By Colleen Tang
Whether you manage one 36-unit walk-up or multiple high-rise residential buildings, you still need tenants. And in this wavering economy, people are looking for a little more stability before they sign on the dotted line.
That’s why many property managers in Ontario are considering the Certified Rental Building (CRB) Program. This program, launched more than three years ago, helps Ontario tenants find quality apartment homes by showing them which buildings have met a set of quality-assurance criteria developed by industry experts, says Ted Whitehead, director of certification for the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) and its CRB Program.
"If you’re signing a year-long lease, you want to make sure the property management company operating that lease is running a professionally well-run, well-managed building—that if you have issues and concerns, they will respond in a responsible way," Whitehead says.
According to Whitehead, there are more than 100,000 suites and 1,400 multi-residential apartment buildings currently enrolled in the CRB Program. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know to get your property enrolled:
Before you can begin the building certification process, you need to become a member of the FRPO, the largest association in Ontario representing those who own, manage, build and finance residential rental properties. For information about membership costs, visit the FRPO website at www.frpo.org. Existing members can get a building enrolment kit by contacting Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org. All prospective applicants must review the CRB Program contract provisions, sign an owners contract and record all buildings they want certified.
But it’s not just properties that need to be certified—employees also need to attend a one-day CRB property manager’s training and education course. Concert Properties, a Vancouver-based real estate company, found the CRB training so useful they even incorporated some of its aspects into their internal training program, says Rod Pirie, regional manager of residential properties for Concert Realty Services Ltd., the real estate management arm of Concert Properties.
Next, property managers are required to establish a "compliance binder" demonstrating proof that their building is fully compliant with the CRB Program’s many standards of practice, which include criteria for everything from daily operating procedures to human resource and customer service management. The binder will be reviewed at the building’s management site office, and any gaps in policies, processes or procedures must be addressed before requesting the next step—a third-party audit.
The list of standards can be obtained from the FRPO. Whitehead says property managers likely don’t even think about many of these procedures until they undergo the CRB self-evaluation. For example, one CRB standard requires property managers and owners to have formal documents showing how tenant maintenance requests or inquiries are received and how they are handled and resolved.
Once property managers feel they are ready, they should contact the director of certification to schedule a building audit. The program’s third-party auditor, J.D. Power and Associates, will conduct a formal audit of any enrolled buildings to make sure they comply with the standards.
"They check for work orders to see how you're responding to residents; they check building cleanliness; they check for your contracts; they check how you maintain your heating and your [air conditioning]," says Jennifer Collier, building and resident services manager at Concert Properties’ Village Gate West community in the Toronto area. "The whole audit process could take three hours."
A report by the auditor is then sent to the director of the CRB Program. All approved buildings are also subject to random audits in the future to ensure that quality is maintained. If there are any issues with your random audit, the auditor will give you a set amount of time to resolve them.
After everything is fixed and approved by the auditor, a report will go to the CRB’s governance committee, and that committee will do a final review. Each building certification is good for three years, after which the building must be re-certified to maintain its status.
Once you are approved for the CRB Program, you will receive an official certificate and promotional materials to show potential residents that you have achieved certification.
"The more a property owner can take from the program and implement as standard processes, it's only going to help them because it's going to become a more recognized standard from a customer's point of view," Pirie says. "We're starting to see that."