Sometimes it seems that everything related to a Condo Association sucks. If you’re an Owner, the Association seems out to get you at every turn. If you’re a Board member, it feels like the building is full of whiners and every vendor wants to screw you. For Management, it can seem like every Owner is intent on doing dumb things and your Board is out of control. It can be easy to lose sight of what’s important and what it means. There are three things that truly matter. If you lose sight of the top three priorities for condo associations, you have big problems. And these apply to all three groups of Condo stakeholders – Owners, Board and Management. They should be the mantra of how you live, how you govern, and how you manage.
Your Association must be a safe place to live. This means you need to be investing in critical life safety systems – the structure, fire alarms, sprinklers, etc. If applicable to your community, you need to be taking appropriate steps for physical security. Ultimately, you must provide a safe home for everyone. But you must balance this against finances. Finding the path of “good enough” is the challenge here. Make sure you hire good consultants and vendors who will tell you the truth so you can make the best decision possible.
The building must be healthy financially. You need to be bringing in more money than you send out. You must balance bringing in enough money against asking too much financially of your Owners. You need to have the money to maintain the building, both in the short term (operations) and long term (reserves). You need to make sure you’re not frivolously spending money, but at the same time, you can’t short-change your future. Remember, you’re representing the Association – not any one single Owner. You have to do what’s right for the group. This can lead to some of the hardest decisions.
To the maximum extent possible, you need to have an environment of trust and transparency. Owners who want to get information they are entitled to must have access to it. The Board must share not only that which is legally required, but when appropriate, more. Decisions should not be made in secret – that’s the path to breaking bad. Management must be open with the Board and not withhold information that helps them govern. Without trust, your Association is going to have a rough go of it.
Always remember the top priorities for condo associations. If you’re in doubt, they are guiding principles that will ensure you’re making the right decisions. Adhering to them isn’t easy, but if you do, I can promise you will ultimately be a better community for it.