The best condo communities know how to attract, work with and retain condominium managers. It takes time to match a condominium with the right manager. Communities can struggle with inexperienced management and turnover until that right match is found.
Landmark II of Thornhill, under the management of General Property Management Inc. (GPM), is one such community and has just celebrated its 30th year as a condominium in York Region. Their first and only condominium manager, Lynn Samuels, has worked in all three Landmark buildings. She currently works in Landmark II’s Management Office and manages Landmark Shared Facilities. During her 30 years at the helm of this community Lynn has navigated shifting demographics, conflict and changing boards as the community has grown and prospered.
In honour of Lynn’s 30 years the Board of Directors and Social Committee had a cake and coffee celebration. Hundreds of residents attended to thank Lynn for her dedication, commitment and support.
Toronto Condo News spoke with Lynn about her tenure, what she does and how things have changed in 30 years.
“For an experienced condominium manager, the nuts and bolts of condominium management should be relatively straightforward. Management of people, ensuring systems are maintained and attending meetings are important and time-consuming tasks. They are not overly difficult or challenging. It is resident dealings which can be challenging, contentious and a potential minefield.”
One of Lynn’s favourite phrases is “condo ignorant” by which she refers to those who lived in a house for many years and have no understanding of condo living. They tend not to understand the importance of the condo declaration, bylaws and rules in governing conduct and actions in a condo community.
By far the most important factors when managing a condominium community is communication and education. According to Lynn, “If your residents are educated then even the simplest maintenance becomes a wee bit easier.” Effective public relations are important and takes many forms. “Helping a senior who doesn’t have children, young adults with no parents in the country, or immigrants with little understanding of English are all challenging and time consuming. It could require making a phone call to ensure someone is okay, entering a suite to ensure a resident has not fallen or simply be listening and advising. It’s a lot of helping.”
When Lynn first started most resident communications were in person and by telephone. Today there is far more e-mail interaction along with printed notices, flyers, and texting all taking time out of an already busy day.
The Landmark Community
The Landmark community has residents ranging from infants to 100 years old. “I have seen babies grow up, become independent, move out and sometimes return with their own children. Adults who moved in 30 years ago are now in need of assisted living programs. We host about 25 homecare workers daily for seniors not prepared to give up on condo living. We coordinate the transfer of unit keys and manage parking for these daily workers.”
Lynn describes the main job as to “follow the rules and regulations of the corporation, maintain the property to the best of your ability, work with a board of directors, and prepare reserve fund studies and operating budgets affordable for the corporation and owners.”
Communication and documentation are paramount:
- Providing information to the board of directors on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
- Adhere to obligations of the management agreement between board and management.
- Submission of a management report detailing what took place from one meeting to another inclusive of board requests and status, resident matters, contractor work, financial information, owners in arrears and other matters.
For Lynn transparency is crucial. “The more information provided in the management report, the fewer questions coming from the board.”
Daily activities take up most of Lynn’s time; addressing contractors, employees, and resident matters. Documentation is a big part of the job. Recording everything that occurred, and ensuring this information is accessible when needed, is crucial to the smooth functioning of a large residential community.
Dealing with new and possibly difficult Directors
Working with various personalities can be challenging. Lynn understands that “some personalities and methods don’t always agree” with that of the manager. “You need to know when to push and when to let go” while always maintaining “loyalty” to the corporation. Things can be difficult when board members belittle the manager or make false accusations. Dealing with this in a professional manner is part of the job.
Elections are particularly challenging. The manager should never be involved except to “educate potential candidates on the responsibility of being a director so that, if elected, they can be effective.”
Landmark II relies on technologies that include long-time vendor BuildingLink condo management software to automate community communications, package processing, amenity reservations and service requests. Management and residents have access to the platform via convenient mobile apps and smart home integration.
“These technologies have become essential to communicate with community residents and owners including those out of the country.” They reduce postal costs and simplify bulk communications. Most importantly they are essential to “promote education and inform owners of their responsibilities within suites and common areas.” One particular challenge with e-mail is to ensure they are handled during working hours. “When overwhelmed with work or dealing with demanding residents addressing e-mail outside of working hours may seem appealing. As manager I have a tendency to want to respond quickly, and residents desire quick responses. This can be counterproductive and unhealthy. My approach has been to identify urgent communications in the evening to provide direction for first thing next day.” E-mail and voice communication are effective tools allowing board members to fulfill their commitments while away from home.
Lynn participates in panel discussions with other managers to share opinions of various systems and to share best practices.
Matters relating to mental illness, hoarding and similar ailments
It is surprising how many people are dealing with mental illness. Each situation is unique to the person involved. All require extra attention and written documentation. Some situations involve the Fire Department, social services or family members. Always, focus needs to be on “what is best for the building and the safety of all residents.”
Landmark has evolved to accommodate the growing volume of package deliveries. Landmark II receives up to 75 packages a day with volumes tripling in December. “We have built storage facilities to hold parcels. When a parcel is received it is entered into our logging system; manually or scanned bar code with an e-mail automatically sent to residents with an e-mail address connected to the building system. We may send a text message or call. Security must navigate these delivery methods. Our day concierge has been indispensable in dealing with growing package volumes while keeping up with his other tasks.”
Keeping a community running is a team effort involving many employees. “Without their daily dedication my job as manager would not have been as successful as it has been these past 30 years.”
Among employees, concierge and superintendent are central players. “I have worked with Vinit Shroff for over 12 years and, without his support and assistance, my job would be that much more difficult. Vinit is our day Concierge Supervisor, the hub of our building and in many ways the most valuable employee. He is central to our team and makes the job of manager that much easier.”
In closing Lynn explains her philosophy to dealing with people. “When dealing with those residing in Landmark II, I prefer to use the term “resident” rather than “owner” or “tenant”. I try not to show favouritism or distinction when it comes to obligations, responsibilities or enforcement of governing documents. All residents should be treated equally when it comes to general rules with owners ultimately responsible for actions of their tenants. Residents in Landmark II know I will assist but not at the expense of the corporation or by failing to enforce rules. I have met many wonderful people all with unique stories, backgrounds and personal struggles. I have become a confidant, friend and advisor to many of them, and have been fortunate to work in such a meaningful job and enjoyable community.”
Toronto Condo News congratulates Lynn on her 30-year anniversary at Landmark.