What did you wish you knew when you formed your condo association?
August 26, 2009 2:59 PM   Subscribe

What did you wish you knew when you formed your condo association?

It looks like we are accepting the condo association from the developer soon and I'd like to know some pointers on how to get this to work correctly as well as pointers on how to deal with people, money, etc in a condo association. Anecdotes, books, websites, etc all welcome.

If it helps this is a 6 unit building. Thanks.
posted by damn dirty ape to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well a quick search would pop up loads of other condo's minutes and declarations but my advice is always be alert to what is and what is not a common area, who pays for what and how that is determined and with only 6 units you stand a big chance of issues having a board of directors not become a situation where the owners refuse to pass money assessments and the door, sidewalk, elevator whatever just stays broken. Selling a unit with a track record of such problems would be a tough go. Also make sure the rentals permitted are zero, you can't imagine the issues a tenant can create and with 6 units even one would be a lot.

Get a lawyer who does this work and read everything you can on local laws.
posted by Freedomboy at 3:59 PM on August 26, 2009

In small buildings, it helps if there are actual rules that are officially written down and everything. You might want to look for pre-formatted rules from more established associations and change them to suit your situation. Have a lawyer look at them, preferably one that isn't associated with a condo member. And enforce what you decide, because once somebody gets away with violating the rules it becomes a free-for-all.

In my condo ownership experience, it's great when everybody gets along and things are good and new and the residents are somewhat homogeneous, but things get ugly down the line when somebody quiet and considerate sells their pristine condo to a couple that get drunk and argue four in the morning on the front porch and have skeevy friends who visit them at all hours of the day or night, resulting in several police visits AND some vandalism. But that's my story...

Seriously.... lay out as many of the rules as you can in advance, and lay out consequences that go along with them. And don't assume that the people in the building now will always be the ones there.
posted by answergrape at 4:03 PM on August 26, 2009

Don't assume that the environment will stay the same. For example, if you're currently all young professionals and don't think that you need a maximum occupancy policy, don't assume that it won't get taken over by students at some point.
posted by k8t at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

What state is the condo in? There are lots of laws on the books regarding condo associations and, I would presume, the turnover of association from a developer. You'll need to know what is required on that front.
posted by contessa at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2009

My lawyer will take care of the legal aspects. Im more interested in the social and political aspects, especially regarding rules and what we can expect in resolving conflicts, spending money, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:06 PM on August 26, 2009

I'd have wished to have known what sorts of unexpected fees the association might incur so as to better plan for them; cost of resurfacing private drives and parking lots, roofing, routine general maintenance, and insurance.

I'd have wished to have know exactly where the envelope of the owner ends and where the envelope of the association begins, and what happens if a problem in one creates a problem in the other.

I'd have wished to have known that if, from time to time a special assessment is required, then maybe the association isn't collecting enough fees, period.

And I'd certainly want to feel that, given there are only six units involved, each has a fair stake in the success or failure of the whole.
posted by deCadmus at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2009

I ended up as president of an association (14 units) immediately upon turnover from the developer in Maine 9-10 years ago. Things we all wished we had done/known:

1. What is the developer doing/paying for that the association (currently controlled by the developer) is not being charged for? Snow removal, mowing the grass, landscape maintenance, sprinkler system tests, elevator inspections, etc are all things that the developer can have his employees do (or pay for himself) to keep the advertised association fees down (thereby making the property more attractive to potential buyers). Once the owners control the association, the fees jump immediately because the developer is no longer doing things for "free". (Our association fees nearly tripled in the first year we had control due to omissions and underestimates by the developer.)

2. Scrutinize the association budget and financial records at the earliest opportunity (and I mean scrutinize with a capital "SCRUTE"). Do this before the developer turns the association over if possible. Does the budget account for all ongoing maintenance and expenses (see #1 above), insurance (property and liability), and setting aside money for future expenses (roof repair/replacement, exterior painting, etc.)? Is the developer paying the association fee for unsold units (or, will the developer be paying...)?

3. Have the developer provide all architectural plans, plot plans, instruction manuals/warranties/guarantees for machinery/equipment in common areas. (e.g., roofing and siding material warranties/guarantees; equipment manuals for elevators, irrigation system controllers, satellite dishes, computer equipment; location of buried propane tanks, irrigation lines/equipment...)

4. Did the developer (acting as the association prior to turnover) enter into any long-term contracts with utilities, service providers, etc that the owner controlled association must abide by?

5. Is there any equipment located in the common areas that is not owned by the developer or association? (e.g., propane tanks owned by the propane company, but provided as part of, and for the duration of, a long-term agreement that the association purchase propane exclusively from that propane company.) Who is responsible for maintaining common equipment not owned by the association?

6. Were there legal restrictions imposed upon the development in order to obtain zoning/land use approval. (e.g., housing/population density requirements that would limit the ability to dispose of tracts of land owned by the association...okay, that's a stretch, but it was an issue that our association encountered.)

7. Do become intimately familiar with your association's by-laws, state law pertaining to condominium associations/HOAs, and Robert's Rules of Order.

8. Do absolutely know where the common areas start and end (framing for internal non-load-bearing walls - common or not?, wall insulation - common or not?, floor joists in multi-story buildings - common or not? etc, etc, etc.)

9. What does the association property insurance cover, value or replacement of the common areas (structure)?

10. Do consider hiring a reputable property manager once the owners take over the association. It will add a bit to your association fee, but may end up preventing some residents from wishing that they could fire-bomb certain other residents.
posted by Cats' Concert at 11:41 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Get all the owners involved -- or at least fully informed -- from the very beginning. Take minutes and write everything down, especially for those things decided early that have long term consequences.
posted by GPF at 5:15 AM on August 27, 2009

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