What its like to study condo management


Unexpected fire alarms, dog urine in the elevator, aging residents all of those things come into play when youre managing a condo.

But on November 1, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services made it mandatory for certain education requirements be met before condominium managers could apply for a general licence.

That meant seasoned condo managers already in the field must now complete the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontarios (ACMO) Challenge exam or finish four condo management courses.

We spoke to two veteran managers about what going back to school taught them and what you can only learn on the job.

Im a part-time student at Humber College and still working full-time with GPM Property Management. Ive worked at this one property in Thornhill for 28 years as of January. I came to it during construction and I like to think that I raised the three buildings sitting on this property. I now work in one of the properties and manage all of the exterior grounds, about 24 acres. It has almost 1,000 suites and, at the time of construction, it was considered a big project.

Property management has changed so much over the past 25 years. The [residents] have aged, so thats changed the job. It used to be more technical, and that part will never change because a building is what a building is. But what these courses dont teach you is the people skills that are really required today when youre working with many different cultures and an aging population.

The number-one people skill needed is to be a good listener. Many residents are coming down [to see you] to talk about themselves, and the property is secondary. It could be that they just lost a loved one, it could be that their loved one is critically ill, a child has passed away, divorced or had a baby.

People skills also come into play when you have a resident complaining about an incident that is, in their opinion, a huge disaster or major deal, and on a scale of one to 10 for you, its a two. Ive had emergency phone calls where I thought a person was in trouble, and [it turned out that] one of the seniors, lets say, couldnt reach something in the back of his freezer. You have to have the patience to allow people to express themselves.

With the board of directors, you also have to use those people skills. It can become extremely political, everyone is important and everyones egos are flaring back and forth. You have to be able to use your skills to control that kind of situation in a meeting, where it might not be favourable in your corner.

People assume that when I went into these courses I wouldnt be learning anything. That isnt true. I just finished a law course and there were details I wasnt aware of. Going back to class has enlightened me on different physical aspects of the building and also financials.

The property management industry is growing and the people coming into it dont necessarily have the same skills I feel like I had. Its a different time and era, and the industry is changing to the point where maybe some younger blood can see things differently.

Ive been a property manager since late 2009 at a condo at Queen and Woodbine. Ive taken condo law at George Brown and will be registered for condominium administration and human relations in January.

On the job, you have to have negotiation skills and know how to deal with people. Youre dealing with contractors, owners and tenants, getting quotes, getting jobs done properly and on time. You get a lot more with honey than with vinegar.

Its important to have bookkeeping skills and good common sense, and its a really good idea to know the law.

Ive had to deal with dog poop in the entrance lobby, dog urine in the elevator, homeless people in the outer lobby when its cold and fire alarms [going off] occasionally. Sometimes we get a flood when it rains really hard. You have to be prepared for anything and everything.

After I take this course, I will probably be looking to get another property or so. Its kind of difficult to take over a new property if you dont have any credentials.

I knew there was a law that you had to have an audit every year if you had over 25 units. The condo I manage is only 12 units but it has 19 underground parking places, and the condos previous law firm told the board that the 19 parking spaces were each considered a unit. So we had to get audited every year because it came up to 31. I learned during this condo law course that parking spaces are considered separate units but they arent voting units, so its only a 12-unit condo. By law were not required to do an audit every year. So Ive learned lots.

Humber College (Toronto) Condominium Management and Administration certificate program $2,956.60-$3,574/year.

Mohawk College (Hamilton) Condominium Management diploma: $2,198.16/year.

George Brown College (Toronto) Condominium Management certificate $3,230/year (including textbooks).

Conestoga (Kitchener) Condominium Management certificate program: $2,420.33/five courses (plus fees).

news@nowtoronto.com | @KellyKaliopi



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