Ms CBR: The Landscape / Overview with Massachusetts Focus
Boards - naive, amateurish, sometimes hidden agendas
Property management companies - unlicensed, unregulated
Law firms - board 'muscle', can be rapacious
- 1. Welcome to my first blog on life in a condominium association in Massachusetts. If you have found this blog, you are most likely a frustrated or angry condo owner looking for assistance, answers or for someone to commiserate with. If you are not a condo owner or you are not frustrated, I still encourage you to stay a while as things are not what they seem in homeowner and condo associations and you may be surprised by what you will learn.
All associations are governed to some degree by an association or condo board. This board is almost always made up of owners per condominium documents, but there may be some associations that allow non-owner board membership. The board is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the common property and services as well as enforcing the covenants and rules. Pretty simple, right? Unfortunately the stark reality is association boards are frequently comprised of unskilled, unqualified owners seeking to push a hidden agenda or execute a personal vendetta against their neighbors. Even board members who wish to serve the community altruistically, are often limited in their abilities to understand the ins and outs of operations and financial management.
Let’s start with board qualifications. Managing an association first and foremost requires more than a perfunctory knowledge of budgeting. Most associations track the budget via accrual based or modified cash accounting. The two critical tools for overseeing the budget are the balance sheet and the income and asset reports. Unless a board member has an accounting background this can be confusing. Think about your own board. Do any of the members thoroughly understand the association accounting or do they rely on a property manager to interpret the reports? The amount of money the board is responsible for can be staggering. Usually hundreds of thousands of dollars. Egads!
- 2. Many condo owners are placing their investment in the hands of amateurs who then look to unlicensed and unregulated property management companies to help them manage the budget. To make matters worse, boards are made up of volunteers who only work a limited amount of time on board matters. Predatory association vendors know this and often take advantage of this fact. They rely on the naivete and inattention of busy volunteers to exploit the relationship to their advantage (more on this topic in another blog). On second thought, maybe this condo purchase was not such a good idea.
If inexperienced unqualified board members trying to run associations with large amounts of funds does not give you pause, consider that many volunteer board members volunteer because they enjoy the power and prestige of being on “the board”. Search youtube.com to see any number of videos documenting board meetings and see for yourself how board members behave. It would be comical if it was not so incredibly scary. Boards are able to control a great deal of your life in an association.
Boards can regulate your behavior outside AND inside your home and they can confiscate a great deal of money from you. AND boards can control your life with virtual impunity. Boards are judge, jury and executioner. Owners who disagree with the board, treated unfairly or fined excessive amounts of money for alleged infractions have nowhere to turn for help—unless they are willing to invest thousands of their personal money into hiring an attorney (and that is yet another topic to be covered in the future). It is not hard to see how this kind of authority can make board members drunk with power, relishing their position and control over their neighbors. Are you ready to put up the “For Sale” yet? In future blogs, I will relate real examples of the havoc runaway boards wreak. As they say, truth can be stranger than ficition. Till next time. Ms. Condo Board Reform.
- Ms CBR: The Landscape and Overview with Massachusetts Focus