5 Must-Know Problems of High-Rise Buildings

high rise buildingsNearly every Toronto property management company offers administrative services, condominium services, financial services and maintenance management services. While most multi-unit properties will have the same requirements, the action plan will differ depending on the type of building. As you could imagine, the services and maintenance that a low-rise apartment complex requires is quite different from the requirements of a highrise condominium building. For this reason, property owners or condominium board members should only consider hiring property management companies that have experience managing their type of building.

The Toronto Condo “Boom”

The recent construction boom in Toronto opened up thousands of units to homebuyers and tenants, thus offering them the opportunity to dwell in a highly sought after city. Unfortunately, property managers, condo board members and owners are now discovering the results of “slap it together” construction– including climate inefficient designs, unenforced building code violations and inadequate inspections. Some of these builds were not completed up to code, including improperly placed walls and incorrectly glazed windows. Of course, construction that is not up to code can be costly to any building or condominium owner, as having to repair walls and windows on the 39th floor is both risky and costly.

The Canadian Real Estate Association recently reported that despite the above-mentioned issues, the vacancy rate for rentals, most of which are condominiums in high-rise buildings, remains low at almost 2 percent. In addition, condominium prices have increased to nearly 17 percent in the past five years. Since it doesn’t look like the market for high-rise buildings is going to disappear, it is extremely important that property owners and condominium board members bring a good management company on board in order to properly maintain the building. Most importantly, they should take note that not all property management companies are experienced when it comes to managing high-rise buildings.

1) Fire Safety Issues

Among the most obvious of high-rise building issues, fire safety and security are the most concerning. Although numbers aren’t staggeringly high when it comes to occupant deaths caused by fire in Toronto high-rise buildings, even one death is too many. The statistics that have been reported should be enough for property owners and managers to take note. In fact, Toronto high-rise fires have resulted in several deaths between 1981 and 1992, with each death occurring in apartments above the 25th floor. The constant threat of fire forces high-rise owners to fork over big money for 24 hour monitoring of elevators and emergency phone lines.

2) Security Issues

problemsWhen it comes to high-rise buildings, security continues to be a big problem for residents. A number of property management companies complain that disagreements over security costs lead to dispute as condominium board members, owners, and tenants don’t want to shell out extra money for guards, software systems and the operation of closed circuit cameras.

Internationally, high-rise buildings are known for higher crime rates, including drugs, theft and burglary. How could this be? According to Robert Gifford, a professor at the University of Victoria’s psychology department, crime and the fear of crime increases with the height of a high-rise building. Why is that? Gifford explains that it’s due to a few reasons: management can’t afford enough security, strangers can roam around easily, there is lower visibility as compared to low-rise buildings, and there are more hiding places. Security experts say that a luxury high-rise is going to invite high-end burglars. A high-rise that isn’t new and properly maintained may be equated with lower-income housing, thus attracting drug dealers and vandalism.

3) Higher Operating Costs

Anything pertaining to high-rise maintenance is going to cost more, thus the surplus is likely tacked on to the condominium management fees, or rental costs. Typically, those living in a high-rise building, whether they own their unit or just rent, are going to have a difficult time with the increasing maintenance management fees and maintenance surcharges. Property management companies who have experience managing high-rise buildings should be able to handle such issues preventatively in order to decrease operating costs.

4) Tenant’s Refusal to Pay

Higher operating costs lead to a “catch 22”, as some tenants and owners refuse to pay the increased rent or maintenance management fees. In the worst case scenario, the maintenance and management funds begin to disappear, resulting in service calls being attended more slowly, repairs going unresolved, and regular maintenance being put off. As a consequence, some residents will hold back rent or maintenance management fees, and some stop following the rules of the condominium board. This, of course, causes maintenance fees to increase, however, don’t think that such increases are restricted to buildings built before the 1970s; the average maintenance fee for new high-rise condominium units will increase by 14.9% over the first three years of ownership.

5) Elevator Maintenance Issues

Property management companies that have experience with high-rise buildings understand the importance of elevator safety and maintenance. In fact, every high-rise building is going to be dependent on a safe and reliable elevator to service its residents. The codes and service contracts in Canada are extensive, and elevator manufacturers are continuing to lessen their service obligations and warranties when it comes to high-rise buildings. New elevator technologies, and it’s increased the opportunity for malfunction, is a cost that inexperienced property management companies fail to include in their year projections.

When considering high-rise elevators, property owners and managers need to consider things such as door detection devices, occupant evacuation operation, life safety operations, door operations, hydraulic oil levels, and evacuation procedures. A Maintenance Control Plan is essential in order to incorporate today’s technology into the elevator design. If management fails to meet the requirements for maintenance, testing and operation, building owners and tenants will be strapped with the cost of repair when the elevator manufacturing company fails to cover it.


When it comes to managing a building or condominium complex, there is a myriad of rules, bylaws and rental strategies that need to be considered. This is especially the case for the management of high-rise buildings. Real estate investors, property management companies and the board of directors of high-rise buildings are finding that experienced property management companies are worth their weight in gold.

If you are interested in how ICC® ’s high-rise property management services can benefit your high-rise building, give us a call for a free comprehensive proposal.

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