Communicating Condo Association Bad News


Shockingly, it isn’t always rainbows, puppy dogs and chocolate in a Condo Association.  Sometimes there are things that go wrong.  It might be your air conditioner dying during the hottest week of the year, a crime incident where an Owner was involved, or maybe even worse.  In these situations, there is always a human desire to hide the news or hope it doesn’t get out.  This is the wrong attitude.  Your Owners deserve better – they are Owners in the Association.  Your job is to effectively communicate Condo Association bad news.

Actually Communicate the Condo Association Bad News

Today we’re covering the path on the left.

First and foremost, you need to actually communicate.  That’s the hardest step.  It may even require persuading other Board members.  But the bottom line is you need to be open and transparent.  This is a choice your Board must make.  In most cases, transparency will pay dividends as it will stop rumors from running wild.

Be Strategic About When You Communicate

Timing is important and can vary depending on what Condo Association bad news you’re dealing with.  If a major system has failed – particularly one where Owners will notice, like an environmental system – you need to communicate within the first 24-48 hours.  If it is a police incident, you similarly may want to move quickly.  On the other hand, you might be coming to the realization that you need to have a special assessment – in that case, you’re going to want to be more deliberate.

Use the Timing to Drive the Communication Style

The amount of time you have to put something out will drive the style and format by which you communicate.  For example, with a police incident, you will want to acknowledge the incident and the facts, but you may not be able to provide details until you get the police report.  In this situation, you might put out an initial email noting the incident occurred and the initial details as you have them, and then follow up with more detail.  For example, say you have an assault that was caused by someone who hopped a fence.  You might acknowledge the assault happened in the first email, and then follow up with details and how the Board is mitigating for the future, such as making the fence taller.

Keep Communications Clear and Succinct

Remember to focus on the basics.  It is very easy to go off on tangents or provide unneeded information.  Some basic building blocks to keep in mind include:

  •        Summarize the event – What happened?  Why?  Who confirmed it?
  •        Characterize the impact to Owners – How does this affect them?  What can they expect from an inconvenience standpoint?  For how long?
  •        Describe what the Board is doing – Are you fact-finding?  Do you have a remediation plan in place already?
  •        Let them know when you will communicate next – will it be in a day?  A week?  Is the issue closed?

Try to keep the document as short as possible in a summary format.  If you need to go into lengthier detail, consider relevant attachments, like engineering reports for failed parts.  In general people have a minimal attention span, so better to keep it brief.  If people really care, they’ll ask for more detail at a Board meeting or in follow-up emails.

Expect and Be Ready for Owner Inquiries

Sadly you cannot use Jedi mind tricks to erase questions.

As a Board, expect that you will see an uptick in email questions or you’ll see a number of Owners at your next meeting.  Consider generating a core set of talking points that all Board members and Management agree on to be used so everyone is consistent in terms of messaging.  Make sure you have Board members ready to quickly answer any emails that come in, as well.

Transparency is Key

Transparency and good communication are key tenets of a good Association.  This means sharing Condo Association bad news when it happens in a clear, succinct manner.  It is not fun, but if your Owners trust you and trust the information you share, it builds good will all around.  Remember – people care more about the response to an incident than the incident itself.  Be a pro and they will remember that their Board was professional, transparent, and effective in managing a bad situation.  

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