The following article was originally published in the OBOA Journal and has been reprinted with permission from the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA)
Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you — starting a new business from scratch is hard work. Add to that the complexities of delivering a government mandate, and you have a quandary. Mix in the additional ingredient of a very short time frame in which to operationalize a licensing system for a sector that has never been regulated, and you have what for most would be an almost impossible scenario. Despite all the initial seemingly insurmountable obstacles, our small but dynamic and capable team were up to the task, and through their efforts we achieved all our core milestones on time and on budget.
Before the Condo Management Regulatory Authority (CMRAO) was conceived as an entity, there was a considerable amount of public consultation and policy review work done by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS).
In 2012, the government initiated an extensive review of condo law that involved an 18-month public engagement process. This review process generated more than 2,000 submissions and more than 200 recommendations focusing on five key areas, with calls to strengthen consumer protection and support the needs of both current and future condo owners. The review involved condo owners, residents, developers, managers and other experts, and included a recommendation for professionally licensed condo managers. Based on the results of the review, new legislation, the Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015 (PCOA), was introduced. This marked the first overhaul of the province’s condo law in over 16 years and led to the establishment of two separate and distinct new administrative authorities.
The PCOA amended the Condominium Act, 1998 and enabled the establishment of the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO), which would provide quick, low-cost resolution and help prevent disputes, primarily between condo owners and boards of condo corporations.
Additionally, it enacted the Condominium Management Services Act, 2015 (CMSA), which led to the establishment of the CMRAO. The CMSA outlined what would become the core mandate of the CMRAO at designation, including setting training and education requirements, establishing a compulsory licensing system for condo managers and management providers, ensuring compliance to a code of ethics and establishing a process for responding to complaints regarding condo managers.
In the Ontario public sector, there are two basic service delivery models: those that are delivered through the government and its agencies, and services that are delivered through administrative authorities that are created outside the government. The objective of the administrative authority model is to maintain a responsive, efficient and flexible delivery system that protects the public interest through focused expertise.
On November 1, 2017, the government designated the CMRAO as the administrative authority under the CMSA, giving it the legal authority to make the decisions and establish the necessary processes to make sections of the law reality. As a newly delegated regulatory body providing oversight of condo management companies and managers, the CMRAO ultimately protects consumers in Ontario’s complex and rapidly growing condo industry.
All throughout the journey, there was continuous consultation and stakeholder involvement, and for good reason. There was apprehension and considerable expectation for the CMRAO to deliver to both sides -condo managers and condo owners/directors. The Ministry guided the process, ensuring ample opportunity for feedback along the way, a trend that the organization maintained as we moved closer to operationalizing our mandate.
The CMRAO also established a Stakeholder Implementation Working Group, which consisted of a cross-section of stakeholders representing various perspectives within the condominium industry. The working group supported the CMRAO in advance of designation by providing valuable input and identifying considerations for the implementation of the mandatory licensing program.
From the onset, the CMRAO board of directors established the values that would lead the organization:
• increasing consumer protection
• defining standards for the profession and ensuring accountability
• increasing trust, respect and awareness for the condo management profession
• providing recognition to condo managers for their experience and education with a licence and the ability to practice
• providing clarity and guidance to condo managers through a defined set of standards and ethics
The approach staff took was to deliver a government mandate using a private sector model. There was a startup mindset that embodied both organizations as we moved from phase to phase: concept, to implementation, to operation. Our endeavour from inception was to be highly accountable and fiscally responsible. This meant, in true start-up fashion, relying on a lean team to meet all the goals of the build phase.
The human resources build started in late 2016 with an executive director who had the monumental task of executing the visions of two boards, developing both organizations and finding leaders. The deputy registrars were among the first hires and focused their attention on operationalizing the legislation and forming their respective teams. Both organizations knew from early on that their mandates would be executed using an online platform, so IT infrastructure (and the resources to develop it) would be critical.
The service ethos we have tried to instill across the organization from the very beginning is: do it fairly, do it straightforwardly, work hard and deliver on what you say you are going to. Built from a blank piece of paper in modern times, the CAO and CMRAO are now in line to be record-setting delegated administrative authorities. Though we are fully operational, there is still more to do and more refinements to be made. To make it to the next step of maturity will take years, but we are well on our way.
To date, the CMRAO has received over 3,150 licence applications from condo managers and management companies and has issued over 2,600 licences. The CM RAO has taken its first step towards professionalization of the condo management sector and better consumer protection for owners and residents living in condominiums across the province.
The success of the organization is built on our people. Thanks to a committed team that works diligently to deliver our core mandate of regulating the condo management sector, the CM RAO is well-positioned for the new challenges that lie ahead. ■
Ali Arlani was the Director of the Building and Development Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and was previously the Chief Executive Officer of the Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario. He served as the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the Agency and Tribunal Relations Division prior to his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the CMRAO.
Aubrey LeBlanc is the Chief Administrative Officer of the OBOA and is responsible for all aspects of the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA) mandate of training development and delivery, advocacy, certification and continuing professional development, and innovation and knowledge transfer in the building sector.