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Not just your Castle: Why your Board deserves Appreciation, not Criticism

"Every man's home is his castle" was a maxim much celebrated in England, originating in Semayne's Case, (1604) 5 Coke Rep. 91, after the British Court decided "that the house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose...". Similarly, William Blackstone - an English jurist, judge, and politician of the eighteenth century - coined the notion of property as the “sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe”.

The realities of modern-day society, however, suggest that practical limits exist on property rights, such that the rights of property owners are unavoidably intertwined, with each owner’s enjoyment of their property made possible only by limits placed on their neighbours’ use of it. This is especially true in condominium corporations, where the Courts have recognized that the old adage “a man’s home is his castle” is subordinated by the exigencies of modern living in a condominium setting.[1]

If you choose to own a condominium unit, you are wilfully choosing to surrender (at least) some degree of your right to self-interest. Condominium corporations are creatures of statute, and derive all of their governing rights, objects, powers, and duties from the Condominium Act, 1998, (the “Act”). In such a setting, an owner’s freedom is largely at the mercy of the rules passed through the condominium corporation’s internal decision making processes, and anything infringing on the enjoyment of neighbouring units is often forced to yield to the greater public interest. When living in an environment where individual rights are often limited by the rights of the community, condominium owners are well advised to embrace a broader perspective of their property and appreciate that they own part of the entire condominium – and not just their individual units.

Under Section 17 of the Act, a condominium corporation has a statutory obligation to control, manage, and administer the common elements and assets of the corporation on behalf of its unit owners. But how does this work? Condominium corporations are marketed as turnkey, carefree living – omitting the fact that some owners will need to step up and volunteer as leaders within their community. Particularly when a condominium corporation is thriving, it can be difficult to find volunteers. Although everyone agrees that it is necessary, no one is willing to take responsibility for ensuring the condominium corporation’s obligations are met.

Here’s a radical thought: things don’t get done by themselves! The most obvious asset any community has is its people. This is so evident that it is often overlooked. Nevertheless, many unit owners generally do little more than attend the corporation’s annual general meeting, and to some, even that is a chore so they choose to ‘attend’ the meeting by submitting a proxy. Due to the lack of interest of the majority of unit owners to participate in the governance of their condominium corporation, in order to uphold its statutory duty and to ensure it functions efficiently, a board of directors (“ Board”) is vital to manage the affairs of the corporation and lead the community.

As elected officials, Board members are the voice of the condominium community, aiming to serve, first and foremost, in the best interests of the condominium corporation as a whole. These individuals donate their time, usually without complaint, and assume the risk of personal liability in doing so. The Act outlines the powers, duties and functions of the Board, which has the task of ensuring that the condominium corporation carries out its duties in accordance with its statutory obligations defined by the Act, as well as the particular condominium corporation’s declaration, by-laws and rules. As many condominium unit owners are hesitant to compensate directors for their efforts, the Board is typically comprised of a group of volunteers willing to attend more than just an annual meeting. Actions taken by Board members will impact not only the present but also the future well-being of their condominium corporation. It is therefore only logical to have, or even insist on, Board members who not only have basic knowledge about their community, but who also have the wherewithal to know when to seek professional advice or assistance for the corporation from their property management company, auditors, engineers, or legal counsel when required.

Without the efforts of a dedicated Board, the condominium corporation can quickly fall into legal and financial turmoil. All too often, condominium owners turn a blind eye to the hard work of these men and women who represent and are invested in serving the best interests of their community. As noted by Charlie L. Oliver, a Past President of the Canadian Condominium Institute (National): “unfortunately, and with distressing frequency, the attitude of too many condominium owners is to criticize and complain rather than try to contribute to a positive solution when a problem or issue arises. While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, voicing that opinion in a constructive manner will have far better results than simply complaining and often not even bringing it to the Board’s attention directly.”[2]

Mr. Oliver has a point – all too frequently, owners are quick to voice their disapproval instead of celebrating the essential group of volunteers who offer their energy, time, brain power, and skills to develop and oversee the infrastructure and operation of our condominium communities. These individuals make their decision to run for the Board recognizing the extensive volunteer hours involved. In addition to committing their time, which often exceeds the hours of regularly scheduled monthly meetings, Board members usually also make a commitment to ongoing education and developing a level of understanding of the issues they will face. Owners should be reminded that these volunteer Board members are invested in, and often live within, their condominium community. Just as importantly, they serve as the most visible representatives of the corporation in its community and relationships - carrying the entire burden of the condominium corporation.

The fear of criticism and dealing with backlash from unhappy unit owners can lead to hesitation in volunteering for a position on the Board. Being a volunteer director can appear to a condominium resident to be a thankless, inescapable commitment where directors cannot check their mail, take out their garbage, or take their pet for a walk without feeling like they are being watched under a microscope or being approached about community business. For those who complain about the volunteers who serve their community, consider what a volunteer gives up to do this and all of the long, thankless hours put in. The feeling of being devalued can be incredibly toxic and discouraging. Taking time out to say thank you to your condominium Board members is the least you can do. They are deserving of recognition. If you do not agree, rather than sit back from the sidelines and criticize, why not consider joining the Board yourself? Remember, shared or not, this is still your castle. Get involved. Make positive suggestions. Do something extraordinary. If you never leave your comfort zone, you won’t grow!

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of CondoVoice, published by the Toronto & Area Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute


[1] The Owners Strata Plan LMS 2768 v. Jordison, 2013 BCCA 484

[2] Oliver, Charlie L. "Board of Directors - Treat With Care". CCI REVIEW, (Summer 2009): 5


By Megan Molloy - August 2015
Hons. B.A., LL.B.

Ext:  805
Email:  mmolloy@elia.org
Toll-Free:  1-866-446-0811

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All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only, and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this newsletter is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.


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