Toronto condo owners slapped with big special fees

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234 Albion Road, Toronto. In Ontario, condo boards are not required to hold a referendum or public meeting on a special assessment.Zillow

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Condo owners of two Toronto buildings have been hit with demands for large sums of money in excess of their regular fees, something industry insiders say could become a widespread problem even among newer buildings.


In 2022, condo owners at Guildwood Terrace (MTCC 1013 3233 Eglinton Avenue East) received notice that they would need to shell out additional cash on top of their regular monthly fees to pay for a $12.5 million “building envelope” project that includes Will have to replace all the windows in the two towers of the complex. The cost per occupant was around $25,000 and closer to $50,000, depending on the size of the apartment. For long-time residents of the building that opened in 1992, the numbers are staggering.

“My mother’s been here for 15 years, she’s a 98-year-old woman,” said Sandra Ryan, whose mother owns a two-bedroom unit in the building. “My father just passed away and is on widow’s pension; It’s really tough. Perhaps most troubling to Ms. Ryan is that the project is expected to take three years. “She’s not even going to look at these windows. We’ll just have to suck it up and pay the balance…but no, that’s not fair.”

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Management at Guildwood declined to comment on the record, but noted that the board has made several payment options available to residents: a one-time lump sum payment, annual payments or monthly payments. Another longtime resident, Rob Burridge, said the condo board messaged for years that the project was coming and he commends them for handling the first special assessment imposed in his 25 years living there.

“It is unfortunate that this was not caught on with previous boards. I took it that it is not unusual; these things happen,” he said. “Has it affected me? Sure: disposable income is down a bit, it’s probably one less trip a year. I’m paying $7,800 a year [in special assessment fees]For some it is the down-payment of a car.

Condo management experts say the need for special assessments can range from actual disasters or age-related mechanical upgrades to a history of undermining the government-mandated reserve fund condo buildings maintain.

Until recently, special assessments were typically seen in older buildings that were either in need of unexpectedly major repairs or had dramatically reduced stock. But that pattern is changing, some in the industry say.

“With new construction, we’re seeing a lot,” said Natalia Polis, an associate with Lash Condo Law. “With rapid new-builds the developer does not allocate the right or proper amount to adequately fund the reserve, so within a few years a reserve fund study shows they are under-funded.”

With the rise in general expenses – everything from management fees to insurance premiums that have seen rapid inflation in recent years – many owners are feeling the pinch.

“We built condos from day one to create more housing in less space, but no one thought about the cost of condos,” says Audrey Loeb, condo law expert and partner at Shibli Wrighton LLP. “I think we have the best legislative framework to repair long-term [in Ontario], but the problem is we have people who can’t pay for it. And boards that get kicked out for trying to do the right thing.”

Whatever the reason, to call special evaluation unpopular under any circumstances would be an understatement.

“There is almost always a backlash from the owners, and it takes significant work by both the board and their manager to get the whole process going,” said Julian McNab, vice president of Melbourne Property Management in Toronto. “It’s very stressful, emotional and extremely time consuming. … To some, it may be seen as a failure on the part of a board that is supposed to function and control the affairs of the condominium .

Ai Ngo feels the same way about her own building, the Twin Towers (MTCC 655), at 234 Albion Road, Toronto, which was completed in 1984. After a special assessment, which amounted to approximately $10,000 for each owner, she joined with other frustrated residents and twice tried to force a board change through special meetings in 2022 made up of elected and appointed boards. Will recall and replace members.

According to Ms. Ngo, about seven years ago a different board had completed a large-scale project to fix the building’s balconies: residents agreed at that time to complete the work gradually through monthly fee increases Repaying the bank loan taken. But when a new board came in, Ms. Ngo said it was announced that they would conduct a special assessment to pay off the outstanding debt of $1.9 million.

“We decided to pay gradually, suddenly in 2022 we have to pay in full… without our consent, without any meeting,” she said. In Ontario, boards are not required to hold a public meeting on a referendum or special assessment (for example, British Columbia and some US jurisdictions).

The combination of Levy and what she says were procedural hurdles that disqualified the dozens of proxy votes she gathered to recall the board left Ms. Ngo feeling powerless in her own home, and it was uncertain. Whether the voice of the residents will ever be heard fairly. “They’ll have some reason to say it’s not enough. … They do whatever they want,” she said.

Lisa M. Blair, the building’s condo manager with Maple Ridge Community Management (owned by US-based property management giant Associa), declined a Globe request for comment.

Toronto condo owners slapped with big special fees

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