Early in 2010, UrbanTurf ran a two-part series on the joys and pains of becoming a member of a condo or co-op board. Last Friday, we ran the first installment of the series and today we are re-publishing the second part on the cons of joining a board.
Originally published in January 2010.
As we pointed out in the first part of this series, condominium and co-op owners have plenty of reasons to join their homeowners association board, particularly if they want a say in decisions that can affect their monthly budget and the future value of their home. The caveat is that nearly everyone who has participated in condo management meetings can share a horror story about the experience.
Richard Levy, a former condo board member at The Lawrence in Columbia Heights, had a particularly unpleasant experience.
“One unit owner stopped paying his condo dues because the condo board had, according to him, failed to notify him in a timely manner about a building problem,” Levy explained. “After sending me dozens of nasty emails, he threatened to sue because I sent him a letter clarifying the amount he owed the condominium association. Fortunately, he sold his unit before it ever came to a lawsuit. Although not as menacing, several other delinquent owners have treated me like I was the bad guy when I confronted them about late dues.”
Condo board members frequently experience harassment from other tenants who don’t understand that they are volunteers and residents themselves, not paid employees of the owners. And other owners just haven’t quite outgrown that college dorm experience.
“Residents think you’re an RA (resident advisor) and knock on your door late at night when they have problems,” a former condo board member in Kalorama told UrbanTurf. “It is totally unacceptable. They should be calling the management company.”
The Kalorama resident recalled that residents used to come by her unit at all hours because they were locked out, regardless of the fact that notices are posted in the building that lock-out service is not offered. Residents also called her late at night to complain that someone had parked in their parking spot. Her response: “Call the police.”
“I’m happy to be a liaison between a resident in need and the management company, or to help a neighbor in an emergency, but people need to understand that condo board members are community volunteers, not house mothers.”
Phone calls about disputes between neighbors was the worst. She had no idea how residents got her phone number, and she started having to screen her calls to let unknown numbers go to voicemail rather than get caught up in personal conflicts.
Another common complaint among area condo board members is that very few homeowners are willing to serve on the board or even attend an annual meeting. At a 90-unit condo building in Dupont Circle, only twenty owners typically show up at the mandatory annual meeting, with just a handful attending the regular meetings, according to a current board member.
“Most unit owners are unwilling to join the board, leaving it to the same few to serve,” Levy lamented. “At the same time, when there’s a problem or complaint, they’re quick to ask the board for assistance or blame the board when things go wrong.”
In many D.C. neighborhoods, condos are filled with a mix of elderly residents who have lived in the building for decades and young, single new owners. This generation gap can create a conflict when it comes to changing the pattern of condo management or introducing a new procedure like emailing the minutes around from the latest meeting.
Like community board meetings, a problem with the building or between residents can turn a short monthly meeting into an hours-long debate, giving those prospective members a bad taste for what their future may hold if they join the board.
Despite the problems outlined in this piece, becoming a member of your building’s condo board does have its benefits as we noted yesterday. You may just want to do some research on the personalities of the people who live in your building before you dive in.
This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_cons_of_condo_board_membership/1671
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