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NEWENGLANDCONDO.COM  NEW ENGLAND CONDOMINIUM   - FEBRUARY 2019     21  MEET MORE THAN 175 EXHIBITORS   IN ONE DAY, UNDER ONE ROOF.   (Wear comfortable shoes.)  SEAPORT WORLD TRADE CENTER, BOSTON — WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 10-3:30   FREE REGISTRATION: NE-EXPO.COM  THE NEW ENGLAND  CONDOMINIUM  EXPO  2019  WHERE BUILDINGS MEET SERVICES   lots, for which the association contracts   a landscaper and a guy with a snowplow.   In this version of bedrock New England   democracy, the board calls a meeting of   unit holders when a major decision has   to be made, and a vote is taken to deter-  mine how to proceed. And, according to   Ryan, the unit owners actually show up!  Making  the  decision  to  self-manage   your co-op corporation or condominium   association is a big one, and one not made   lightly. Much depends on the complexity   of the individual situation. Large, ameni-  ty-laden properties might find it difficult   to do. There also has to be a willingness   on the part of the residents to assume the   responsibilities generally associated with   a managing agent. There’s no magic wand   to be waved. The decision, though, does   not appear to rest on the perceived sav-  ing in purchasing goods and services that   many owners attribute to having good   management. Instead, the financial deci-  sion should rest on a comparison of what   the cost of management is on a per-unit   basis, and whether that cost is equal to,   greater or lesser than a do-it-yourself ap-  proach. In the end, going it alone also re-  quires the commitment to actually do it   yourself – the flip side of the same coin.                                                         n  A J Sidransky is a staff writer/reporter   for New England Condominium, and a pub-  lished novelist.   then members of those groups run for board   positions in order to advance the interests of   their smaller group. It’s not hard to see how   this can lead to problems, as those members   clearly do not have the whole of the associa-  tion in mind when governing.   “Serving on a dysfunctional board is ex-  hausting for the members who may well opt   to resign rather than continue to ‘fight the   fight,’” says Davis. “That level of dysfunction   also typically leads to increased expenses for   the association, as board members may have   more cause for requesting legal opinions to   support or offset arguments among them-  selves. Occasionally, when there is a bad actor   on a board who is causing so much difficulty   that it interferes with the function of the asso-  ciation, there may be a political effort waged   to have that member recalled by membership   through a statutory process. If the board is   split by faction, it will be up to the political   savvy of willing directors to form coalitions   of support in order to get things done by ma-  jority.”  Key to communication is listening. And   if board members are not listening to each   other, bringing in a neutral party may help to   open their ears. “When board members are   diametrically opposed, it may be time to call   in a professional from a field related to the   argument at hand,” advises Straits. “Even if   that professional is saying the same thing as a   particular board member, the others may be   more open to hearing the message if articu-  lated by an experienced outsider.  “And,” Straits continues, “many arguments   come down to the individual communica-  tion styles of specific board members. It can   be helpful for each member to reiterate what   they ‘heard’ another member say, as it can   be surprising to hear members repeat what   they thought they had just heard. If differing   members can realize their differences in com-  munication styles, it can help push through   and resolve issues. But, at certain times, there   is no resolution that is satisfactory to every-  one. When that happens, the board members   need to understand that it is their fiduciary   responsibility to support the decision of the   majority.”  While  mediation  can  occasionally  be   helpful in placating feuding residents, it’s   rarely useful in the board context, according   to Fleiss. “Formal mediation by an indepen-  dent third-party facilitator may even result   in agreement purely for the sake of agreeing;   that is, an agreement that is not necessarily   in the best interests of the building and its   residents. Plus, formal mediation typically   involves financial costs – including to com-  pensate the mediator – which boards may   be hesitant to incur. But informal ‘mediation’   by fellow board members, relevant profes-  sionals – architects, accountants, attorneys,   for example – or managing agent can assist   MANAGING BOARD...  continued from page 16  and two are over 70. “There are also many   subcommittees,” he says. “Almost everyone   serves on a subcommittee before becoming   a board member.”  In  Jordan’s  experience  –  and  he  has   served  for  many  years  –  it  wasn’t  always   that way. “Many years ago, the demograph-  ics were older for board members,” he re-  calls. “Committee involvement has gotten   younger people involved. Last election we   had nine people running for three posi-  tions, and many candidates were younger   people.  “Older members,” he continues, “share   institutional knowledge with younger   members for better decision making. Usu-  ally we are not really far apart on things   anyway. Differences of opinion tend to be   about approach rather than age.” The main   flashpoints tend to be about capital im-  provements. “Older board members tend   to be more conservative and cautious, but   they are willing to listen.” Jordan also says   that the board tries to spend money on   things that don’t exclude people. So for in-  stance, they have both indoor and outdoor   play areas for children where pizza nights   are held weekly – but residents without   young children aren’t excluded from the   activity. They are also rewriting some house   rules right now and seeking cross-age par-  ticipation.  Enza Guida is the secretary/treasurer of   Bay Park Towers, a 254-unit condominium   located in the Edgewater section of Miami.   She has lived in the property for approxi-  mately four years, and this is her first year   on the board. The building has a five-mem-  ber board.   Guida explains that when she moved   into the property, the board was dominated   by older residents. During a renovation of   the lobby, many residents felt that the board   didn’t give them a say in the project, mak-  ing decisions without input from the other   owners. People wanted change, and more   of a voice – so they spoke with their bal-  lots at the next board election and voted in   several younger members. The result of the   turnover is that four of the current board   members are in their 40s or 50s. “Young-  er people bring ideas,” Guida says. “New   board members pushed through the idea of   redoing the floors, and the older members   like the idea. There’s more listening going   on than before. The new board wants to lis-  ten to opinions and voices.”  Perhaps in the end, diversity by age,   as in other areas, adds to a board’s ability   to govern fairly and effectively. Younger   people bring fresh ideas, and older people   bring prudence and experience. These two   factors can balance governance. “As an at-  torney for co-op and condo communities,   I like a mixed board,” Hakim says. “You get   both experience and energy.”   n  A J Sidransky is a staff writer/reporter for   New England Condominium and a published   novelist.   spection he usually covers. To date, there   haven’t been any conflicts. Everyone gets   along. We don’t keep an attorney on re-  tainer, but if we need legal services, we   have someone we can call.”  Comparing his experiences in both a   large co-op and a small condo, Emmers   says:  “Living  in  a  big  building  is  easier.   In a small building there are times when   I would like more help, but everyone is so   collegial that it makes me feel good about   doing things.”  In an interesting twist, Kathy Ryan   lives in a 67-unit condominium com-  munity in Johnston, Rhode Island, which   is self-managed and has been for the 19   years that she has lived there. She has   also sat on the board for 16 of those 19   years. The board has seven members   and meets once a month. At that meet-  ing they handle the day-to-day business   of the association, as well as dealing with   any complaints from unit owners. Com-  plaints and comments are left in a “black   box” by residents.  All monthly bills are reviewed and   paid by the treasurer. The treasurer also   completes the annual taxes, so there’s no   need for a bookkeeper. There are no in-  terior common areas, so there’s no need   for  a  paid  cleaning  staff.  The  common   areas consist of the lawns and parking   SELF-MANAGEMENT  continued from page 15  continued on page 22

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