The Not-so-hidden “Hidden Costs” in Condo Management Agreements

Cell phone plans. Airline tickets. Cable bills. Even your favourite food delivery app. They’ve all got one thing in common: hidden fees. Extra little charges above and beyond what you’d budgeted for when making apurchasing decision that are tossed on, tucked in, or snuck through in the final moments before you make a purchase – if they’re even mentioned at all.

You’ll notice that we (rather pointedly) left one specific transaction off that list: condo management agreements. Now, before you log into your Facebook account to rage-post to your forum of choice about how “YES THERE ARE TOO HIDDEN FEES IN CONDO MANAGEMENT CONTRACTS,” we’d like to ask you to take a moment and hear us out, first.

Because unless you’re dealing with a shady fly-by-night sort of condo management operation, there really are no hidden costs associated with condo management agreements – only miscommunications between owners, boards, and condo management companies.

If There Aren’t Any Hidden Costs, Explain Where These Charges Came From!

Here’s the crux of our argument, one more time: any legitimate, above-board condo management company isn’t going to go around slipping hidden fees into their condo association management agreement. That’s just bad business – and trust us when we say that the last thing any condo management company wants is to be associated with shady business practices.

Rather, if you believe you’re feeling the sting of hidden condo management fees, it’s likely that the cause is simply a lack of clarity and understanding about how you’re being billed, rather than a series of nefarious, cleverly-placed hidden fees designed to bleed your condo corporation of every last dollar it’s got. We’d suggest that you take a look at your condo management contract quickly, one more time. Specifically, there should be a section called “Schedule A” that details any additional costs above and beyond what your primary condo management service fees would be expected to cover.

Printing costs is one such additional Schedule A cost that we tend to hear about fairly regularly: this includes the additional charges associated with printing door-to-door mailers, meeting agendas, post-meeting minutes, AGM notifications and any other additional notices – because, at the end of the day, we’re a condo management company, not a Staples. 🤷♂️

To avoid feeling like you’ve been burnt and to get a better understanding of what your condo management bill might look like at the end of the day, be sure to take the time while interviewing prospective condo management companies what other costs they might have that go above and beyond primary management services. If there are any additional, break-away costs that are not identified by within their Schedule A, you’ll be able to get a clear understanding of what your management costs will look like before making any commitments.

Condo Management Companies Are Not Catch-All’s

The big thing to keep in mind when doing business with a condo management company is that, like any business, these teams offer a specific set of services for a clearly defined price. The difference between condo management companies and other sorts of services that you pay for is that oftentimes, condo management companies are willing to go above and beyond what their primary services are at the behest of the condo board; that doesn’t mean that that initially-agreed-upon price is a catch-all. As in any line of work, extra effort typically requires additional compensation, and this is where a lack of clarity or transparency between boards and management companies can sometimes manifest itself as perceived “hidden fees.”

Further muddying the waters is the fact that condo management companies can sometimes have baked into their agreements that when asked to do something outside of their typical realm of services, they’re authorized to bill the condo corporation and pay themselves for the effort without any sort of additional sign-off from the condo board. These sorts of stipulations are generally put in place for efficiency’s sake and to cut through the red tape – but, again, can certainly run the risk of being perceived as underhanded or hidden charges.

It all boils down to essentially one thing: properly managing expectations. A condo company expecting additional compensation for additional work isn’t wrong. It just requires crystal-clear communication so that everyone is in the loop and nobody feels like they’re being surprised with additional payments at any point along the way. As a condo board, take the time to go out of your way when exploring potential management companies for your condo community and ask how charges for additional services are handled to protect yourself from feeling burnt by a bigger-than-anticipated number at the bottom of your bill.

The Long and the Short of It

We hope this blog has helped provide a bit of clarity and cleared up any sore feelings anyone in our audience might have about feeling as though they’ve been overcharged or put through the wringer by their condo company’s “hidden fees.” The big takeaway, we’ll stress again, is this: just like you’d ask for a bit of extra pay if your boss asked you to do more work than normal, the same goes for your condo company. When you earn overtime, you’re not hitting your boss with “hidden fees,” there’s a clearly communicated understanding that this is how things work. Likewise, with your condo management agreement. So long as you’ve got a solid understanding of what’s in the contract your condo board signs with your management company, and there’s open and honest communication between your two parties, any talk of hidden charges should be essentially non-existent.

Still feel like you’re being burnt by hidden fees from your condo management company? Looking for a bit of an explanation on Schedule A, or any other details surrounding your current condo management agreement? Give us a call at Catalyst Condo Management Ltd today – we’ll be happy to help clear things up and clarify the process in any way that we can.