Photograph by F. E. Higgins
26 Canadian Apartment Magazine
takes on new
Senior Executives Acquire Shares
in the Company
By Randy Threndyle
Founded by company President
Brad Smith, Briarlane Rental
Property Management Inc.
recently announced that four
senior vice-presidents, Susanne
Maguire, Monish Comar, Patricia
Brawn and Andrus Kung have
become partners in the firm.
Briarlane Rental Property Management,
a privately-owned third-party property
management company, recently announced
a change in the ownership structure of
the company. Four senior vice-presidents
who had been with the company for many
years will now become partners, or partial
owners of the business.
They are: Susanne Maguire, Briarlane’s
Administration; Monish Comar, VicePresident of Finance and Controller;
Patricia Brawn, Vice-President and General
Manager; and Andrus Kung, Vice President
Operations and Commercial Properties.
Founded by company President, Brad
Smith in 1998, Briarlane manages about 9,000
rental units, as well as 800,000-square-feet of
commercial, industrial and retail space. Most
of the properties the company manages are
in the Greater Toronto Area, with properties
as far west as London and east to Oshawa.
Smith, who will remain as President
and majority owner, says the decision to
bring the senior management team into
an ownership position in the company was
done to benefit the company’s clients and
to ensure continuity.
The company’s clients, he says, will
benefit from the restructuring as they will
be assured that the same management
October 2008 27
Photograph by F. E. Higgins
From left to right: Monish Comar, V.P. Finance & Controller, Susanne Maguire, V.P., Marketing & Administration, Brad W. Smith, President,
Pat Brawn, V.P. & General Manager, Andrus Kung, V.P. Operations & Commercial Properties
“Our clients are happy to hear that we have
put things in place and all of the key people
are going to be here for years and years.”
team will be in place for many more
years. Clients with large portfolios, he
says, were concerned that if he decided to
retire they might be forced to find a new
property manager. “You can image if you
own several thousand residential rental
units, it’s a big undertaking to decide
who will look after them and how they
will be managed.”
Since the company’s clients were happy
with the way the current management
team was handling their properties,
ensuring that those people remained
would secure the company’s future. “Our
clients like my key people, so the best
thing to do was to make my key people
partners in the business, most of whom
are much younger than me,” he says.
“Our clients are very happy to hear
28 Canadian Apartment Magazine
that we have put things in place and all
of the key people are going to be here for
years and years.”
Under the terms of the partnership,
which became effective September
1, Smith remains as the company
president and the majority shareholder.
Over time his share position will
decrease and the partners will become
equal shareholders.
Several of the new partners have
worked with Smith for many years,
some at other companies. Smith, who
is 54-years old, began his career over 30
years ago gaining property management
Corporation where he was involved in
managing the company’s portfolio of
regional shopping malls. At Highmark
properties he handled a large portfolio
of residential, commercial, retail, office
and condominium properties.
Susanne Maguire is Briarlane’s
Vice-President of Marketing and
Administration. Maguire’s background
includes experience in the management
of a variety of rental residential and
condominium properties situated within
the Greater Toronto area. Maguire has
been instrumental in developing many of
the administrative and computer systems
currently in use within Briarlane.
Monish Comar, Vice-President of
Finance and Controller, is a Certified
General Accountant and graduate of
the University of Toronto, Monish has
many years of accounting and financial
experience in the residential, commercial
Photograph by F. E. Higgins
and retail property management sectors.
Prior to his five years leading the finance
and accounting department at Briarlane,
he held positions with Tridel and
Oxford Properties.
Patricia Brawn, the Vice-President and
General Manager of Briarlane, has worked
in the property management field directly
with Smith for over 20 years. Patricia has
been instrumental in attracting excellent
site staff and standardizing procedures at
company-managed properties. She also
works to ensure that the services offered
by the company are consistent and of
high quality.
Andrus Kung, Briarlane’s Vice
President Operations and Commercial
Properties, has a comprehensive
knowledge of both commercial and
over the last 15 years. An honours
graduate from the University of
Western Ontario, Andrus also holds
a Certified Property Manager (CPM)
designation. This formal training,
combined with years of experience,
has been instrumental in allowing
him to implement maintenance and
management procedures at commercial
30 Canadian Apartment Magazine
properties. His work has protected client
investments while at the same time
maximizing revenues. Kung is noted
for working with owners to design
and implement capital work plans that
prepare the client for the future.
Commenting on the new ownership
structure Smith says: “We wanted to
ensure continuity and make sure there
are people here who can look after our
clients. It also allows me the potential to
retire at some point down the road.”
Continuing the current management
structure will help with the company’s
philosophy of building enduring client
relationships by offering sound advice
and effective management strategies.
Briarlane’s senior executives, says
Smith, know that the key to effective
property management is not the size
of the management organization, but
rather its ability to recognize that each
property has its unique characteristics.
The team, he says, delivers its service
in a personalized fashion using highly
qualified and experienced personnel.
Smith says much of the company’s
success is due to the fact that the
company is strictly a third-party property
manager and does not own any real
estate other than its own office building.
“Our clients like the fact that we don’t
have any conflicts of interest. We’re
not competing with them in acquiring
property or cutting special deals for our
own properties,” says Smith
The company’s clients, he says, are
often multi-generational family-run
businesses that need a third-party
property manager who can handle the
day-to-day operations of the business.
“There’s a lot of day-to-day grind in what
we do. We’re responsible 24/7 for toilets
and all other repairs,” he says, adding
“If you’re an owner/operator it can be
quite overwhelming to have to do all
these things yourself.” There is also
the acquired knowledge gained from
running a large portfolio efficiently that
smaller individual owner/operators can
rarely achieve.
As a third-party property manager,
Briarlane has the staff to handle
the complex issues that face many
property owners. Many clients, says
Smith, feel that their time is better
spent “managing the manager” and
freeing up their time to look for
Century Building Restoration Inc. is proud to present you with the highest
quality of services and workmanship concerning building restoration available
on the market.
Being in this business for over 25 years we have established a solid leadership
and a sound relationship with our clients, customers and suppliers.
86 Ringwood Drive #205
Stouffville Ontario L4A 1C3
Tel: 905-640-7773, Toll-Free: 1-866-640-7773
[email protected]
new business opportunities. And,
when clients find a new property, the
Briarlane management team is able
to quickly and effectively turn an
underperforming property into one
that benefits the owner’s portfolio.
One such property was a 150-unit
building in on Glen Erin Drive in
Mississauga Ontario. The building was
purchased by Osgoode Properties, an
Ottawa-based company owned by
Stephen Greenberg. When Greenberg
purchased the property in 2005, 46
suites or over 30 per cent of the building
was vacant. Since the building was
Greenberg’s first purchase in the Toronto
area, he set about finding a local property
manager to renovate the property and
increase its profitability.
Smith, who was introduced to
Greenberg through the real estate agent
involved in the sale, says Briarlane won
the management contract based on his
references and a list of recommended
property improvements that he and his
staff prepared. “What we recommended
was exactly what Stephen wanted to do,
so we hit it off right away,” he says.
Improved Security
Among the first improvements was a
better security system for the building.
All the locks in the suites were re-keyed
and a key fob system was introduced to
improve security in the common areas
and entrance of the building.
The key fob entry system works using a
proximity reader, so residents don’t have
to actually put the fob into the door. The
reader detects the fob and lets tenants into
any area they are entitled to enter. If, for
instance, they don’t have underground
parking, they can’t get into the garage,
but if they are paying for parking, they
can get into the garage.
The key fob registers on Briarlane’s
computer, so the property managers can
keep track of everyone who comes into
the building, what time they entered and
where they went. The key fobs increase
resident security as, if someone moves
out of the building and doesn’t return
their key, that key fob can simply be
eliminated from the system, rendering
it inactive. “It eliminates the problem
32 Canadian Apartment Magazine
where we don’t know where all the
keys to the building are and it makes the
building much more secure,” says Smith.
In addition to controlling the parking
areas, the key fobs also give residents
access to the main entrance doors and
the laundry room.
To further increase security, cameras
were installed at the all the building
entrances, in the parking garage and
in the elevators. Cameras also record
everyone who enters the lobby or the
laundry room. “If you come into the
building, you’re on camera,” says Smith.
To further increase security in the
laundry room a card payment system
was put in. It allows residents to pay
for laundry services by simply loading
the card with a set amount of cash. The
card can then be used to operate the
machines. Not only does that increase
resident convenience, it also reduces
theft as there is little or no cash in the
laundry room.
The fire alarm system, which dated
to the 1970s, was also replaced. Under
current fire codes, new fire alarms
have to meet audibility levels in every
room. Since the fire alarm system
couldn’t be upgraded to meet the
new standards a decision was made to
replace it.
Smith says the renovation also
included improvements to many
resident facilities like the laundry
room, which got new high-efficiency
machines and new decorating aimed at
making it a pleasant and clean place for
residents. The laundry room now has
new countertops and cabinets, as well
as a sitting area.
A community social room, which had
deteriorated into a junk storage room,
was also cleaned up and made into a
Congratulations Briarline Property Management!
“You don’t run into that many
golden opportunities to do such
an easy conversion.”
room where tenant functions can be
held. New ceramic floors, cabinets and
window blinds were added at a cost of
about $11,000.
The hallways and other common areas
also got a makeover. In many cases that
meant repairing drywall and replacing
ceiling tiles. As well, new ceramic tile
and baseboard was installed in the
elevator landing areas on each floor.
With new carpets, paint and chair rail
the hallways are now decorated to the
same quality one would expect to find in
a condominium, says Smith.
New indoor and outdoor common
area lighting was installed by Mercury
Lighting Limited. The new lighting both
improved the look of the building and
lowed energy costs. It included lighting
in the corridors, stairwells, elevators and
the indoor and outdoor parking areas.
The energy-efficient lighting is expected
to save over $14,000 per year. Inside
the suite, lights were replaced with new
energy-efficient fixtures.
Improved Curb Appeal
Outside the building, a number of
upgrades were undertaken to improve
the building’s curb appeal. That
involved installing a new tile floor
at the front entrance and making
landscaping improvements.
With this building, however, there
was a challenge not normally faced by
property managers. In this case, the
main entrance to the building does
not face the street. The building’s front
entrance is located on the east side of
the building, but the main road, by
which residents enter the property, is
Glen Erin Drive, which is on the west
side of the building.
To someone driving by, the back
of the building looked like the front
entrance. Adding to the problem was
the fact that the garbage bins sat in
what looked to potential residents, like
the front of the building.
To solve the problem Briarlane built
an enclosure to hide the garbage bins
and improved the landscaping to make
the back entrance more appealing. “Now
the back entrance looks as nice as our
front entrance, even though our front
34 Canadian Apartment Magazine
entrance is still on the other side of the
building,” says Smith.
Inside the suites Briarlane undertook a
number of upgrades aimed at improving
the quality of the suites and addressing
a long list of in-suite deficiencies. Insuite maintenance, says Smith, had
not been kept up-to-date and in many
cases, residents had given up on asking
for repairs.
Since the building had a number
of vacancies, Briarlane began by
refurbishing those suites and doing the
rest on turnover. In occupied suites,
where a complete overhaul is difficult,
repairs were carried out to bring the
units back to proper standards.
On turnover, suites are given new
bathroom fixtures and tub surround
and kitchens get new countertops and
ceramic backsplashes. The kitchens also
get ceramic floors and new appliances.
The upgrades, says Smith, are meant to
bring the units to condominium quality.
Using ceramic tile, he says, is only a little
more expensive than vinyl tile and has
the advantage of looking better and
lasting longer. He estimates that about 85
per cent of the suites have been renovated
in the past two years.
In one area, Briarlane was able to
dramatically increase the building’s
revenue. On inspecting the building
the company found that 13 floors in the
14-storey building had an empty room
opposite the elevator landing. The rooms,
which had balconies but were otherwise
vacant, had apparently been set aside for
storage. Instead they had sat unused and
collecting dust for over 30 years.
Each of the 450-square-foot rooms
was converted into a bachelor apartment
at a total cost of approximately $400,000.
The annual rent on the 13 units is just
over $100,000, giving a payback period
of four years. “You don’t run into that
many golden opportunities to do such
an easy conversion,” says Smith.
Another in-suite improvement currently
under way is sub-metering, which will
see each unit pay its own electricity bill.
Smith says new sub-metering systems
are much easier to put in as there is no
36 Canadian Apartment Magazine
requirement to install a glass meter for
each unit.
Instead, a computer chip monitors
each unit’s electrical consumption. The
chip relays the information back to a
computer which tracks the amount of
electricity going into the apartment.
Each chip is government approved and
only licensed companies can install and
monitor the sub-meters.
While the property managers are
not responsible for monitoring the
electricity usage, they do get a weekly
printout of current usage on each unit
in the building. Smith says that is useful
information as it allows you to speak
directly with the tenants who are using
the most electricity.
“Often we find they have two
refrigerators and/or a high consumption
appliance like an electric barbeque,” he
says. But in one apartment in another
building they found a marijuana
grow-op in one of the bedrooms. High
electrical usage “kind of waves a red
flag,” to building managers, says Smith.
“For operators of apartment buildings,
it’s a big problem these days.”
In buildings where sub-metering has
been done, tenants typically begin paying
the electric bill on turnover. Smith says
their experience has been that most
tenants benefit from sub-metering. The
tenant’s rent is decreased and they pay
only for the electricity they use.
Under sub-metering, the amount of
electricity used by the common areas is
calculated and subtracted from the total
electrical consumption of the building.
The remaining amount is attributed to
each unit on a square-footage basis. That
amount is then subtracted from each
unit’s rent.
Smith says most tenants like submetering as they can save money by
reducing their electrical consumption.
Before, they might have gone to work and
left the lights on or the air conditioner
running. Now, he says, when they switch
off the lights, they are saving money.
Some tenants have reduced electrical
consumption by 20 to 30 per cent.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Smith,
adding, “It’s good for Ontario, because
we’re using less electricity. In Europe
everybody pays for what they use, and
that’s the way it should be here. Then
people are cost-conscious. Once you give
people carte blanche to abuse, they are
going to bend the rules.”
Smith says Briarlane’s ability to take
over problem properties and make them
profitable is one of the main reasons
that building owners have stuck with
the company. At the Glen Erin Drive
building, vacancy rates went from 30
percent two years ago to zero today.
“Owners of buildings like to hire
us because not only are we excellent
operators but we have expertise in
renovating buildings. We can get the
work done properly at good prices
and we can get the income up as fast
as possible.”
At Glen Erin Drive Smith estimates
the company spent about $1.2 million
or about $7,300 per unit, a cost offset by
the now achieved significant increase in
the value of the units and the higher per
suite rental rates. CA M
' (
We know how to help Briarlane rent more
We’ve been doing it for over 18 years
519.672.7368 [email protected]