CCI Toronto Blog
Back to School
Back to School: Introduction of Mandatory Education for Condominium Directors
by Marc Bhalla, Editor, Condovoice Magazine
“By lacking understanding they remained sane.” – George Orwell, 1984
The long-awaited introduction of mandatory education for condominium directors is widely regarded as a good thing. After all, if given the choice, who would not want their elected representative to be more informed and knowledgeable? While that may seem simple enough, layers of complexity get added as one considers the road that has led us to mandatory director education and what should be expected out of the required curriculum that is coming.
The Old Volunteer Excuse
Perhaps the most common pushback to the notion of mandatory director education has been the claim that most condominium directors are volunteers who already sacrifice a lot of time in service to their communities. This mindset suggests that requiring additional time of these volunteers will discourage many from considering the role, leaving communities that already struggle to find directors in an even worse position.
Yet, if being educated was a “deal breaker” for a prospective condominium director, why would any condominium unit owner want such an individual leading their community and potentially impacting their investment? Why would a prospective condominium director join the Board if they viewed the opportunity to better understand the role as a bad thing?
If we truly want to strive to improve Ontario’s condominium landscape and promote harmonious communities, surely the old “volunteer” excuse is insufficient to outweigh the benefits of having knowledgeable people serving on condominium boards. While some have already taken the initiative to become informed (as many members of CCI have), too many condominium directors have not. Hence the need to introduce mandatory education.
The “I Know It All Already”
Over the years, I have found myself in several conversations about the need for educated condominium directors. One memorable discussion involved a condominium director claiming that his MBA was proof that he had the required knowledge to serve on his Board. Forgetting for a moment the differences between how condominium corporations and business corporations operate and are structured, the “I know it all already” mentality is a dangerous one to have. Socrates said that “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”. Taking on the important responsibilities that come with being a condominium director while having a mind that is closed to learning is, frankly, scary. Despite what some teenagers may think, no one knows everything.
Lifelong learners are much better equipped to successfully guide a condominium than those who feel that they have no need for more knowledge or, perhaps, that they will somehow lose some of the existing knowledge that they have if they fill their brain with any more wisdom.
A Little Learning…
Perhaps the strongest argument against mandatory condominium director education lies in the wisdom of a famous eighteenth-century poem by English writer Alexander Pope, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” By keeping the mandatory director education curriculum easily digestible and relatively brief, condominium directors will not feel like they need to complete a graduate studies program to be permitted to continue as a board member. Is there a risk that a director will only partially grasp his/her role and responsibilities, serving to give rise to mistakes from an incomplete understanding?
Perhaps the most appropriate way to view the introduction of mandatory condominium education in Ontario is not to expect it to be the final solution for what is needed for condominium boards to be informed, but the beginning – a dip of the toe into the pool of knowledge that is out there. In getting a better understanding of the basics, condominium directors should find themselves better equipped not to know all the answers but rather to know when to ask questions. In-person seminars and courses, publications and other resources offered by the Canadian Condominium Institute can serve as “Your Condo Connection” to the answers.