He says he's out to bridge the gap between what
the boards need and the industry provides.
Condo management "is as new as computers and
space travel," he says. It is not yet a profession,
like law or medicine. There's no history upon which
to draw, no accreditation, no formal procedures. Just
ask Helga Duever, vice-president of The Birches at
Lawrence and Midland Aves. When two board members
resigned earlier this year, she was appointed along
with another member, joining three neophyte directors
elected in November, 2001. "We inherited a mess,"
says Duever, who has lived in the 225-unit building
since 1975. Cheques were missing and there was no
documentation for major repairs to the garage, supposedly
carried out about 12 years ago (it's leaking again).
She says former board members told her they didn't
remember who did the repairs, but that the records
were in the office. No records could be found. The
reserve fund isn't up to snuff, she says, and the
pool is closed because of safety concerns.
Duever and another board member attended a seminar
this winter at the Canadian Condominium Institute,
where Rosenberg was giving a talk on mediation. (He's
a former CCI president and the executive director
of the Condominium Dispute Resolution Centre.) Once
they read his bio, they begged him to help. They wanted
to rid themselves of their property management company,
which had replaced one let go in March, 2001.
"We are very happy" with the company Rosenberg
helped them choose, Duever says. "We like the
Rosenberg is still involved, assisting with technicalities
pertaining to the management agreement.
More mundane circumstances sometimes force change,
too. A property manager gets promoted; the company
can't find someone to take over. That's what Carlton-on-the-Park
faced. Donna Brown, vice-president of the 120-suite
building at Jarvis and Carlton Sts., says their small
management company gave notice the first working day
of 2001. The contract was to end March 31, so the
clock was ticking. Rosenberg helped them find another
Finding the right fit for a site manager was tougher.
There's a dearth of experienced property managers
to fill the needs of Toronto's burgeoning condo market.
With the board's agreement, the company placed a young,
inexperienced manager, whom it agreed to mentor. After
18 months, "he's done a wonderful job in some
respects," but has fallen short in others, says
Brown, herself a human resources specialist with the
Ontario government. So Rosenberg has been invited
back to aid in the selection of a new manager. "We're
not really throwing the baby out with the bathwater,"
Brown says. "It's time to change the bathwater."
When Rosenberg is hired, he interviews the board
to assess their needs, inspects the property, reads
the declaration and bylaws along with minutes of board
meetings, which often hold a wealth of information.
He then discusses their objectives, tells them what
to expect from a management company and tailors the
search to their particular needs. He teaches them
how to assess a management company, according to eight
criteria: accountability (management serves the board,
not the other way around); cost savings (bulk buying);
communications with the board and with residents;
site operations; safety aspects; financial issues;
condo expertise (how to enforce bylaws, knowledge
of the new Condo Act); resources (support for the
Rosenberg invites five or six management companies
to inspect the property, send promotional literature,
financial statements, and information on management
format and inspection protocol. He also asks who audits
their work, and solicits references from directors
at similar properties. (To be fair, he suggests current
management participate, but sometimes the condo board
is firm: They want a divorce.)
He'll inspect the properties the companies currently
manage and speak to adjoining condos and former clients.
Afterward, he provides a detailed summary of his findings.
When bids come in, he compares the potential candidates.
The board then cuts the list down to three. Rosenberg
draws up a questionnaire tailored to the condominium's
needs. He controls the interviews, which run one to
1 1/2 hours, followed by the candidates' 15-minute
summations. This avoids what one director calls the
traditional "dog-and-pony show," where a
slick sales pitch may sway a board. In turn, firms
know they're being assessed fairly, according to the
same criteria, Rosenberg says. Afterward, he provides
a detailed analysis of the interviewees.
Once the board chooses a firm, he helps draw up
a management agreement, one that is fair to both
Rosenberg stays involved for the first two months
of the new firm's engagement. What does all this
you ask? For a typical 200-suite building, the cost
is about ½% to 1% of their budget. Expect
a minimum fee of $5,000, a maximum of about $7,500
to $8,000 (say three condo corporations, 900 units
total). Rosenberg says a condo will recover its
three to five times over in the first year from a
more efficient operation.
When he's not spreading the word, Rosenberg indulges
his other passions, for vintage films and music.
He sings with the Avenue Road Arts School, and coaches
in mediation skills workshops at a downtown Toronto