Captain Of The Ship!

Who is guiding your condominium and trying to steer it clear of that proverbial iceberg?

Who makes the decisions at the top and how much power does he or she have?

Every building is different, but if you look hard enough, you’ll see some dictatorships on the horizon…

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With an increasing frequency, I hear condominium owners complaining, “My condo-board president is the biggest this-and-that…”

Nobody seems to like the president of their condo board, or the entire board for that matter.

It’s truly a thankless job, and every condo-owner thinks that he or she could do the job twice as good, but of course, never steps forward to make an attempt…

Having served as vice-president of a condo board, I know all to well what kind of crap we put up with.

Recently, an owner in the building threatened to take us to court because we closed the rooftop patio for winter.  We exchanged letters before it got to this point, but there was no reasoning with this condo owner with respect to our position.

We told him that the rooftop terrace would be closed for winter, as per the rules set forth by the condominium corporation.

He responded by with a variety of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.

We explained that the costs associated with maintaining an outdoor terrace during the winter were prohibitive.

We would need to pay for snow removal on the roof; something we didn’t account for in our budget, nor did we purchase shovels and hire an extra body to clear the snow away.

We would have to salt the terrace to prevent ice from forming, and who knows what kind of long-term effects this salt would have on the outdoor tile.

We would have constantly mop the steep stairs that lead to the rooftop; a major slip-and-fall lawsuit waiting to happen, if you ask me.

And the 14th floor hallways would likely be ruined with residents sloshing their wet boots between the staircase that leads up to the terrace and the elevator.

Despite all this, the condo owner still challenged our position, and referenced 2-3 other condos in the city which have a year-round rooftop terrace.  He never mentioned that these buildings were 500+ units and ours was a mere 138…

I’ve been on both sides of the “evil board of directors” equation.

I’ve seen how residents can argue in favor of their own personal tastes and opinions even if it isn’t in the best interests of the corporation, and I’ve asked out loud “what the hell is going on in this building” with respect to my own condominium.

Consider the recent “renovations and upgrades” to my home at 230 King Street.

About two weeks ago, we were notified that the lobby would be undergoing an extensive facelift.  The work would take about three weeks to complete, and it would be “a constant disruption to all residents” as stated in the letter from the property manager.

The work would entail removing the old tile and replacing it with new tile.

But most residents wondered the same thing: “What the heck was wrong with the old tile?”

I’ve never once complained about the state of our lobby; in fact, I consider it to be the nicest lobby of ALL condominiums in the St. Lawrence Market area.

So why are we replacing the tile?

I’m not sure.

Somebody at “the top” decided the lobby needed the work, and thus the work is taking place.

Here is what our lobby has looked like for the past two weeks:

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We have to access our building through the side entrance on Sherbourne or through the back door next to the garbage room off Adelaide.

Our concierge is wearing a protective mask on his face for every minute of his eight-hour shift.

And for what?

To put in the exact same tile as we had before?

I’m not joking here, folks.  It’s identical.

Here is a look at the hallway in the lobby leading to the elevator, and the OLD tile – which, keep in mind, is covered in dirty and dust:

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Now look at the NEW tile that they used to replace the OLD tile:

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One might say, “It’s exactly the same.”

I know….I said that!

I had an elevator-sized conversation (nine seconds) with a couple of residents about the “new” tile, and we all agreed there is essentially no difference.

Maybe the new tile is made of a revolutionary material that can only be found on the moon, but I don’t care.

If 99% of the residents can’t tell the difference, then why did we bother?

Maybe those photos don’t do my story justice.

Perhaps the new tile looks a lot more shiny because my photography skills are somewhat lacking.  Sorry….but it’s 11:45PM on Sunday night and I want to go to bed!  Should I run back downstairs and take a better photo?  Hmmmm……no, I’ll pass…

The “new” tiles are the same size, shape, and color as the “old tiles.”

Are they of the same material?  I’m just about certain that they are.

But even if they aren’t, the lobby will look no different when the “renovation” is complete.

I hope the captain of this ship isn’t steering us on a wrong course.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time…

11 Comments

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  1. David Fleming says:

    @ RJ

    Thanks for clarifying. I have spoken with property management at great length and I have proven to be incorrect!

    My post was intended to represent a more broad overview of the changes that condominum residents must endure as a building goes through its natural wear and tear cycles.

    We’ve always had the most beautiful lobby in the downtown core, and with the recent renovations, it looks even better…..and shinier!

    Thanks for your comments.

  2. rj says:

    You should do a little more research in regards to your building before blogging on it…
    The floor tile replacement is covered by insurance as a result of a flood in the lobby which ruined some of the porous limestone tile, which was costly too maintain (to the tune of $5000/yr) to have it honed as the pores in the stone trapped dirt.
    In addition to not depeleting the reserve fund, the new tile may have the same look, but it is a porcelain product, which is much stonger and will last longer in a high traffic application such as your lobby.

  3. Martin says:

    For me, it was never more than a 3-hour meeting a month. Worked out fine.

  4. David Fleming says:

    @Avinash

    I have never been on the Board where I have lived.

    I have served on Boards where I have invested.

    When I close on my new condo at West Side Lofts in 2010, I will serve on the Board there to oversee my investment. I want to have my hand in everything that goes on with that building in its infancy.

    LC is correct – you can serve on a sub-committee, ie. social events such as Christmas party or Summer BBQ. This is always a help to the Board members since they would likely welcome any help they can get.

    Serving on a Board is a huge committment. It’s not just one three-hour meeting every month, as some people suggest.

    The President of the Board where I serve probably spends ten hours per week dealing with building issues, and I’d say when we first took power as a condominium corporation upon registration of the building, he was dedicating 20 hours per week on top of his likely 50-60 hour work weeks. I praise the man.

  5. LC says:

    @Avinash

    It really depends on what stage the building is in. If it’s early in the corporation’s life, expect to face alot of opposition from residents, property management, the developer, and even other board members….it takes time for a condo and board to settle down and come into it’s own. But it does happen, and once you achieve that harmony on the board, it becomes a lot of fun!

    If you are even considering it, I’d say follow that through with campaigning for any position open at your next AGM. Yes, there will be people that make a part-time job out of writing letters complaining about everything imaginable, but the funny thing is, these people never put their money where their mouth is and actually RUN for a position on the board. So you quickly learn to write polite but vague thank-you letters, and move on to more important issues at board meetings.

    Bottom line, if you value your investment in your home, you should become involved in it’s operation in some capacity. Perhaps start off becoming involved in a resident committee, or at least making yourself known to the board that you’d like to help somehow. This gives you more credibility when you run for a position, and helps you determine if you’re even ready/willing to make this kind of commitment.

    Hope that helps!

  6. Avinash says:

    David, LC, Martin and others who have served on the condo board – how much time did it require from you? I’m interested in getting involved, but stories like this are keeping me away. Whatever decisions you make, there will always be people who disagree with them and will be upset with you. The other issue is the amount of time required. Any input you guys have from first hand experience would be great.

  7. Martin says:

    I have been President of one condo Board once and been elected as a Director on another. In both cases, the visibility that my Board seat provided me allowed me 1) to make a good profit on my investment, 2) to limit condo fee increases, 3) to spend the reserve fund wisely, and 4) to prevent certain Board dictators from holding all residents hostage to their own personal agenda. In short: it’s been great. Unfortunately, when I got elected, it was by default. I was the only one to submit my candidacy for the vacant seat. My advice to all is: get involved. It’s the best way to protect and grow the value of your investment.

  8. Avinash says:

    Have you talked to the condo board and asked them why they changed the tiles? Although they look the same, maybe they are made of a different material. Maybe they are more durable? Maybe they are more resistant to dirt and dust and require less cleaning?

    Who knows? I am sure they had a reason to change them, it may not be a good one, but I find it very difficult to believe they changed them just for the sake of changing them.

    Avinash

  9. LC says:

    I’ve been on both sides, too. It is a thankless job performed by unpaid volunteer residents. But when I saw the board go way off course on an issue, I did something about it.

    It amazes me that most people will follow stock market prices everyday on their relatively minor investments, but show no interest in who or what the board of directors on their $400,000+ condo are doing with their property’s value and future.

    BTW, I prefer the old tile to the new tile. I hope your board has a good reason for doing it.

  10. calico cate says:

    Hopefully, the guy at the top doesn’t have a bro-in-law in the tile business.

  11. earth mother says:

    Remember when Kramer ran for condo board president on Seinfeld? And even my 85-year old mother has issues with her condo board’s spending choices!!

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