Enhancements to the Common Areas

Published on: July 28, 2002

An often debated question is what the appropriate role of the Board is with respect to physical aspects of the Condominium. Many believe that the Board’s role is limited to maintaining the property in a state of good repair. While others believe that the Board has a greater responsibility – to not only preserve the property, but to enhance it

If, in fact, a Board’s role is the more limited one, then Board’s, subject to budgetary oversight, would be best served by having the Manager to do what they are trained and experienced at doing, and simplify both their own and their Manager’s lives. Of course there are still the issues of governance which will more than adequately occupy the Board and test its abilities. Thus, the reader need not be concerned that this limited role will leave the Board as merely a rubber stamp for the Manager. What recognizing that the Manager is better suited to maintaining the property will do, however, will be to free the Board to address other issues more properly its concern.

One of these, it is suggested, is enhancing the property. While it is true that in this state most improvements require a 75% vote of the Owners, not all enhancements need fall within the strictures of physical improvements. Our courts have recognized that it properly falls within a Board’s purview to provide for the improvement of the property so long as common funds are not expended. Thus, it is only when the common purse must be opened that the 75% vote must be obtained.

How then can a Board enhance the property without expending common funds? One way is to allow the Owners to spend their individual time and/or money to do so. A garden club is a perfect example. Why not allow an interested group to plant and tend to flower beds, perennials, etc. Likewise, why not allow individual owners to improve areas in and about their Units with plantings, patios, sitting areas and the like. Doing this provides double benefits – Owners have a sense of involvement in their Community and the property is improved.

Similarly, why not establish a committee to develop a sales brochure for the property. This would assist all owners when they go to sell. The small cost will not afoul of the improvement restriction; but, rather, is a reasonable operating expense. Likewise, establishing a web site to (1) advertise the property and (2) provide a vehicle for communication is clearly appropriate in this e-commerce world.

Beyond this, it is, also appropriate for the Board to develop and put forward for Owner approval a long-term capital enhancement program. Why settle for just maintaining the status quo. Why not, within the economic ability of the Community, plan for the improvement of the property over time. This can be structured in such a way that if times become tight, things can be put on hold without undue harm.

By focusing on improving the property a Board takes a proactive approach towards enhancing everyone’s investment. Such Boards will have the lasting appreciation of their Owner’s and the knowledge that they have added value to their homes.