How to Conduct a Condo Association Special Assessment Vote

For many Special Assessments, you need your Owners to vote with a two thirds majority in order to raise the funds you need to repair your decaying infrastructure.  Now that you’ve got your plan and your communications strategy, you now need to develop your “ground game” for your Condo Association Special Assessment vote.  You can find a great outline of activities for communicating major projects here.  When it comes to a Condo Association Special Assessment vote, you’re going to want to do most, if not all of these options.  In some cases you may want to do them multiple times.  That’s because this is not just a communications campaign, but a vote campaign.  You’re going to need to make sure people understand the issue well enough to vote in favor of it, which is no easy task.  

Get your Talking Points In Order

Make sure your Board is on the same page when addressing your Owners.
Make sure your Board is on the same page when addressing your Owners.

Before engaging with Owners, I strongly recommend developing a set of agreed upon talking points, drawn from the information packet, which all Board members and Management learn and have ready to go.  A unified message is critical.  Everyone who is representing the Association needs to be saying the same thing.  A confident Board that has the facts ready to explain to Owners comes across as a group that can be trusted.  

Conduct Aggressive In-Person Outreach

Holding multiple Town Hall-style meetings in order to reach as many Owners as possible is a must.  At the start of your engagement – particularly in a Town Hall setting – don’t be surprised if you encounter outright hostility.  You’re going to have to take some lumps, and let people vent some, but make sure you keep things professional and courteous.  Once people get their anger out, they’ll start listening.  

Another activity to consider is a door-to-door effort, although this can be intrusive.  On the other hand, you’d be surprised how many Owners can be oblivious, so a door-to-door campaign is something to consider if you’ve got significant disengagement in your building.

During your outreach events, you may receive Owner feedback that may cause you to revise your plan.  Don’t hesitate to revise – and further, make it clear you revised due to Owner feedback.  Saying things like, “We revised the plan due to excellent Owner input received at the Town Hall” makes it clear you are listening and you care.  This makes Owners feel like they are a stakeholder in the process and may help you pass your Condo Association Special Assessment vote.  

Conduct the Standard Engagement Activities

Don’t forget to “check the box” for all standard engagement activities – email, electronic forums, posting on any sign boards, lobbies, elevators, etc.  This is necessary, but not sufficient, along with the in-person engagement.  

What to Do if the Vote Fails

If your vote fails, things have gotten tougher, but they aren't impossible.
If your vote fails, things have gotten tougher, but they aren’t out of reach.

Should you fail in your Condo Association Special Assessment vote, you need to identify why things went wrong.  If you barely failed – say you needed 66.667% (two thirds) and came up in the low 60% – actively poll Owners as to why they voted against the Special Assessment.  Solicit input through all of the methods previously described.  If you didn’t go door to door, you might consider it now.  If you revise your plan, emphasize that you took in Owner feedback and you are issuing a new vote with a more improved plan that features extensive Owner feedback.  

If you failed badly in your vote, then you’re starting to get into dire territory.  You should investigate if you can implement an emergency Assessment without a vote under your Bylaws.  You also should aggressively monitor the failing condition of your system and make sure you are updating Owners on its degradation.  Make sure you have a plan in place to reissue the vote regularly as the pain of the failing system increases.  Again, it circles back to the issue that the pain needs to exceed the cost.

Conclusion

Carrying out a Condo Association Special Assessment vote is one of the toughest parts of being a Board member.  However, a Board that is transparent, provides good information, and makes themselves available to Owners is likely to succeed.  Most people are rational at the end of the day.  If you give them enough ways to see reason, they’ll get there.  It’s your job to make that as painless as possible.  


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