Published on: July 24, 2001
At the recent National Conference a reoccurring theme was the need for boards to adopt a kinder and gentler approach in dealing with homeowners. Though to some degree, much of this is a swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme from rigid, aggressive covenant enforcement and the bad press that has resulted from it, there are aspects of this new mantra which warrant attention.
Many of us in this field have repeatedly noted that boards must be far more cognizant that what they are dealing with are people’s homes. This does not mean that the rules and restrictions should be ignored. A vast majority of owners purchase condominiums and other planned units to ensure that their environment will be a certain way. That desire should not be ignored. By the same token, absolute identicality and rigidly enforced rules create a stifling environment, and concomitant resentment. What is necessary is an approach which preserves what is truly important while at the same time affords owners an opportunity to express themselves and enjoy their home. Obtaining such a result is not easy. Hard choices are necessary. In the end, however, a far more cohesive community will be created.
Equally import is a board’s approach to handling matters which involve an owner’s unit. For instance, maintenance requests should be dealt with promptly and effectively. If the issue does not fall in the association’s responsibility, then the owner should be promptly advised so that they might attend to the matter themselves before more damage is done. If, on the other hand, it is the association’s responsibility, it should be attended to without unnecessary delay. Just think, how would you feel if your home continued to be damaged as that “board” procrastinates in meeting its responsibilities? The answer is obvious. As noted, boards must remember, these are people’s homes.
Similarly, and a more striking example is what happens when there are casualty losses which require a processing of an insurance claim. Boards must remember that the master property coverage is, in effect, each owner’s homeowner’s policy except, in the usual case, for personal times. Each owner pays for that coverage as part of their monthly fees. Thus, legitimate claims which fall under the coverage should be processed and administered. All too often boards adopt a we/they attitude. “Its our policy”, “Our premiums will go up”, etc. But think of the other side. The owner has suffered a loss. If its covered they paid their share of the premium for the coverage. If you were the owner, wouldn’t you want the claim promptly and appropriately adjusted? This is not an opportunity for the association to profit. Likewise, it is not a time for bogus claims. What is important is for boards to see both sides.
True, small claims can be a constant annoyance and jeopardize the association’s ability to obtain coverage at reasonable premiums. Those problems can, however, be addressed by setting the deductible at an appropriate level, leaving it to the owners to cover losses under that level with their own policies. What should not occur is for boards to frustrate owners in recovering when such is warranted.
The key to a harmonious community is, as trite as it may sound, for boards to do unto the owners as they would have the owners due onto them. Board members are called upon to devote hundreds of hours at tasks others would avoid. They, and all of them, should be praised and thanked for this devotion. However, in these labors, board members must not loose sight of who they are and what they are administering. They are fellow homeowners administering their neighbor’s home. If this thought is kept in the forefront, there will be far less strife in our communities.