Living in a community association can be the most rewarding or the most frustrating experience of your life! But the main reason for Unit Owners being unhappy and frustrated is due to not being involved and informed of the workings and operations of the Community Association.
In any form of community association, you, the owner, must stay involved in the workings of the association. The association always needs owner volunteers for the Board of Directors and Committees. In a diverse group of people, there are many people with many talents who should be willing to participate for the greater good of the community. In addition, the Board of Directors needs unit owner participation at meetings for input and guidance and to help in the overall decision-making process. The association does not operate on its own without the owners’ involvement. Even if there is a management company or management staff handling the day-to-day operations and problems, it is the Board of Directors (the owners) who has the ultimate responsibility to manage and operate the association. It does not happen by itself. Otherwise, if there is no participation, involvement or direction from the owners, the association will be aimless and not forward thinking. Problems will arise that could have been or should have been anticipated by an active community. To fully protect your investment and your lifestyle, an owner needs to be involved in the association and its operations. If this is not possible, you must at least go to Board of Directors, Committee, Workshop and/or Membership Meetings in order to stay informed and be able to benefit from the community association experience and lifestyle. A person’s home is usually the single most important and costly investment that they will ever make. To leave major operations and maintenance decisions to others, without your input and participation, just does not make very good business sense.
The major cause of unhappiness and misunderstanding for an owner in a community association is usually the result of a belief that the association takes care of all maintenance, repair and replacement problems. This is a misconception that occurs daily in most communities. This misunderstanding is usually a result of a lack of a working knowledge of the documents and the state statutes that govern your association. In many cases, the owner believes that because they are paying maintenance fees, everything that ever needs maintenance, repairs or replacements should automatically be handled by the association. In most cases, the documents will provide the guidelines for any repairs and replacements and will define who is responsible. If the documents are silent or are in conflict with state statutes, the state statutes may prevail.
It is the responsibility of the owner of the unit to read and understand the details of the documents and their ultimate ramifications upon the unit owner’s lifestyle and budget. It may be assumed that since it is a condominium unit, everything should be maintained by the association, however, it is not uncommon to have doors, frames, garage doors and windows, etc. excluded from documents, as these elements may be the owner’s responsibility and not the association’s. Therefore, it is incumbent for the buyer to read the documents or have the help of an expert (usually an attorney who specializes in real estate law) to interpret the documents for a buyer.
In addition to being knowledgeable about the documents and the association’s maintenance responsibilities, an owner should be able to read and interpret the association’s budgets, balance sheets and income statements for the last few years. If there is a problem with any of these categories, there may be possible future increases in maintenance assessments in order to make up for past deficits.
As an owner, if you are unable to read and understand the association’s budgets and balance sheets, have someone who is knowledgeable to assist you in reading and interpreting them. In the long run, it could save you a lot of heartache and money. As a seller, you’ll be able to promote the financial well being of your community when marketing your unit.
In a well-managed association you can expect to live in a community where you are respected as an individual, are well informed about the workings and operations of the community and are encouraged to be involved with your association, either actively or as a member participant. A well-run association will have an adequate budget to operate the association. It will have adequate funds for emergencies, long-term projects and funds set aside for reserves for major repairs and replacements. There will be adequate insurance to protect the association from casualty and liability losses. Professionals are used throughout the year by the association to help in the operations and management of the association. The records of the association are well maintained and readily available for unit owner inspections. A well run community association, is not only a place where you want to live but is also a place where you will be able to maximize your initial purchase, in the form of a higher resale value.
Most associations are not perfect but are a work in progress as events, conditions and membership in the association are constantly changing. No matter what is happening, the association should have the wherewithal to deal with most situations and circumstances for the benefit of the association, either in its operations, its talent pool of members or from its professional ranks. Either way, stay actively involved with your association or participate and attend Board of Directors, Members and Committee Meetings.