Wednesday, 14 June 2017

FIRE.....The London Apartment Fire & more

When we woke up this morning we were greeted with the news of the devastating fire in London and my first thought was how could that happen and could that happen here in our side of the world.    I find this fire very interesting and incredibly unfortunate for all of the lives lost but I believe there is alot to be learned from this and I will be following the investigation.   I have reached out to some industry professionals including my brother Nick who is the Chief Fire inspector for Whitby Fire.  

In my experience there are 3 main areas of fire that happen in our world..... kitchen/grease fires, 
balcony fires and careless smoking.    I know that other types of fires do occur but these are the most common.    Through the years I have been through several kitchen fires and have actually stopped a few....we would receive a report from a resident that someone's smoke detector was beeping and when checking the unit it was full of smoke and minutes(seconds) from flaming over....scarry when it happens.   Thankfully in most newer buildings they are fully sprinkled which should be a good thing but we recently had a kitchen fire in a unit and 2 sprinklers blew and put out the fire.  The problem was that the water ran for about 40 to 45 minutes and we now have 25 units with water damage.    Not sure which is better (or worse) as this will probably end up a $200K insurance claim.

It seems like every day there is a news report about another balcony fire caused by lit cigarette butts.   I have been a nonsmoker for about 17 years now but I do know the addiction with smoking and I am sure that I probably threw more than a few butts which could have caused a fire but now I see how dangerous that is. ....we are getting closer to smoke free buildings but we are not quite there yet.   I have had a couple of buildings that have made rules banning smoking in balconies and terraces but it can be very difficult to actually catch the person who is smoking.  I think the only thing we can do is continue to send reminders to the owners and residents to try to stop this.   Anyone who has an idea or solution please share it with me.

In the same vein careless smoking used to be a more serious problem but in our new world more people are choosing not to smoke and hopefully that trend will continue.    I have experienced several careless smoking fires in Buildings but the worst one was in an older unsprinklered 3 story wooden structure in BC.   There was a woman on the first floor who was on oxygen and a smoker....they figure that she fallen asleep with a cigarette and the fire took her unit, blew the oxygen tank and went out to her balcony...the flame caught to the upper balcony on the second floor which had a propane BBQ......when that blew it took out the entire corner of the building...unfortunately I believe 2 or 3 people died in that one.

Bottom line is as property managers we need to always be aware of the dangers and ensure that our systems and records are completely up to date and we work hard to improve community Fire awareness..    I will post more on this topic later after I learn more about the London Fire.   

I encourage anyone who would like to add their comments, property management stories, good or bad, to get the momentum going.   If you would like to contact me directly I can be reached through my Twitter page @rcmkmiddleton  or through my LinkedIn page

Monday, 14 March 2016

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life of A Condo Manager

11:30 p.m.: Arrived home from a long Board meeting
1:15 a.m.:   Finished some follow up work from the upcoming Annual General Meeting and went to
3:30 a.m.:   The new Concierge calls to ask if it is OK to let a resident into their Suite (They had 
                    been out to the pub and lost their keys)
6:00 a.m.:   The Concierge calls again (very apologetic) to say that the Garage door is not working 
                   ...What should he do.....
6:45 a.m.    The Superintendent calls to say that he is snowed in @ Blue Mountain and won't be able 
                    to make it back for work.
7:15 a.m.:   Stuck on the 404/DVP because of an accident and not moving.....(should have taken an 
                   alternate route)
7:45.a.m.:   Still stuck in the traffic jam the President of the Board calls you to tell you that the                                Garage Door is broken.....again....and what are YOU doing to fix it.....
7:55 a.m.:   Called the Overhead Door find out what is happening with the 
8:05 a.m.: Treasurer calls as he has been reviewing the Financial statements and has a few questions
8:28 a.m.:  Call Your Accounting department and left a message about the changes requested by the 
8:45 a.m.:  Finally reach the building to find 4 fire trucks, 3 police cars and an ambulance.....

All of this before 9:00 a.m.....It's going to be a long LONG day.....Although this may seem a little extreme.... I Am sure that a lot of Condo Property Managers can relate to this.

A number of years ago (2005)  I wrote and article for the CCI Vancouver newsletter called....A Day in the Life.....which laid out a similar timetable but 11 years later I can say that things have not changed much.  I have personally been working in the Condos Industry since May 1990 and became an RCM (Registered Condo Manager) in December 1992.

Anyone who has been in the Condo Industry in Ontario or anywhere in North America I am sure, can relate that the Condo industry can be both very difficult and challenging  most of the time... but also very rewarding at others.   In the world of Property Management most people, unless you are somehow involved in the Condo Industry, have no idea what a Property Manager does or deals with on a day to day basis.  

Many people think that we are the Superintendent of a building, when in fact the Property Manager is responsible for the day to day operation of all aspects of the building including site staff and trades that are working in a building at any given time.  As a Manager, you need to be knowledgeable in so many different aspects of a building such as... plumbing, electrical, HVAC Systems, elevators, general building maintenance procedures, and so much more....The Property Manager is responsible to oversee all staff for a building which can number from 1 or 2 to 15-20 or more depending on the size of the complex.     At any given time in a building you have have 5 to 10 different trades working on various things in a building.   The plumber is fixing a leak in one unit, the HVAC tech is working on the boilers, the electrician is working on a power issue in the electrical room....oh ya...and the Overhead door tech is working on the garage door (you hope).

A Manager also needs to be aware and have an understanding on engineering issues, insurance, accounting, budgeting, financial statements, investments, contract negotiation, administration, and of course Condo Law and all of the numerous government and building legislation.  You have to be part social worker, part mediator and are the referee between the owners and the various trades and Board of Directors.

In Ontario we are heading into a new era in the Condo world with the introduction of the new Condominium Act and the much talked about and needed licensing of Condominium Property Managers. These changes will be both very positive for the future of the industry and very challenging for all Property Managers both existing and those coming into the industry but we look forward to and welcome the the new world that we are entering into..

Over the next few months, I plan to post regular updates to this Blog and encourage any Property Managers that are interested, to also submit your comments and suggestions on topics that could be covered....after 25+ years in the industry, I have many, many, many stories that I have either experienced or heard about other managers experiencing.    I hope you enjoy it.

Kevin Middleton, RCM.