Having determined the timing of a Special Assessment through your incredible detective skills (powered by http://Bettercondolife.com), the next logical question you’ll want to ask is how much will the Special Assessment cost. Knowing it’s coming is one thing, but its cost is quite another. Similar to the previous article, these are Condo Association Special Assessment questions you have a right to ask. Whether or not your Board answers is another matter, but many of these questions should be answered by a Board. As before, these questions assume the hypothetical project is a two-story concrete garage that needs to be refurbished.
1) Does the Association’s reserves fund have the necessary funds for the repair? Was this repair budgeted for?
These are crucial questions as they pertain to you as an Owner directly. If the project is budgeted for and the funds are in reserves, then chances are you’re only going to see a major project, and not a Special Assessment. If the project is not budgeted for, the money will have to come from somewhere. In a Condo Association, that means the money will comes from the Owners – that’s you.
2) If it was not budgeted, what options are the Board considering? Is the Board considering a loan, a Special Assessment, raising fees, or dipping into reserves allocated for something else?
Boards only have a few ways to raise money quickly. One option is to raise Condo fees really high to gather money really fast. Under most, if not all, state Condo acts, a Board has the power to raise Condo fees to any level they want. In dire circumstances, this may be one avenue to address things.
Another option is to take out a loan. The loan needs to be paid back, and that likely means raising Condo fees to pay for the interest and principal on the loan. Another option if the Board has reserves available, but the project was unexpected, is to raid the reserve funds for the more urgent project. This becomes a “rob Peter to pay Paul” situation, and can cause problems later on. Finally, a Board can, of course, issue a Special Assessment. This is painful in the short term but does ensure longer term financial viability.
If the project is not budgeted for, that’s a strong sign that a Special Assessment is imminent. The Board might elect to take a loan instead, but you won’t know for certain. The Board doesn’t have to tell you what their plans are, but they might give you an idea of what options they’re examining.
3) How much can the Board assess via a Special Assessment without a vote?
This is another important question you can find in your Bylaws. The bottom line is that your Condo Association can directly raise money – often on short payment terms, such as within 30 days – with no vote. You need to know what this number is since it affects you directly. Anything more will lead to a Special Assessment vote process, which can be lengthy and pit Owners against the Association – and each other.
4) What is the anticipated cost for the repairs?
Finally, the most important question. If there is a repair coming, you need an estimate of what the repairs will cost. The Board may provide this based on the engineering reports they’ve commissioned (which typically must be made available to Owners). For most people, this is the most important of the Condo Association Special Assessment questions. The simplest way to calculate what the repairs will cost you is find out the total cost of repairs, or a ballpark, and divide by the number of units in your Association. This will give you a ballpark range of what to expect. This number will be far from final, but it will allow you to determine how impactful the Special Assessment will be to you.
For example, if the project will cost $100,000, and you have 20 units, it likely will cost around $5,000 per unit. The Association might choose to finance some of that, lowering the immediate cost, but you at least know the “worst case” scenario if they go up front.
Asking Condo Association Special Assessment Questions is Free – Repairs are Not
As with Condo Association Special Assessment questions for timing, the questions related to cost are not a sure thing. Your Board may not need to disclose their plans fully until they are finalized. Typically they’ll give you a range of options, or a range of costs, which is better information than none. They also might react in an extremely aggressive or sketchy way, which is a bad sign, because it might mean things are worse than expected. Regardless, ask the questions and figure out what your share will be so you can protect yourself and your family.