Band-Aid Solution

Remember that saying our parents used to drill us with: “Two wrong’s don’t make a right”?

Well that’s what I’m finding a lot of when it comes to property management in downtown Toronto condos these days, and it’s going on in my building as well.

Just as a microcosm of the whole issue, let me explain what’s happening at Vu, as some residents push for a band-aid solution to just one of our building’s problems…

BandAidSolution

Being on a board of directors at a condominium is a truly thankless job.

But having said that, and having been there myself several times, I still think that when a condominium is run poorly, or when residents speak up, the board and the property manager should listen.

Some condo boards completely tune the residents out, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

I liken this situation to a politician, who rules with an iron fist, completely forgetting (or choosing to ignore…) that the people elected him or her, and that it is this politician’s JOB to serve the will and the wishes of the people.

So take that logic and apply it to the condo board, and property management, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.

All too often, the residents of a condo board will have their wishes turned away – maybe 500 of them, by five people on the board, and one property manager.

It’s the most common complaint among condo residents, and I hear it constantly.

We’re in September, approaching October, and this is when many condominiums are having their AGM’s, or elections for positions on the board.  This also means that it’s the time of year when I hear the most complaints from clients, blog readers, or friends, who live in condos, and are tired of the board, property management, their rules and regulations, or all of the above.

What’s the solution?

Run for the board!  If you want change, or you don’t like how thing are being done, then get in there and do it yourself!

What’s that?

You’re too busy?  It’s too much of a time commitment?

Thought so.

But even as I bounce back and forth and play devil’s advocate for both sides, I still don’t think the answer for poor management is, “Yeah, well then go run for the board!”

Then, there are some residents who aren’t on the board, but act as if they are.

This brings me to the point of this blog post, and to a conversation I had on the elevator the other day.

For those of you who recall what life was like during the elevator strike in the summer, let me say that we’ve had an unofficial elevator strike here at 112 George Street ever since.  The elevator continues to break down, service calls are frequent, and now – it’s been down for 9 days.

I love coming home to this every night:

ElevatorSignVu

Let’s put aside the whole “management has informed the elevator company that repairs are urgent,” just for a moment.  My sarcasm detector with respect to “the elevator company” is ringing off the hook…

So getting back to Saturday morning – I pressed the elevator button and waited what I would estimate at close to eight minutes.  I started a game of Word Mole and got to level seven before the elevator came, so that had to be about right.

The problem was that with one elevator broken, and one elevator on service for somebody moving into the building, there was only one elevator for the 25-floor building!  That certainly explains the wait…

The door opened, and it was like those photos from the 1960’s of people trying to cram into a telephone booth, just to say they did.  I edged my way on, and as the elevator stopped on each and every floor (to pick up nobody, since most people give up and take the stairs), an older gentleman at the back of the elevator said, “I’ve had enough of this, it’s just ridiculous.”

I agreed!  It was getting ridiculous!  The fact that property management can’t get a goddam elevator fixed, month after month!  Ridiculous!

But to my surprise, the gentleman continued, “The fact that property management allows move-ins on Saturdays is just stupid.  Just stupid.  We all have to wait for the elevator, and I’ve had enough of this nonsense.”

Wait.  Hold the phone for a moment…

This guy was suggesting that the problem was………move-ins?

I’m pretty sure the elevator issue has to do with, well, you know – the elevator!

What was I missing here?  There’s an elevator that’s out of service, thus the other two elevators have to service the whole building, and when somebody reserves the third elevator, we’re down to just one.

I can do the math, and I know that an elevator reservation reduces the number of elevators in service, but is that the root of the problem?

I didn’t want to speak up, but I’m, well, me, so I did.

“Maybe the problem is the elevator being broken,” I suggested.  If we could just get that fixed in a timely manner, or maybe pay to repair it for good, whatever it costs, then we wouldn’t run into this problem again.”

“Well I’m collecting signatures,” the man replied, “And even though they tell me I need 70% of the building to agree, I’m going to make sure this ridiculous move-in, move-out rule is changed.”

Wow.  Agree to disagree, maybe?

Guys, am I wrong here?  I know you’ll be quick to point out that me and the older gentlemen both have valid points, and that one elevator being on service and one elevator being broken are BOTH reasons why the third elevator is slow.

But is the true reason the elevator is slow because we “allow” people to move into the building on Saturdays?

Let’s say for a moment that this gentleman was successful in his hopeless attempt to collect the signatures necessary to change the by-law (in actual fact it’s 51%, not 70%; see HERE if you’re curious as to voting procedures), and that moving into and out of the building was banned on Saturdays and Sundays.  Wouldn’t we just have a new and different problem?

I’d be a hard person to convince that banning elevator reservations on a weekend is a good idea.

We live here.  We spend our lives here.  This is our HOME.  Our home shouldn’t come with unnecessary rules and restrictions, and these rules shouldn’t impact our lives in other areas.

Case in point: if you wanted to move into or out of the building, or have something large delivered, and you were NOT allowed to use the elevator on a Saturday or Sunday, then you’d have to take an afternoon off work during the week.

I don’t believe that restrictions on the use of our condo’s amenities and common areas should be such that other areas of our lives are altered this drastically.

I find it extremely unnecessary to ban moving on weekends, and in practice, it’s only commonly done in older buildings, with older demographics, where the residents have been there forever, have no intention of moving, and frankly – don’t care about new people moving into the building.

Agree or disagree with the concept of reserving the elevator on weekends, but this argument disguises the fact that the true issue here is an elevator that’s always broken!

To ban elevator reservations on Saturdays, in attempts to provide better access for residents who wish to use the elevator, is nothing but a band-aid solution.

I’d rather see management address the issue, and answer the burning question: why is the elevator always out of service?

We’re not children, so tell us the truth; tell us how much it’s going to cost, and let’s make an adult decision here.

An elevator that’s been out of service five times since the conclusion of the elevator strike in the summer is one that clearly has problems, and “waiting for a part” from the “elevator company” just isn’t cutting it anymore, as far as excuses go.

I’ve used this example before, but I’ll use it again: if there was a $20,00 repair necessary to get a new “Johnson-rod” for the elevator (those who speak Seinfeldian….), I would rather pay a special assessment of……wait for it…….forty dollars per unit, than sit around and wait for the elevator to break down again because the previous service-call didn’t produce any staying power.

I’m not an engineer, and I’m not a technician.  I don’t know what the problem with the goddam elevator is, and I don’t pretend to.

But I’m a realist, and I know that after this many service interruptions, something is wrong.

So taking a quick-fix approach doesn’t make sense, and outlawing moving on Saturdays is an even worse idea.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s indeed, band-aid solutions…

10 Comments

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  1. Ed says:

    I’m gonna start me a elevator repair business.

  2. Floom says:

    See that’s why the escalator is the world’s best invention. If it ever breaks down, it becomes stairs – still perfectly useable. “The escalator is out of order, for the rest of the week it will be stairs, you’re welcome for the convenience.”

    1. Name says:

      Well said Mitch!
      Now go show me an escalator going up 30+ storeys :p

  3. mike says:

    David, most newer buildings are on maintenance contracts with their service provider meaning that they pay a fee per month and the elevator company pays for all repairs.

    what you should suggest to the board is that they have an independent audit of the elevators done by someone like National Elevator or ACSI Elevator Consultants who will audit the elevators and then force the service provider to make all the necessary repairs and adjustments.

  4. JC says:

    I think every condo owner should serve on the Board at some point. It was very educational and really opened my eyes to the costs of running a building – especially since all trades seem to jack up their quotes any time a condo is involved.

    The old man in your story sounds like a classic example of a condo owner with too much time on his hands and can’t see the forest for the trees. Imagine the good he could do if he put all that effort into something useful. Like lobbying to find out exactly what the issue with the elevator is and to get it fixed.

    The problem is with the elevator being broken, not the move-ins.

  5. Joe Q. says:

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to limit move-in / move-out activity on weekends when one elevator is already out of service. But I do agree with you that getting the elevator fixed is a priority.

    At my workplace (three-storey building, but we are often bringing equipment and tanks up and down) the elevator has been out of service for several weeks and apparently won’t come online again for a few weeks more. Apparently custom parts are frequently required for elevator repair (each elevator is unique).

    1. Tallet says:

      People plan their move months in advance & book the elevator a month or two in advance. They reserve a U-Haul truck in advance and/or hire movers or ask their friends to help them move, in advance. You suggest if the elevator breaks down the day before someone’s planned move (and therefore one elevator is out of service), Condo By-laws should restrict them from using the elevator, cancel the move and make them stay in the Condo until Monday? While you’re at it, tell the new tenant/owner (who also has a truck full of their belongings waiting to move in later in the day or on Sunday) they can’t access their condo due to elevator restrictions because a guy was 4 minutes late to get his coffee Saturday morning at Starbucks? Ya, okay. I’m with David – fix the elevator.

      1. Joe Q. says:

        Nope, I’m suggesting that if there is a known issue with elevators, that move-in / out times should be restricted for future bookings. I’m not advocating cancelling people’s moves on 24 hrs notice.

        As I mentioned, when elevators break, it often takes a very long time to reliably fix them.

    2. jeff316 says:

      We have three elevators here at work and haven’t had a full three in service for at least eight months due to the similar parts problems.

  6. oren says:

    The other day I was running with my shoe laces untied and fell. The concrete was so hard that it scratched my knee. I’m now collecting signatures in order to force the city to make softer concrete, who’s signing?

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