We recently took the opportunity to speak with one of our clients after they successfully passed a bylaw. One of the most challenging bylaws to pass is the Standard Unit Definition. Many of our clients utilise our platform to pass this and other types of bylaws to better their own condo communities.
We wanted to find out more from our client on what steps they took to achieve success with this particularly difficult bylaw.
We would like to thank Vadim Seagal, Sr. Property Manager with CityTowers Property Management, for taking the time to speak with us.
Here is what Vadim had to say:
GQ: What sort of site do you have and what kind of bylaw were you looking to pass?
V: Our condominium site consists of almost 500 units with both a tower and townhouses. Approximately 70% of the units are owned by off-site owners. We were looking to pass the Standard Unit Bylaw to remove flooring from the standard unit definition.
GQ: Why was this bylaw required?
V: We believe the developer made a mistake including flooring in our standard unit definition. It is our belief that including flooring as a part of the standard unit definition only hurts the corporation and its owners the longer it's included. Flooring is one of the most expensive insurance claims that can be made. For example, the flooring in a single unit costs the corporation about $5,000 on average. We do not believe it's fair for all owners to chip in and pay for a single unit's flooring repairs. As well, owners kept submitting more and more flooring insurance claims and our insurance deductible kept rising accordingly. While this was happening in our corporation, we were in communication with a neighbouring condo corporation. Their corporation's insurance deductible rose to a staggering $250,000. Seeing this happen to our neighbours prompted our Board and Property Management to seek immediate action and to make passing the Standard Unit By-law a top priority.
GQ: Had you previously attempted to pass the bylaw?
V: The corporation had tried years back to pass this bylaw on our own, but could not reach the 50% +1 owner majority needed to pass this bylaw. The owners did not understand what was happening, and why it was important to vote.
GQ: What steps did you take to pass the bylaw? Did you use any particular tools?
V: Our first step was to verify every owner's contact information. We understood that every owner with an incorrect email address meant one less unit able to easily cast their proxy online. GetQuorum helped to assist us in this process by sending back a list of emails that had bounced, and we worked together to update our owner's registry. The second step was to send regular reminders to educate owners on why this bylaw was important to them. We didn't want to send out any long letters or emails because we knew no one would read them. Instead, our strategy was to focus on one point and make this bylaw easy to understand.
Our pitch was simple: if flooring is included in our standard unit and insurance claims including flooring kept occurring, then our insurance deductible would continue to increase, and the corporation would have no choice, but to also increase maintenance fees. The main point of passing this bylaw was to avoid higher maintenance fees in the future. All owners will want low maintenance fees, so explaining the bylaw with this simple explanation helped the corporation gain the favourable support it needed. Besides using GetQuorum to help collect proxies, we also found the deferred voting option on the new proxy quite favourable to us. Although some owners did not feel comfortable casting a vote for or against the Standard Unit Bylaw, they felt that they could trust their board to make the best decision for them and the community on their behalf. Those additional deferred votes in favour are what allowed us to pass our bylaw with such overwhelming support.
GQ: What have been the results of successfully implementing this bylaw?
V: Since successfully passing the Standard Unit Bylaw, floor damage has become each owner's individual responsibility. Fewer claims mean we'll be able to negotiate a lower deductible from our insurance provider in the next fiscal year. As a result, we'll be able to rely on our insurance for smaller claims, all while having less money in our yearly budget put away for deductibles.
GQ: What recommendations would you have for Property Managers trying to do something similar?
V: Ensuring that your corporation has a Standard Unit Bylaw is a part of your job. If you care about your owners and your community, you will make passing this bylaw a priority. If you are in a new condominium, my suggestion is to get rid of the flooring in your Standard Unit definition right away. Since many of your units are still owned by the developer, making this change would be a lot easier as long as the developer is on board. This will save you many headaches in the years to come.
GQ: Would you have done anything differently?
V: I would not do anything differently. We generated strong support for this bylaw using this approach. The bylaw passed with a 65% approval rate and only ~6% opposition, this shows that we did a great job with this campaign.
Our takeaways from Vadim's success are:
- Simplify the messaging - Get to the point and really distill the reasoning behind what passing a bylaw means for owners.
- Constant communication - Regular communication is key for maintaining a connected condo community. However, your approach will need to be targeted to owners who haven't yet cast their proxies or deferred votes, or just haven't made up their minds yet.
- Come up with a plan - Vadim and his board had learned from their previous attempt on passing this bylaw, and wanted to approach this challenge in a different way by educating their owners.