Condo Boards: Your Property Manager Should Not Be Your Lawyer

SKRealEstateLaw Property Manager Blog FI

 

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Don’t get me wrong – I like Property Managers.
 
I work closely with some of them in the city. Many do great work, assist through challenging problems, manage difficult projects, and do it all on some pretty reasonable rates. There are many legal tasks that Property Managers have become accustomed to assisting with. I know that with the changes to the Condominium Property Act that Property Managers worked through their insurance requirements and estoppel documents to the best that they were able. However, when it comes down to a true need for legal advice, they should not be your lawyer. 

 

 
The challenge is that in Saskatchewan condominium corporation seem hesitant to get advice. I regularly see condominium corporations that budget nothing for legal advice, or have the line item go unused for the duration of budget year. It appears that the perceived cost of our services can scare off boards from getting the legal advice needed in the situation. However, as a volunteer director, you should consider the need for legal advice, especially those times when it is what the ‘reasonable prudent’ person would seek out. Aside from helping in a better decision making process, it may assist in avoiding liability if there was a problem with the decision reached.
 
While not being an exhaustive list of services that we provide, you should consider getting your lawyer involved when some of the following arise:
  1. Legislative/Bylaw Compliance – ex: Your corporation is trying to work through an interpretation of their bylaws, and want to understand their meaning better.
  2. Debt Collection – ex: An arrears of condominium fees or a special assessment occurs and you want to register a lien.
  3. Risk Management – ex: You are looking to deal with a contentious decision, and are looking for ways to limit the exposure of the board.
  4. General Advice – ex: Creating an agreement between the condominium and a service provider.
  5. Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution – ex: commencing a small claims action for a breach of a bylaw.
There are some property managers that have ‘their own lawyer’ and that situation can provide the same challenge at times. There may come, at some point, where the interests of the property manager and the corporation are not aligned and both parties would be forced to find alternative counsel. The challenge is when a lawyer is representing both parties that line can be a little harder to see. Make sure that you make it clear how your interests are being protected as the client in the service. Make sure that you are receiving the advice with YOUR interests in mind.
 
CCI-South Saskatchewan (www.cci.ca/ssc/) recently posted a link to an article on Facebook from Florida, where the author asks the question of why or how some home owner associations (the equivalent of our condominium corporations) forego professional representation: (http://www.communityassociationlawblog.com/2015/03/why-do-some-association-boards-decide.html ) The lawyer specific content is at the bottom of the article, but in essence distills the it to having the appetite and the capacity to make some mistakes, and incur the risk associated with it. The reality is that is a key part of what we do – to help you understand the risk of not spending the money, and helping you make the educated choice of deciding what to do.
 
If you would like to discuss our services, including some fixed fee services, please contact me anytime. If I cannot help you, I will be happy to provide you with other lawyers that might be able to assist.
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