After losing $74,000 because of two condo board disputes, June Donaldson is fighting to bring in new rules for Alberta condo boards

Are you attracted to the carefree living condo ownership is said to offer? Here’s what you should know.

Your purchase will be unlike renting an apartment under the Residential Tenancies Act. Currently, condominiums are run by unregulated condo boards. That means they report to no one. It also means that when you purchase a condo you are giving a group of people you don’t know influence over your quality of life, property values and financial status.

Owners elect condo boards, but the boards can sometimes demonstrate poor business, legal and leadership acumen. When this happens, condo life can be awful and there is little an owner can do about it other than call a lawyer.

I know first-hand how helpless one can feel when facing unfair and ill-conceived board and manager decisions.

June Donaldson has been a condo rights activist since Nov. 2011 when she wrote a letter to former premier Alison Redford. Since then she has spoken to Alberta’s Attorney General Jonathan Denis, her MLA Linda Johnson, and sent letters to Premier Jim Prentice and Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan.

Photo by Travis Borstmayer In one dispute, I was going to be away for four months and I wanted to rent my condo to a couple with an underage child. The flood had just happened, vacancy rates were very low and rather than have my condo sit vacant, I was willing to rent it. The condo manager told me that before I could even ask the board for permission to have an underage person live in my condo, I would have to find a “qualified tenant”.

This meant I would have to advertise the unit, find a tenant, show the property, have the rental application completed, check references, confirm their finances, obtain the damage deposit and then I could ask the board if an underage person could live in my condo.

And because the condo act doesn’t specify that boards, condo managers, or any other service providers even need to respond to an owner’s general inquiry, often they don’t. So even after going through the qualifying process, the board and condo manager could simply ignore my request indefinitely.

Another consideration is this: in reality, how many tenants would go through that lengthy, intrusive process when there is no assurance of a “Yes”? The bottom line of that experience meant my condo was vacant for four months and I lost approximately $14,000 in rental income. I also lost $60,000 on a condo sale when a condo board decided prospective new owners couldn’t have a dog, even though I did and was approved to have a dog in my unit.

The reality is that owners pay, through our condo fees, unlicensed condo managers to work with unregulated condo board members to make decisions on our behalf. These two powerful groups have condo act authority to make far-reaching decisions that directly affect our well-being, property values and overall financial status.
“The reality is that owners pay, through our condo fees, unlicensed condo managers to work with unregulated condo board members to make decisions on our behalf.”

– June Donaldson, veteran condo owner

But there is hope. The Alberta Condominium Property Act has been under revision. It is the master document that governs how we live, and are treated in our condos. Condo act terms take precedent over any condo bylaws. As part of the revision process there are two proposals where you, by showing your support, can play a critically important role.

First, Service Alberta is proposing the creation of a dispute resolution tribunal where, upon paying a similar fee to the $75 charged for dispute resolution under the Residential Tenancies Act, condo owners can register condo disputes and work with unbiased personnel to resolve certain types of condo conflict. The tribunal concept is critically important to establish because it will, by default, put condo boards and property managers on notice that bad behaviour or unethical actions can be exposed and addressed by a third party.

Second, Service Alberta is proposing licensing condo board managers. Considering that condo managers help create our condo cultures and influence the financial, legal and interpersonal affairs of our multi-million dollar complexes, licensing must happen. The licensing of property managers will raise the standards of governance and the treatment of condo owners throughout Alberta.
Premier Jim Prentice has prorogued the legislature until Nov. 17, 2014. This provides a window of opportunity for our voices to be heard on the proposed condo act.

Register your support on my website www.albertacondominiums.ca. In addition, contact your MLA, write to Premier Jim Prentice and Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan and let them know of your support.

The new condo act will legislate your condo life for years, if not decades, to come. By being pro-active today you better protect you, those you care about and your financial status in the years ahead.

June Donaldson, MBA, EdD, is a near 40-year condo-owner veteran who is spearheading a drive to have the new Alberta Condominium Property Act be more fair to Alberta condo owners. This information is not to be taken as legal advice. Contact her at info@albertacondominiums.ca or (403) 287-2244.

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