Alberta's Condo Property Act ineffective at protecting fraud victims: Condo owners advocate
CALGARY -- This is the second part of Kathy Le's two-part investigation into alleged condo fraud. Part 1, which explored the allegations against Carol Lloyd, is available here: Calgary woman accused of stealing millions from condo corporations
Despite amendments made Jan. 1 to the Condominium Property Act -- meant to cut red tape and protect condo owners and their investments -- some critics say it doesn’t go far enough.
Effective now, condo corporations must have insurance to protect themselves against fraudulent or dishonest acts, specifically pointing to crimes committed by condo board members or property managers. Condo owners advocate Sharon Blondin says there also needs to be a body that will regulate condo managers.
"Until there is a better, more time and cost efficient avenue toward accountability and some form of justice, it will continue to happen and part of the reason is because it can virtually go unnoticed," said Blondin of the Condo Owners Council of Alberta.
A CTV News investigation uncovered alleged fraud involving a former property manager of First Service Residential. Carol Lloyd, who police say has since fled to the United Kingdom, is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant after allegedly stealing almost $2 million from condo corporations in Calgary.
Some residents from Origins at Cranston — the condo complex in southeast Calgary where Lloyd worked as a property manager — tell CTV News they weren’t officially notified of Lloyd’s alleged illegal activities and found out through CTV News. FirstService Residential offered a statement to CTV News saying board members of the condo corporations affected were notified immediately and reimbursed fully.
A Calgary lawyer, who is not involved in the case, says generally speaking, the condo owners could potentially have a claim for breach of contract. Using a contract between FirstService Residential and Origins at Cranston as an example, Ryan Phillips points to a clause that states the property manager agrees to handle money on behalf of the corporation faithfully, diligently and honestly.
"If there are a number of claimants it would be best for those claimants to come together and probably retain the same or few lawyers together to prosecute their actions for them and make it cost effective," said Phillips.
As it stands, Blondin says if there is a dispute or a crime has been committed, court is the only option for condo owners. She says a tribunal where matters can be resolved outside of court would help.
"It’s long past time that Alberta caught up with jurisdiction in Canada and around the world when it comes to options for owners to settle disputes."
Blondin adds there should be higher standards when it comes to who is hired as the property manager and also who sits on the condo board.
"Sometimes you have a board of directors who is ill-informed and you have a property manager who is ill-informed and that's a recipe for everything going wrong," said Blondin. "Owners should be much more aware of their responsibility to keep the hands on the wheel of their very own investments."
The former board member is hopeful other residents at Origins at Cranston will band together and the province will step in.
"I would like to see some checks and balances in place. I would like to see the province do something to prevent this from happening to anybody else."
If you believe your condo corporation might have been impacted by this alleged fraud or have other stories worth investigating, please contact Kathy Le at firstname.lastname@example.org.