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Efforts to Protect Toronto Condo Owners is Sped Up - One in Four Toronto Homes are Now Condos. Time to Look Into Problem Construction Practices
Ontario's Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles took a baby step last week to regulate the condo sector by giving the green light to introducing mandatory qualifications for condominium managers.

One in four Toronto homes is a condominium. Half a million people live in them as the city expands skyward. Provincial legislators had no idea what problems a condo boom would bring when they enacted Ontario’s Condominium Act.

Many of today’s residential towers are financed by foreign investors. Many developers have a history of promising more than they deliver, then ignoring complaints. Many property managers are simply not up to the job.

The result: Condo owners, led to believe they were buying a worry-free affordable home, discover — too late — that they are unprotected against shoddy construction, sudden hikes in condo fees or shocking repair bills.

Consumer Services Minister took a baby step last week to regulate this sector of the housing market. She gave the green light to introducing mandatory qualifications for condominium managers. “The quality of life (of condo dwellers) depends to a great degree on qualification, well-trained managers,” she told reporters in Liberty Village, one of Toronto’s rapidly rising vertical neighbourhoods.

But the new standards won’t be in place for at least a year. MacCharles asked an expert panel of developers, condo owners and residents to determine what the credentials should be and report back to her next summer.

This consultation comes on the heels of a year-long review launched by MacCharles’ predecessor, Margarett Best. And it deals with just one of the problems plaguing the one million Ontarians who call a condo home.

They also need an independent tribunal to adjudicate disputes with developers, property managers and condo boards. If the internal complaint doesn't produce results — which it frequently doesn't — owners have little recourse other than the courts, which can be extremely expensive.

And they need reliable information about a builder’s workmanship and history of dealing with complaints. A government-created agency has this information but does not provide it to home buyers or owners. MacCharles has brushed off calls to review its mandate.

It is encouraging that the Liberal government is finally moving, after voting down four private members’ bills proposing amendments to the outdated Condominium Act. 

The veteran MPP for Trinity Spadina welcomed the mandatory licensing of property managers, calling it “long overdue,” but urged the minister to go further, speed up and be wary of expert panels stacked with condo developers, lobbyists for the industry and members of condominium property managers associations. “This government has a fondness for self-regulatory models that entrench private interests while shutting out consumers,” Marchese said.

The minister is promising other reforms to the Condominium Act in the future. It is unfortunate she has chosen to string them out. It would be even more regrettable if each one came with more consultations with the industry. For condo owners and residents who need relief now, more patience is a lot to ask.

Toronto’s skyline has soared in the last decade. There has been a revolution in the residential real estate market. MacCharles needs to run, not saunter, to catch up. 
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Posted: Saturday, August 10, 2013 9:04 AM by Sutton Realty

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