Registered Condominium Managers (RCMs) may be on the fast track to obtaining the license that will soon be required to manage condominiums in Ontario. Those who possess the professional designation might simply have to pass an exam on the recently reformed Condominium Act to fulfill the criteria anticipated in forthcoming regulations.
“I can stand here and tell you that we have been told that the RCM program will be deemed as complying with all of the educational requirements of the Class 2 license,” said Dean McCabe, board director of the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO) and president of the Meritus Group.
McCabe was speaking Nov. 30 in the PM Expo seminar Education and Regulation: The Future of Condominium Management, which he prefaced with a disclaimer that some of what would be discussed would be “best guess” since the full details of new legislation are not yet known. The ACMO-sponsored presentation updated attendees on the status of the Ontario government’s plans to license condominium managers.
The impending regulation of the profession arose out of a review of the province’s outdated condominium laws, launched in 2012. Over the course of 18 months, the Ontario government consulted with both consumers and industry stakeholders to identify issues, struck working groups to propose solutions and asked an experts’ panel to make recommendations.
The recommendations formed the basis for Bill 106, which reformed the Condominium Act and introduced the Condominium Management Services Act. The province has passed the legislation but has to finish drafting accompanying regulations before it can be put into effect.
The licensing of condominium managers is expected to be a two-stage process, said McCabe. He added via email, after the seminar, the caveat that his comments reflected ACMO’s recommendations to the Ontario government, and that nothing can be taken as certain until the regulations have been released for public review and finalized.
Assuming those recommendations are adopted, candidates that met basic qualifications and passed an entrance exam would get a Class 1 license. Candidates would graduate to a Class 2 license after completing four mandatory courses and clocking two years of on-the-job experience.
The two-stage process for licensing condominium managers proposed during the review of Ontario’s condominium laws closely mirrors the requirements of ACMO’s RCM program. How closely forthcoming regulations will align with those recommendations remains to be seen.
It’s anticipated that the regulations will be released in stages, with the provisions concerning the licensing of condominium managers to come as early as the end of 2016, McCabe indicated.
“We are anxiously awaiting that, just to ensure that the recommendations from the experts’ panel and manager qualifications working group have been followed through in the regulations,” he said.
If the regulations do largely align with the recommendations, condominium managers would have to meet the same basic qualifications required of condominium board directors, McCabe remarked. Like board directors, candidates applying for a Class 1 license would have to be at least 18 years old, not be an undischarged bankrupt, be of sound mind to manage property under the Substitute Decisions Act and possess insurance as required. Unlike board directors, these candidates would also have to hold a high school diploma or equivalent, pass an entrance exam and undergo a criminal background check.
Class 1 licenses would likely come with restrictions and stipulate supervision by a Class 2 condominium manager, McCabe said. He suggested that one such restriction could be that Class 1 condominium managers not be permitted to sign status certificates. Supervision could be a challenge in certain parts of the province, he added, citing a northeastern Ontario city that is home to just one condominium corporation.
Again, if the recommendations from the Condominium Act review are followed, Class 1 condominium managers would have to complete courses in condominium law; financial management and reporting; physical building management; and condominium administration and human relations. In addition to fulfilling requirements for on-the-job experience, they would have to continue to meet the basic qualifications for a Class 1 license, including following a prescribed code of ethics, to obtain and retain a Class 2 license.
Any time limits on meeting the requirements to graduate from a Class 1 to a Class 2 license will be laid out in the regulations, McCabe said via email, after the seminar. So will any grandfathering provisions to help transition existing condominium managers to the coming licensing regime.
The recently created Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) will be responsible for enforcing the new legislation governing the profession. Among other activities, that will involve issuing licenses.
Like other delegated administrative authorities, such as the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, the not-for-profit organization will operate at arm’s length from the provincial government and be required to self-fund by way of fees. Licensing fees are projected to run between $700 and $900 per year, said McCabe. That estimate is based on the size of the profession — roughly 3,000 to 3,300 condominium managers — and what it costs to run the regulatory authority for a comparably sized profession: funeral home directors.
It’s difficult to get an accurate count of condominium managers, McCabe noted, as the task relies on these professionals voluntarily identifying themselves. One way the new legislation will push these professionals to do so is by preventing unlicensed condominium managers from suing for compensation owing.
Of the some 3,000 condominium managers in Ontario, 950 are RCMs. ACMO counts a further 400 condominium managers as candidates for the designation as well as 158 students.
The association hopes to be recognized as an education provider of the coming mandatory training, McCabe said via email, after the seminar, but that decision rests with the regulatory authority. During the seminar, Janice Schenk, director of education, ACMO, noted the difference between an education body and a licensing body. The education body provides education, while the licensing body, in this case the CMRAO, issues licenses and sets out what training is required and where it may be completed, she clarified.
Meanwhile, amid growing demand, the availability of the RCM program is increasing. Its courses are currently offered at Humber College and online through OntarioLearn. Beginning in January, George Brown College will also host the RCM program. ACMO is now preparing to offer its courses in French to accommodate Francophone markets.
After earning their RCM, condominium managers have to stay up-to-date on their annual ACMO membership fees and yearly quota for continuing education credits to keep the acronym at the end of their name, as Schenk underscored.
When licensing comes into full force, the requirements to earn the designation are expected to become the baseline for the industry. That may help explain why ACMO is planning to debut an advanced designation at its AGM in April.
“It’s going to be for those senior RCMs who wish to take their education to the next level,” said Schenk.
But not everyone involved in condominium management will be required to meet the new industry baseline. The legislation allows for exemptions, which are to come in the regulations, McCabe said. These exemptions may address outstanding questions about under what circumstances administrators and individuals running self-managed condominiums will be subject to requirements to meet basic qualifications and complete prescribed education.
Exemptions aside, the call for the licensing of condominium managers dates back five years. That’s when a major fraud case captured headlines in Toronto. The president of a property management firm allegedly bilked several condominium corporations of millions and reportedly fled the country. It served as a wake-up call for the industry, recalled McCabe. Subsequent and more recent headlines have reinforced the need for regulations, he said.
ACMO can strip the RCM designation from condominium managers it finds to have acted unethically, McCabe explained. The trouble is, the association only has authority over those who voluntarily participate in its program, and even so, RCMs who are stripped of their designation remain free to manage condominiums. The CMRAO is expected to have the power to discipline and revoke the licenses of condominium managers.
“If that happens, we will finally have what we never had for the last 40 years, and that is an ethical body that has the teeth to remove someone from practicing in the industry to truly protect condominium owners,” said McCabe.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.