April 5, 2020 - WINNIPEG, MB – Brydges Property Management has identified a systemic lack of compliance to COVID-19 social distancing and self-isolation protocols by residents of the multifamily properties it manages.
The company has been inundated with calls from emotional residents and on-site staff reporting that neighbours are returning from travel and are failing to self-isolate. Brydges is one of the larger property management companies in Manitoba; more than 10,000 condo residents and apartment tenants live in buildings managed by the company.
“This is not about business – it’s about saving people’s lives,” says Brenda Brydges, president of Brydges Property Management.
The company has been contacting non-compliant residents directly, but beyond that there’s little it can do because the measures necessary to allow enforcement are not in place in Manitoba and Winnipeg as they are in other provinces and cities, she adds. She says the company follows the guidelines developed by the Canadian Condominium Institute - National (CCI) as a resource.
“Our concern is that if no one has authority to enforce social distancing and self-isolation among tenants and residents, who are sharing common spaces like lobbies, elevators, stairwells, gyms, laundry areas and hallways, then this puts them at higher risk of infection,” says Brydges. “We need to do everything we can to slow the spread here.”
The property management company has approached the Winnipeg Police Service, the Winnipeg Mayor’s office, city councillors, the Government of Manitoba and two property management associations looking for guidance, but until enforcement measures are enacted in Manitoba, its hands are tied.
“We’re extremely concerned about all our residents, many of whom are scared,” Brydges says. “We’re offering the elderly residents in one of our lower income seniors’ complexes $100 for every month they comply. Still, we’re hearing that some residents refuse to observe basic protection practices.”
Brydges Property Management has gone to great lengths to inform all 10,000+ residents and tenants about social distancing requirements, including removing lobby furniture, locking gyms and closing recreation centres. The company cares for over 175 buildings, representing more than 5,500 units. Brydges says many of the condo association boards she works with have also expressed frustration about their inability to enforce.
“We feel responsible not just for the buildings we manage, but especially for the people who live in them. We’ve seen how the virus can spread in nursing homes and other multi-family buildings in Ontario; I simply can’t sleep at night worrying that people in our multi-family properties could be at an increased risk of infection.”
She adds that the Winnipeg Land Titles and Personal Property Registry Offices will not allow extensions beyond 90 days for registering liens for properties owners in arrears, despite the huge numbers of job losses and ongoing delays in securing financial assistance. Land Titles is also requiring that documents be witnessed, in person, by a commissioner of oaths. Brydges suggested witnessing via video conferencing but to date, the Winnipeg Land Titles Office has not made these updates. She says the Ontario Land Titles Office allows owners to arrange payment plans to assist with the added financial burden, but she has been cautioned by a prominent Winnipeg lawyer that he does not believe Manitoba Land Titles would allow the same.
Brydges has indicated that Manitoba Housing and Renewal and CCI - National have been and continue to be a major source for valuable pandemic information.
“We’re trying to be innovative to protect our residents, staff and partners,” she says. “But so far, we have received little support from decision-makers whose priority should be the protection of Manitobans. We need more definitive preventative and enforcement action now.”