2020 has been a year of getting to know our own homes. Perhaps more than we’d like.
For apartment and condo dwellers, problems can pop up that didn’t exist before. Maybe a neighbour’s barking dog wasn’t an issue until you had to put in an eight-hour workday at home. Or perhaps your pandemic soundtrack is the person next door whose pandemic hobby is learning to play the drums.
Condo complaints are on the rise, and nobody knows it better than Shane Haskell, CEO and president of Lionheart Property Management in London, Ont.
Haskell spoke to Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about how the pandemic has changed the day-to-day duties for his company, which manages more than sixty residential properties in London, Grand Bend and Toronto.
Q: What are some of the most common complaints that you’re hearing from tenants as people continue to spend more time at home?
There’s lots of different factors that have played into the pandemic this year. For example, some people have gotten additional pets. There are more issues over parking. And with more people working at home, it’s creating additional garbage because there’s more packages coming in and utility costs are rising because people are at home – more showers, additional electricity usage, that type of thing.
Q: You mentioned the three P’s: pets, parking and people. To what degree are tenants suffering from these kinds of issues?
It’s quite common, and more so in high rises and such where you’re seeing the utilities that are included in condo fees. Those fees are actually rising, which is putting additional pressure on budgets that we have, which is costing the corporation more money. And there are lots of people that aren’t working, or are dealing with reduced wages and such. So that’s causing financial strain there.
Q: How would you compare your day-to-day work with how it looked, say, a year or two ago?
It’s actually become a lot of ‘people management’, not so much property management (laughs). So, you know, so it’s varying degrees of communication. We’re having to communicate a lot more with the owners, with board members, with contractors.
Also, people staying at home are now actually finding more things that needed to be fixed. And there’s less people to actually go around to get that work done. So that’s impacted a lot, as well. People’s emotions are high. So, yeah, there’s extra stress. Tenants often call us with not-so-positive communication. So, all around, it’s been about trying to be forthcoming with information that we have about some of the different processes that we do are delayed right now.
Q: It sounds like a multitude of factors on top of each other: people are at home more, so there’s more time spent with the neighbour next door, whether they like it or not. They also have more time to find things around the house that are broken, and then it’s harder to find people to fix things. What are some of the the craziest stories that you’ve heard that really stand out in your mind in terms of some of the issues people are having?
Aside from some of the common issues that pertain to parking and that type of thing, some of the challenges are related to government restrictions right now. Because of bylaws around masks, we’ve had to create notices that have to be posted within the buildings to comply with the COVID guidelines. And so, people call and complain that, oh ‘this person is not wearing a mask, that person’s not wearing a mask.’ But I don’t have the authority to do anything about that, other than posting what’s required in the municipality. And, you know, it’s been challenging.
Q: What do you expect next year to be like?
I’m hoping a lot better! (laughs). I’m certainly hopeful.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.