Our third year of operating as a condominium has passed, and it has been a busy one where we worked hard towards making the improvements that our Emerald Community asked for. I am happy to communicate all of the ways that the Board, together with Property Management and all of our cherished staff members, have worked together to complete turning our building into the energy-efficient, safe, and well-maintained masterpiece that all residents call home.
Unlike last year, this year has not been full of changes- in fact, very few differences come to mind. This is because last year was the time for listening to feedback and planning, and this year was the time for doing. We rolled up our sleeves and got right to it! There are, however, a few minor new matters that I will be discussing.
But, first… finances.
Legal & Finances
In September 2014, Owners faced one of our biggest challenges to date due to a massive flood. The fight to recover this cost and the expense of other damages has been on-going, but much more difficult than originally anticipated due to numerous curveballs that the Developer, ELAD, threw our way. Rest assured, we have a great team of lawyers who continue to fight tirelessly on our behalf. We will ensure that all Owners are updated with more information as soon as we have anything new and significant. In the meantime, we have had one success.
A while ago, I personally noticed that I was double-charged for property tax during the Interim Occupancy Period; once by Elad as part of their interim occupancy fees, and again by the City of Toronto as part of their yearly property tax collection. I discussed it with the rest of the Board, and we identified that it may have been a building-wide issue. Turns out, it was- ELAD had charged residents for Property Tax but never forwarded that money to the City, and consequently, the City charged Owners again.
ELAD has recently reimbursed the Corporation approximately $167,000, which will be distributed to all original Owners who were over-charged on the Interim Occupancy Fees collected by the Developer. We will be in touch with all original Owners in the next few weeks regarding this matter.
If anyone has any questions about these matters, please remember them so you can ask our solicitor, Deborah, during the Question & Answer period that will follow.
Maintenance Fees & The Fiscal Year
Currently, our costs are $0.60 per square foot, which falls within the “Below Average” category for condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area. While we originally dealt with the challenges of several years’ worth of inflation, the rise of costs and services, and the introduction of the mortgages of the superintendent’s suite and the guest suite, our current fiscal year reflected the stability and reduction that was promised during our last Annual General Meeting (AGM). This is because, as some of you may remember, we had a significant amount of surplus to rely on, and as such, we chose to use what we already had rather than increase maintenance fees further for all residents.
For comparison purposes, I am also referencing what the standards are across the Greater Toronto Area. These numbers are also included in the President’s Report of your AGM Package, and online at www.EmeraldCityOne.com
Below Average: $0.51 - $0.65 per square foot.
Average: $0.66 - $0.76 per square foot.
Above Average: $0.77 - $0.90 per square foot.
Very High: $0.91 and up
The most recent increase was minimal; the majority was required to replenish the Reserve Fund, most of the remainder was for the higher costs of goods and services, and a small fraction to afford the improvements that were requested by residents and discussed at the previous AGM: expansion of the fitness facilities and a more child-friendly Gymboree.
In regards to the fitness facilities, we did have a significant unforeseen expense with the flooring. The gym floor was not properly insulated for shock and sound transfer, and the loud thuds of dropped weights became a significant issue for the retail units below- to the point where we were threatened with a lawsuit. To prevent spending money on a lawsuit that it is unlikely for us to win, we had to come up with a solution for the problem. After investigating many options, we found one product that was guaranteed to stop the noise and shock transfer. This is the thick black flooring that you now see installed in the strength studio. Since then, we have had no more noise complaints and no lawsuit to try defending.
Another important change that was implemented following an affirmative vote of the majority of all owners is the Occupancy By-Law, which ensures that everyone pays their fair share. The Occupancy Standard is set at two people per bedroom, and anyone who has extra people in their unit will be required to pay an additional fee in order to keep maintenance fees fair. The one exception to this rule is infants under 12 months of age, who will be exempt from the fee after providing proof of age. Andrew will discuss this further later on, and Deborah can also answer any additional questions. Of course, this information is also available on the blog.
How has the Board of Directors Saved Us Money?
Due to the fact that Hydro is a rising cost which we have no control over, the only thing we could control is the efficiency of the building. This was easily and quickly accomplished by tackling the largest portion of our hydro costs: lighting. Lumenixs’ Lighting Retrofit was completed nearly a year ago, and it is thanks to this that we have managed to stay on budget with our Hydro consumption. We also worked with Toronto Hydro to take advantage of other energy-efficient and cost-effective rebate programs available to our building.
Saving on Postage: Email Consent Forms
As always, we’d like to remind residents that it is especially little expenses which add up. Property Management regularly asks residents to complete “Email Consent Forms”, which permit the Corporation to send documents and correspondence via email rather than by post. By allowing email communication, homeowners not only receive pertinent information immediately, but also help us save on the costs of postage and supplies. For those who have not completed theirs, please grab a copy from Management or online at www.EmeraldCityOne.com.
Speaking of the site, I created and launched our website two years ago. Before, we were using BuildingLink, a product that residents did not find easy to use and cost us a yearly fee of over $6,000. The current website costs us much less- we pay less than $1,000 for the costs of the domain, hosting plan, and mailbox usages- and I continue to volunteer my own time in operating it for free in order to keep its costs truly minimal.
I urge all residents to become familiar with this website, as it has a wealth of tools and information of it. If you have any suggestions for the website, please use the Directors email address to send us a message. Currently, I’m working on building a “Frequently Asked Questions” section for it- and have already added the tonight’s pre-submitted questions to the Emerald Blog.
For your information, all bookings are handled primarily through the website: the elevators, the party room, the guest suite, and registration of new residents. Andrew will speak to this later on in the agenda.
Damage to the Common Elements from Moves
Up to a few months ago, the building suffered from lots of damage to the common elements due to move ins and outs. Our building is estimated to have around 70% of its units rented, which means we have very high turnover and lots of elevator bookings. To put a number to it- just last year we had 527 elevator bookings. We constantly had to deal with damages to the elevators, to the hallway carpets or walls, large items such as furniture that were abandoned in common areas, and garbage chute jams due to improper disposal of moving items such as cardboard boxes, cling wrap, etc. If you want to understand these issues better, we have our Superintendents Douglas and Jason here, and you may ask them for more information during our Question & Answer period later on.
As a solution to these costly issues, it was suggested to us by Management and various Security Companies that we do what many other buildings do- make it mandatory for people booking the elevators to hire guards who will monitor everything. We implemented this, at a fee of $100 per time slot, which is what Security Companies charge for the minimum time that they send their guard out.
Of course, a few residents were upset about the fee, which we understand. We used resident feedback to gather information via a survey that was available for two months. The results indicate that 91% of owners who participated in the survey agree that the current policy of mandatorily booking a guard should be maintained. The website we used for this is called SurveyGizmo, and they have a great feature that creates independent reports of the survey results, which we have downloaded. I have printouts available for everyone, and this information may also be found on the Emerald Blog section of our website.
Zero Tolerance For Harassment
One unpleasant item that must be discussed today is Harassment of Staff and Directors. Here at Emerald City One, we have a “Zero Tolerance” policy for harassment. We have had to send out several legal letters- too many- to residents who threatened Staff and Directors with shootings and stabbings, or who raised their voices, became physically intimidating, refused to leave the office when asked to do so, or began using profanity. These letters are costly for the offending resident and the suite owner (if leased), as they are ultimately responsible for the expense.
I will ask Deborah to quote a section of a letter that was written by legal for an offending resident:
“Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Corporation has an obligation to protect its employees from harassment in the workplace. The Corporation is prepared to vigorously enforce this right of its employees. “Harassment” includes engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. It includes unwelcome, unwanted, offensive, or objectionable conduct that may have the effect of: creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; interfering with an individual’s work performance; adversely affecting an individual’s employment relationship; and/or denying an individual dignity and respect.”
The harassment has gotten so extreme in this building that we have had to install audio-video cameras at the Security Desk and in the Management Office. We ask everyone to please take this matter very seriously and to familiarize yourself with the “Workplace Violence and Harassment Memo”, which can be found on our website under the “Rules and Policy” section. And, again, we also have Deborah here and she can answer any other questions you may have on this topic.
One of my last items is to introduce two new faces: Andrew Canali and Kevin Winson.
Andrew has replaced our previous Property Manager, Sheila, as of July 12, 2017. Andrew has already spearheaded many initiatives- such as reducing paper use and increasing productivity- and we can’t wait to see what else he comes up with.
Kevin has been an Officer of the Board for the last two months and is running as a candidate for the election of a Director later this evening. He has been tasked with running the Communications Committee, which is looking for volunteers. If there is anyone interested in joining, please contact us via the Directors email account.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for attending this meeting and being actively involved in the community we all share.