Join The Board!


5 minute read

March 4, 2011

If you don’t like what’s going on in your condominium, I have a very simple answer for you: join the board.

If you continue to complain and air grievances about the condo, how it’s being run, and who is running it, and you do not join the board, then you have to seriously consider whether or not you have a leg to stand on…

That is how the board of directors looks to most condominium owners.

Faceless and often nameless people who sit around a table and determine the fate of their fellow residents.

Oh sure – we get the letters that are sent around and signed by the “John Smiths” and “Jane Whites” of the world, but we don’t really know who they are and what they stand for.

Sadly, that’s because the turnout to most condominium Annual General Meetings or information sessions will likely average around 30% of the residents at best.

In my experience, people like to make a lot of noise, but don’t want to hear anything back.

A friend of mine is on a rampage in his building; trying to get a few issues resolved to his liking, and all the while I’m telling him that there is one sure-fire way to get his issues pushed to the top of the agenda: join the board.

He says, “Are you kidding?  I don’t have time for that crap, man!”


So you do have time to write a letter to the board twice per month, and you do have time to complain for hours on end to your girlfriend about your building, but you don’t have time to attend one meeting per month for the next year?

It seems like a serious case of wanting to have your cake, eat your cake, but not pay for or pick up your cake.

I know some people might accuse me of being harsh.  You might say, “Well if I don’t like the laws – are you suggesting I get a law degree, or run for political office to change it?”

That’s a bit extreme, in all fairness.

We’re talking about your condo, which may have anywhere from a dozen to several hundred other “partners,” and whether you acknowledge it or not – YOU are a partner and an integral part of the “company” that you call home.

I have written blog posts about serving on a Board of Directors before, and many of my readers have chimed in with their two cents as well.  It seems like many of my readers have served on many different condo boards!

Serving on a condo board does not require any experience.

All it requires is time and at the risk of sounding lame, it requires that you care.

Many people don’t care what goes on in their condo.

Many investors couldn’t possibly care about any single element of the condominium corporation, and are only concerned with when and how easily they can sell their unit.

But if your condo is your primary residence, you should care.

Think of the parallels between a condominium board of directors and the other residents of the building, and that of a politician and his constituents.

In ‘theory,’ the politician is elected by the people and is supposed to serve the people and their best interests.  He or she looks after the residents of that geographic area, and doesn’t forge ahead with an agenda that doesn’t reflect the people’s wishes and interests.

A board of directors works in the same way.

Many people become frustrated with a board and their decisions, but they fail to realize that every action has reasoning behind it.

If you live in a condo with a rooftop terrace, and the board decides that the terrace will be closed from November 1st to March 1st, there is a reason for that!  They didn’t arbitrarily decide to close the terrace, nor do they have their own agenda such as “I hate winter,” or “I hate barbecues.”   The board isn’t against having fun, looking at the city lights, or frigid temperatures.

Maybe, just maybe, the board examined this from every angle and concluded that it’s in the condominium corporation’s best interests.

Keeping the terrace open in the winter, when perhaps 5% of residents will use it, may not be worth the associated costs of clearing snow, cleaning up the stairs leading to the terrace, buying rock salt, and of course – extending liability insurance to include “slip and fall.”

But many residents of a condo only look at the actions and never consider the reasoning, let alone ask the board.

I’ve been to countless AGM’s where people stand up and ask questions to which answers have already been provided, or bring up issues that were dealt with months before hand.  Many residents simply just don’t care, and don’t respect the board members and the time they’ve put in.

I once had a resident accuse us of “stealing” the corporation’s funds because we ordered pizza at our meetings.  Believe me – we put it to a vote, but it was decided that if we were volunteering our time, for free, to deal with the corporation’s issues once per month, that two hundred dollars in pizza over the course of a year was an insignificant amount of money for a corporation whose expenses were in the neighbourhood of $500,000.

But that same resident who complained about us “stealing” money didn’t come forward when we were looking to fill a vacancy on the board.

All bark, no bite.

But isn’t that the world we live in?

For example, every day, I put my name and reputation on the line by writing blog posts that 99.999% of Realtors would never pen themselves, because transparency is my personal business model, and because, well, I have a thick skin.

But I’m never going to escape the anonymous slanderings both here on my blog, or on forums for articles that I’m a part of in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Eye Weekly, National Post, etc.

Likewise, the board of directors will constantly have to defend themselves to people that will never agree to switch places and actually put their money where their mouth is, or even worse – from the anonymous messages in the good ole’ “Suggestion Box.”

It’s a thankless job, but somebody has to do it.

And that somebody should be YOU.

I can’t possibly give a better piece of advice to any of my buyer-clients than the following: join the board of directors.

You’ll learn more than you ever thought you could know about condominiums and their legal structures, and you’ll get to have a say in how everything is done.

A client of mine just purchased a condo on Queen West last week, and before I could ever suggest that she join the board, she informed me, “I’m going to get on the board, rise to the top, and eventually just take it over without anybody really noticing.”

I should mention – she’s a lawyer!

And you know what?  I’m willing to bet that she’ll do exactly what she says, and she’ll be running the board within a year.  She’ll get rid of any inefficiencies, and bring a fresh vibe to the board.

There’s nothing worse than a condo (one in the St. Lawrence Market area comes to mind…) where the board is made up of the same five people, all over the age of seventy, who never change a thing, keep the status quo, and as a by-product – never listen to anybody outside of themselves.

A building like that needs some fresh blood at the top, and while some people elect to sell their condo and move elsewhere, I’d like to think that some people might consider joining the board as an alternate approach.

March has officially begun, and many condominiums are having their AGM’s this month or the next.

Consider what I’m saying, and consider joining the board.

This has been a public service announcement.

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Mila

    at 9:58 am

    Good thinking, but its not realistic. Many people have lots to complain about, but everybody can’t be part of the board. That’s why there is annual meetings, voting etc… I agree if you are unhappy and don’t even bother coming to the annual meeting – you have no right to complain. But this doesn’t mean that you should join the board. Getting into politics is not everybody’s will or ability.

  2. Ray

    at 12:22 pm

    I AM on the board of our condo corporation and see the same people at every AGM. We were lucky this year to actually not have to canvass the building to get quorum. We made announcementss two nights in a row ahead of the board meeting and myself and another board member spent two evenings prior to the AGM in the lobby promoting the meeting and/or asking for proxies if people weren’t coming. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments in the article. We have a variety of avenues to reach the board during the year via the business office, web site and all our monthly meetings are published to be viewed by the owners. Seldom does anyone do any of the above. Quite often even at the AGM we get owners with their own agenda and personal issues that ought to have been dealt with individually. So few think of the ‘big picture’ of what is good for the WHOLE building which is what the board is trying to accomplish. I echo the words at the top of the article. This year we had two board positions to elect/re-elect and other than the two of us that were willing to continue, not one person from a condo of over 400 unitls uttered a peep.

  3. Joren Carlson

    at 9:44 am

    Much like you, I felt like I should put up or shut up and joined the Board at a previous condo (total of 700 units).

    What an education! I think that anyone who complains about how the money is spent should spend a year on the Board and see how tradespeople and contractors SOAK condo corporations anytime something goes to tender. It’s almost as if once they find out a condo is involved that the prices double or triple.

    Everyone wants to live in a nice building with nice landscaping. That landscaping costs $$. It also seems that once the place is built and registered, the builder waives any responsibility so if say… too many trees were planted on top of the parking garage and they have to be removed because of the weight – guess who pays? Certainly not the builder!

    You’re right though. Always the same people complaining. Few that care enough to show up to a meeting but then complain, and theres always at least one person on the Board with nothing else to do but pretend it’s his or her little empire to run.

    1. David Fleming

      at 9:56 am

      @ Joren

      Agreed. If you can’t be the CEO of a fortune-500 company, you can always be the president of your condo board and pretend…

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