo owners, who have potentially bought into condominium corporations worth tens of millions of dollars, agree.
As a result of this consensus, the Ontario government announced July 18 that, under the revised Condominium Act, condominium managers will be required to have specific qualifications. The move comes in advance of a final report with recommendations for broader reforms to the Condominium Act due this fall.
“This initiative will be the first building block in the foundation of a new Condo Act, one that will benefit the one million-plus Ontarians that live in condos now,” said Minister of Consumer Services, Tracy MacCharles, in a statement.
Better skills and training for condominium managers were identified as one of five key areas for closer examination as part of the ongoing review of the Condominium Act.
“While we know most (condominium managers) are very professional and do a fantastic job, some do lack the experience and some of the managers themselves tell us they want more training and support,” said MacCharles.
The details of what qualifications condominium managers will be required to possess and how such a regulatory regime will be structured and operated will be based off the recommendations contained in a final report from a panel of experts. The report will also address what kind of transition will be required.
Although the details have yet to be crystallized, Giles Gherson, deputy minister of consumer services, indicated that the expert panel was exploring a two-stage licensing process, in which there would be minimum standards for entering the field and then the opportunity (after a period of time) to obtain a full licence. Gherson added that, not unlike other regulated industries, licensing would apply to both individual managers as well as management companies.
Licensing and regulation will be overseen by an independent body responsible to the provincial government. The expectation is it will be largely self-funded through licensing, registration and education fees.
“We are pleased the government recognizes the importance of a regulated condominium management profession,” says Dean McCabe, vice-president of operations at Wilson Blanchard Management Inc. and past president of the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO), which welcomes the move to mandatory qualifications for condo managers.
In the absence of any formal regulatory regime, ACMO, a non-profit organization promoting the professionalization of the industry, developed its own designation: the Registered Condominium Manager (RCM). To obtain the RCM, extensive education and on-the-job experience is required. ACMO also has an accreditation system for companies as well as a disciplinary process via its condominium management standards council.
The problem with the designation is it’s a voluntary program, says McCabe, so the standards only apply to those who choose to participate. Even then, a condominium manager who has had its RCM designation revoked can continue to practice in the profession.
And the unlicensed, unregulated environment doesn’t only pose a risk to condo owners.
Armand Conant, a partner and head of the condominium law group at Shibley Righton LLP, says one of the difficulties faced by condominium managers now is they can’t challenge condominium boards that contravene the Condominium Act. Until condominium managers face the prospect of losing their licence, condominium boards can threaten to dump a condominium manager that refuses to flout the rules for one who will.
“When all managers are licensed, then a manager can stand up to that board and say, ‘Well, you’re not going to find another (manager) because nobody’s going to do that,” says Conant.
However, with the Condominium Act review only midway through the 18-month process set out by the province, it may yet be a few years before mandated qualifications for condominium managers are enacted and take effect.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness magazine.