Three Condo Association Special Assessment Questions To Determine Project Timing


An informed and involved Owner will often attend monthly Condo Association meetings.  If your Board has been discussing big projects during meetings, you might start to wonder if things are going well or not.  Sometimes work is routine, but other times there might be a rough road ahead.  When a Condo Association Special Assessment is looming, there are several things you need to do as an Owner.  Asking your Board of Directors several pointed questions is key to getting all the facts, but when you ask these Condo Association Special Assessment questions is just as important.  

These questions are useful once a Special Assessment has been announced, but they’re even more powerful when they are asked BEFORE a Special Assessment.  These questions are designed to give you an edge and get your Board to reveal the status of things so that you can get ready to prepare.  These Condo Association Special Assessment questions will help you determine the timing of the Special Assessment so you can start preparing.    

The doomsday, I mean Special Assessment clock, is ticking down…

For the sake of illustration, we’ll use a hypothetical situation in which your Condo building has an attached concrete, two-floor garage, which is aging and needs to be refurbished. This will likely trigger a Special Assessment.  

1) Has the Board performed any structural testing of the garage?  What firm was awarded the contract?  Has that testing revealed the need for repair?  When will the testing be provided to Owners?

These questions directly ask what the Board is doing.  Any testing would require a contract be awarded to a qualified firm acting as the Association’s technical representation.  This typically will (or did) require the Board to make a motion to approve the contract.  You can ask the Board when the approval was voted on.  You can also ask when the report will be released to Owners, as such reports must be made available to Owners eventually.  

2) Has the Board asked for a second opinion or peer review?  What did the second firm say?

These questions do two things for you as an Owner.  First, if the Board has ordered a peer review, it means they’re likely very serious about the problem.  A peer review means the Board is confirming the first review because it revealed potentially significant or expensive findings (or both).  This is a good sign because you know the Board is doing their job by getting a second opinion.  However, it’s also bad news because it means a major project of some magnitude is likely coming.  These Condo Association Special Assessment questions show that an Association is serious about a project.  

3) How urgent is the problem?  Will the repairs need to be made now, or in three years?  Does the project cost more if delayed?

The level of urgency drives the speed of which you may have to pay.

The goal of these questions is to further assess the timing of when a Special Assessment might be coming. Most Boards are compassionate when it comes to timing – they don’t want to spring a big project on people.  After all, Board members are Owners as well.  A Board won’t be in a rush to do something they don’t have to.  There are many ways to finance a major project that requires a Special Assessment.  If a project can be delayed, perhaps the Board will raise fees or identify other funding sources.  But if the problem is urgent – and getting worse fast – that means that a Special Assessment may be imminent.  For some systems in a building, the deterioration can occur more rapidly than funds can be raised, so the project must be done sooner than later.

Asking the Right Questions May Yield Important Clues

Technically, a Board doesn’t have to answer any of these Condo Association Special Assessment questions.  In some cases, they may also not want to spread information before it is final to avoid rumors or other issues.  That said, most Boards will likely give you some level of response.  Boards might provide a rough timeline or other key information which will help you better plan.  If you think a Special Assessment is a possibility, ask these Condo Association Special Assessment questions and get ahead of the game.  

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