actually happened. There are two condominium corporations
involved, one we'll call "Savarin Place",
and the other "Sunnyview Towers". (The names
have been changed to protect me.) Two Annual
General Meetings, two fairly similar problems, two
different approaches. Two vastly different results.
Savarin Place and Sunnyview Towers resemble one another
in terms of demographics (homogenous, mid-to-retirement
age), location (north Toronto), size (large, single
hi-rise), facilities (elaborate), and longevity of
many of the respective Directors' terms of service
(forever). Each is blessed with reasonably well-attended
A.G.M.'s, sincere Board members, and interested unit
owners. The General Meetings to which I refer each
occurred a few years ago, within weeks of one other.
Savarin Place has a rule specifying that its communal
outdoor barbecues are to be put in storage for the
winter. At the A.G.M. in question, a young couple,
newly wed (and newly arrived into the building), were
engaged in fierce lobbying for the purpose of amending
the "barbecue" rule. They were persistent,
they were fervent, they were determined. And they
were angry. ("Why shouldn't we be allowed to
barbecue in the winter?", and "This constitutes
discrimination!" etc., etc.) Smoke fairly poured
from their ears, somewhat symbolic considering the
topic in question. They'd thought ahead, of course,
to demand in writing that the issue be included in
the evening's agenda.
Came the critical vote, after the requisite speeches,
pro and con. You've no doubt guessed by now that our
battling duo were kayoed in the first round. (As I
recall, the vote count was something like 76 to 2,
a plurality one doesn't come across all that often.)
The barbecues, of course, continue to hibernate in
Things started similarly at the Sunnyview Towers
A.G.M., at least to the extent that the antagonists
were vastly outnumbered. That's where the similarity
ends. Here was the beef: Motorcycle Noise In The Underground
Garage. (To understand how aggravated the residents
were, just think "echo".) In the auditorium,
the pre-meeting buzz had indicated that the unit owners
didn't give a hoot about elections to the Board, audited
financial statements, or any other such bothersome
trivia; just get rid of those bikers and their choppers!
Then the big moment. After several speakers had approached
the floor microphone and expressed their dismay at
the noise from the motorcycles, a young, well-tailored
man raised his hand and politely requested an opportunity
to address the meeting. "I am speaking on behalf
of my grandparents," he began, "because
their command of English is very limited. They are
unit owners in Sunnyview Towers, having purchased
here some five months ago, upon their arrival from
Hong Kong. They are the 'typical old-world, far-eastern
couple', quiet, hard-working, dignified."
He paused for effect, then said: "They are possessed,
however, of one rather unconventional quirk: they
love to ride their Harley-Davidsons. At this time,
ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the Sunnyview
Towers Motorcycle Club." The young man motioned
to his grandparents, who rose shyly, smiled deferentially,
waved gingerly and tentatively, and took their seats,
eyes cast downward. "My grandparents have no
other way to get to and from the building, although
they are very concerned, as I am, about any inconvenience
they are causing. I assure you they will co-operate
in any way possible, but I appeal to the residents
to allow them to continue to access the garage with
These last two sentences were almost drowned out
amidst the good-natured, wide-spread laughter generated
by the phrase "Sunnyview Towers Motorcycle Club"
in reference to these grandparents, who, as you can
imagine, didn't exactly resemble Hell's Angels. I
don't recall ever seeing such a dramatic turnaround
in public opinion. Needless to say, the Sunnyview
Towers Motorcycle Club flourishes to this day, though
membership remains stuck at two.
This tale of barbecues 'n' bikers may not be the
last word in getting one's message across, but I learned
a thing or two from it all. In a condo or anywhere
else, the Art of Communication is this: a little honey,
(Reprinted from The Condominium Magazine)
How To Be A Good Condominium Board Member
(The “Three C’s”)
I’ve been coming down pretty hard on the condominium
management industry over the years (even as recently
as in my previous newsletter, a few months ago). I
won’t stop that, as long as it seems necessary
to do so. But I also willingly acknowledge that condominium
management is not the easiest of pursuits in which
to be involved. One of the hurdles is dealing with
Board members who are not (forgive the candour) doing
themselves, their fellow Board members, their communities,
or management any favours, with their antics.
I’ve been most fortunate in my travels, having
encountered (and provided services to) many condo
directors over the years who’ve earned my respect
and admiration because of their selflessness and untiring
efforts on behalf of their communities. They are an
inspiration to their communities, and in return they
are frequently misunderstood, often under-appreciated,
and usually unpaid.
Sadly, there are the others, the ones who provide
the stark contrasts: those directors who can only
be described as disruptive, uncooperative, too hands-on,
too hands-off, too suspicious, too hostile…the
list goes on and on. But prolonging this negativity
is an exercise in futility. (Futility’s awful.
Think of an AGM at which the Board bemoans the “10%
of the residents who cause 90% of the problems.”
It’s a safe bet, as we all know, that those
10% are not in attendance to hear and learn. That
kind of futility.)
Instead, I’ll approach this positively. Oh,
did I mention what the Three C’s are? Care,
Specific expertise is always nice (accountants, lawyers,
management industry types, engineers, etc.) but these
professionals are not always available to the community.
Even if they are, there’s no substitute for
the Three C’s.
Care: So basic it seems unnecessary
to even mention it: a Board member has to care about
the community in which he or she serves.
I have a scoop for you: it’s not so basic.
I’ve come across condo directors who care about
everything except the community: the ones who try
to win the most arguments, do the most micro-managing,
seldom or never show up at meetings, bad-mouth their
fellow Board members, interfere so constantly that
management can’t do the job it’s paid
to do, cause tension or even upheaval, take private
Board business public, waste time at meetings…whew!
Caring, on the other hand, means: understanding
and responding to the requirements of the owners/residents;
taking note of the community’s physical appearance
and encouraging the other residents to do likewise;
spending the corporation’s funds wisely; partnering
with management, not squabbling with them. I’m
certain you could add several other valid examples,
but you get the point.
Concern: Sounds like “care,”
doesn’t it? What I mean is, concern defined
as due diligence. There are always going to be issues
about which the Board has to be concerned: the cost
of utilities; spotty landscaping; reserve fund adequacy;
maintenance problems; adherence to budget; non-compliance
by unit owners and tenants; others you can name by
the dozens, but, most notably, management issues.
On that last point, my clients will recognize the
seven important facets of the condominium management
routine: communication, cost-savings, operations,
accountability, safety, financial and admin., and
resources/expertise. (I nag them ad nauseam about
this.) The most valid application of due diligence
is for the Board members to be constantly assessing
management according to these seven facets. They will
vary in importance from one condominium community
to another, but each facet will be of at least some
relevance, and that’s how you best assess your
Also, how many of you have taken a Director’s
course, such as those offered by the CCI? How many
of you have attended a Condo Conference, like the
National CCI/ACMO Conference, an annual event, coming
up in November? That’s what I mean by “showing
some concern.” The best Board member is an educated
Co-operation: Again, something that
seems so basic and self-explanatory.
And yet, I could tell you stories…you could
tell me stories…
The fact is, a Board whose members don’t co-operate
with one another may as well resign en masse. The
inability or unwillingness to overcome differences
and work together creates inertia, or worse yet, hostility.
Or a lame-duck status that is unavoidably detrimental
to the condominium community.
This does not mean to imply that you’ll always
agree with your fellow directors. That would be a
first. But as I noted above, it’s vital to overcome
these differences for the greater good. And that doesn’t
mean through clenched teeth. It means establishing
a working relationship that accounts for, deals with,
reconciles, and overcomes conflicts as a matter of
I know from personal experience that some Board members
out there can seem impossible to work with. In that
case, it is mandatory that the other directors recognize
the problem and actively confront it. Inaction, on
the vague hope that the issues will “work themselves
out,” almost never works. In fact, it can aggravate
the situation because silence is frequently interpreted
by the renegade director as approval.
I’ve encountered many Boards over the years.
The most effective of them, by far, are those who
embrace the Three C’s.
Alan Rosenberg is President of A. R.
Consulting, who provide a variety of advisory
services to Toronto area condominium directors. Alan’s
long, rewarding career with a large condominium management
company, most notably as Vice-President, included
client liaison and counselling, legislative advice,
financial reporting, creation of maintenance specifications,
organizing building inspections, and editing of newsletters
and other communications materials.
A. R. Consulting now assists
condominiums in radically improving their own management
situations. Alan’s comprehensive investigative
and interviewing methods are renowned throughout the
Phone: 416-932-9510; Fax: 416-932-9769