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December 01, 2008

Speaking of: Condominium Boards

Shelley Williamson

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Condominium boards

The time has come for me to hang up my political cap.I will leave it to the professionals, the Obamas of the world. The mudslinging is one thing, but when it hits you where you live it, may be time to leave the rat race. 

When I chose to join my condo’s board my reasons were simple: see where the money is being spent, get involved in governing my community, and if possible, try to make some changes for the better. I would say, after a year now on my board of directors (during which time two of six members quit, including the president and vice-president) I am at about one for three, or maybe two on a good day.

I am sure a poll of past board members would draw similar sentiment. My community of 140 homes is likely filled with people disenchanted with the management of our little corporation’s affairs, some of whom have stepped up to the board of directors plate also, only to become tired after a term or two. 

If I take nothing else away from my brief stint in power, it’s the realization that many would rather complain than do anything about it themselves. I have also learned if you want people to take interest, hit them in the pocketbook. Money talks. It was only after voting for a special assessment crucial to bringing the place up to snuff that people voiced any opinions at all. Most can’t even make the annual general meeting.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the AGM that we are required to call and carry out as the four remaining directors’ final act. There’s been much ballyhooing that we dared care about the appearance of our homes, having the nerve to approve long-overdue repairs to the exterior, roofs and grounds. Even more brazen was having the audacity to ask the folks who live there, some so long they have paid off mortgages, to pitch in to repair the wear and tear they’re watched happen and have done nothing to reverse. Our qualifications were called into question, as were the practices of the management company. So threatening were some of my neighbours that lawyers had to be called at one point to threaten legal action.

So while I learned I may not have the stomach for politics, I have gained a new appreciation for those who choose to dedicate their lives to improving the world we live in—whether as small as a condo complex or as large as our embattled neighbours and its compromised economy south of the border. 

I appreciate there will always be those people who complain but will never care enough to do something about anything. There will also be others who will go against the grain, resisting authority on principle, even if the person delivering the message is a neighbour or even a friend. And I have learned, while not in my nature, there will always be that person who enjoys when others break the rules, since it means a chance to step in and be the enforcer and the world needs those people.

I am not the first novice condo owner to learn how many rules there can be only after buying. I know now that if you are not the type of person who can deal with other adults telling you how you can live in your own home, this type of living arrangement may not be for you. Unfortunately, while some opt for the condo lifestyle for its perks, like the lack of maintenance or ability to lock up and leave, it is simply the only means to home ownership for others.

Sometimes the most important quality you can bring to the table is knowing when it’s time to step aside. While I may not have done everything I’d hoped to (there’s still no recycling program in place), I sleep better at night knowing I tried and at least made a small difference. The proof is in the painting, you might say. Even better is knowing I can leave the difference-making to someone else. Maybe my neighbours will start talking to me again.


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