This is the second installment in a series of articles designed to help Condo Associations fight apathy, the number one cause of Condo Associations breaking bad. Today’s focus is on helping Owners get involved in your Condo Association. The first installment of Fighting Apathy was focused on Board members maintaining a “get to yes” attitude, aimed at both reminding Boards they exist to serve the Condo Association, and to help their mental fortitude by giving them some training.
Today’s edition is focused on Owners. Let’s say, hypothetically, you bought your Condo awhile ago and things have gone reasonably well since then. As a result, you really haven’t gone to any Board meetings, or read your Bylaws lately (or ever)… you know, stuff like that. And maybe you’ve been reading this site, or seen some Association horror stories in the news and you’re trying to figure out how to get involved in your Condo Association.
This exercise will provide you a jump start on getting involved in your Association. This tune-up is focused on four things: Getting you up to speed on your Bylaws, getting you caught up on your Association’s happenings, identifying your Association’s general fiscal health, and assessing the Board’s transparency and getting answers. Because there’s so much to cover, this article is split into two parts.
Step 1: Read your Bylaws!
Wait! Where did you go? Come back! I promise it’s not that bad! First, read this article – but don’t read your Bylaws yet. Ok, back? Great. Now, as you read your Bylaws with my article in hand, I want you to make notes of the following:
- Does your Association publish notice for monthly Board meetings, new rules, etc., in accordance with the Bylaws?
- Does your Association publish its annual budget in a transparent manner in accordance with the Bylaws?
- Does your Association give you easy access to Association financial information? Is there an online portal, or do they post a monthly treasurer’s report?
- Does your Association post the monthly meeting minutes somewhere easily accessible?
- Were you, as an Owner, aware of how much the Association can levy with a Special Assessment? Do you have easy access to the money needed if you were assessed? This is not directly related to this effort, but I’ve seen many people have financial hardship for failing to budget, so I must reiterate it.
Next, for our purposes, you need to get the following documents from your Association:
- A copy of the of the most recent annual Association minutes and a copy of the last 3-6 months of monthly meeting minutes – a full 12 months if you’re up for it.
- A copy of the most recent annual treasurer’s report, as well as the past three months of monthly treasurer’s reports.
- A copy of the Association’s most recent reserve study, if one was done.
If your Management or Board does not provide these documents readily or refuses to provide them, you’ve got a problem. This is fundamental information that, with some variance (your State’s Condo act will vary) entitles Owners to documents on how the Association is doing its business. If they won’t share information, they may be disengaged or up to no good. Either of which would be bad for your Association and bad for you. We’ll talk about that more in Step 4. For now, let’s assume you got what you needed.
Step 2: Review Association Board Monthly and Annual Meeting Notes
The next step is to skim through the yearly and monthly meeting minutes. Look for the kinds of decisions being made and discussed. Is there any discussion as to initiating major projects? Examples might be new roofs, new elevators, new heating/air conditioning, major plumbing repairs, concrete repairs, etc. Look for “motions to approve” on large contracts – it depends on the size of your Association as to what “large” is, but really anything over $50k is interesting, and anything over $100k starts getting “big.” Such information is worth knowing because it means stuff is breaking and being replaced. That’s OK – it’s normal – but it’s good for you to see what goes on in the maintenance and operations of a Condo.
If the Board is talking about potentially replacing something big, there may be language around “requesting a study” or “study reports” based on the project – for example, if you had a concrete garage that needed repairs, the Board may study the issue before moving forward. Pay attention to any language around “studies” – it usually means some big action is coming. If you want, you can also request copies of these studies.
The big thing you’re looking for here for is any discussions about major projects or repairs. If your finances are healthy, this won’t be a big deal besides any nuisances from the projects themselves – like loud noises, or perhaps temporary restrictions on amenities. So let’s go figure out if your finances are healthy or not.
These are the first steps to get involved in your Condo Association as an Owner. Click here for Part 2.