Take An Interest!

Last week, I attended the Annual General Meeting at a condominium for which I serve as Vice-President of the Board of Directors.

I sat in a half-empty room, and wondered how so many people could care less about the goings-on in their building.

It’s only your largest principal investment, after all, right?

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How much of a vested interest do you have in The Hills?

Well, you bought a bag of Pop Secret which probably ran about $1.25, and you opened up that $8.75 bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz that was on special at the LCBO.

Maybe you called a friend over and she had to pay $1.50 to park her car.

So all in all, you have maybe ten bucks invested in The Hills.

And you chose to watch this high-quality, realistic, un-exaggerated program instead of attending your condominium’s Annual General Meeting?

Really?

How much is your condo worth?

Whether you own a $255,000 bachelor condo, or whether you are the pimp who lives in the $1.6 Million condo on the top floor, I am telling you right now that you’re a fool for not attending your AGM.

In the words of S.N.L. immortals, Hans & Frans, “Hear me now, and believe me later,” you’re a fool, plain and simple.

Your condominium is likely your largest financial interest and obligation, so why can’t you take an hour out of your calendar year to go and meet with the Board of Directors, property management, the auditor, and the condominium’s solicitor to hear about the issues that affect your home?

Last week, I attended an AGM for one of my investment condos, and I was shocked by the turnout or lack thereof.

In a building with 136 units, we had only 40 units represented at the meeting.

There were 26 residents in attendance, and 14 proxies.

Interestingly enough, the Condominium Act specifies that 25% is needed for a quorum.

Perhaps those who brought forth the condo legislation in 1998 were aware how few people actually attend these meetings…

With a little more than the 25% needed to proceed, we did exactly that.

And I wondered where the other 75% were.

Sure, some of these units are owned by investors who don’t actually occupy the units.  But surely they get the information packets sent out before the meeting, no?

Surely somebody astute enough to own an investment property would, could, or should care about the issues being voted on, no?

Surely these investors want to know what issues, if any, plague the condominium after its first full year in existence, as well as find out how healthy the reserve fund is, what repairs need to be made, etc.

Okay, well maybe some of these investors are foreign and don’t have the slightest involvement with the condominium.  Maybe they don’t even know what or where it is, other than to say, “Toronto.”

Maybe we’ll let some of the investors off the hook…

But what about the residents?

I can play devil’s advocate and come up with reasons why investors aren’t at the AGM, but I have no clue why residents would fail to attend.

During our meeting, we heard from our auditor who had poured over our corporation’s finances.

He gave a ten-minute summary of the financial statements, which were provided to all residents.  He explained where the corporation spent its money in the first year of operation, and detailed how our actual expenses differed from those that were budgeted.  He then opened the floor to questions, and provided answers that those of us on the Board of Directors would have been otherwise unable to.

We discussed the performance audit, which is something that every single condominium undertakes in its first year.  The performance audit is a thorough inspection of the building, inside and outside, by a team of engineers.  They investigate large-ticket items such as the roof or the cooling system, and small-ticket items such as why your kitchen faucet drips.

The performance audit is undoubtedly one of the most important steps in a condominium’s infancy stage, yet only 25% of the owners in the building cared enough to hear what’s what.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by this, since when we handed out the survey/questionnaire to all residents (in order for the engineers to perform an inspection of the interior of the condo, they need substantial feedback from residents on problems), we only received a fraction of those surveys in return.

I guess if people didn’t care then, they don’t care now…

We also discussed the reserve fund study which goes a long way in determining the short and medium term financial health of the building, and both our auditor and solicitor provided commentary.

And finally, we opened the floor to questions, grievances, or ideas.

This can be the best or worst part, depending on how you look at it.

The Annual General Meeting is the best time for residents to ask those burning questions or air that dirty laundry that they’ve been keeping bottled up for a year.

I was expecting to get lambasted by the residents on every issue from security, to rooftop access, to the color of the damn floors!

But save for a couple of squeaky wheels, the peanut gallery kept pretty quiet.

If it sounds almost like I’m complaining, it’s because despite my eagerness to get out of that meeting by 10:00PM and still have time to call what I ate, “dinner,” and not “midnight snack,” I was disappointed in the lack of interest among the residents.

The next time a resident complains to the concierge (who is the wrong person for the complaint), complains to their neighbour (who can only provide empathy), or complains to the property manager (who will bring the complaint to the Board), I’ll wonder why that resident didn’t just come to the Annual General Meeting and discuss it at the best forum possible!

And aside from complaints, airing of greivances, or even providing constructive criticism, this meeting was an information session that laid out all the issues that affect the lives and the investment of residents.

But somewhere, some resident was watching The Hills and thinking, “This is soooo like my life!”

Maybe I’m just a nerd.

Maybe I take interest in things like financial statements, engineering reports, and budgets.

Maybe I should watch “So You Think You Can Wife Swap Worst Handyman America” instead of spending a single hour out of my entire year to hear about my “home.”

Nah.  I think I was right the first time…

5 Comments

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  1. Jumie says:

    i’ve attended a couple of these condo meetings, and while it has merits, i fiind some residents use these mettings as a platform to launch personal attacks at other residents or their lifestyles. Which then turns the mood/ purpose of the meeting to something more like ” gossip central “, not a good use of one’s time u think?
    But in good faith i like when the #’s are shared, discussed in lay man terms much better than receiving the brown envelope with several sheets of info to go through.

  2. dogbiskit says:

    I take an interest and it also surprises me how many owners don’t take an interest. It also freaks me out how petty some people can be. One owner at my old condo was complaining that the board expensed pizza at the monthly meetings. How pathetic to complain about such a minor expense for the good folks who volunteer so much of their personal time.

  3. Matt says:

    Hmmmm I always go to my buildings meetings and it always is a busy environment.

    I know some of my neighbors go for the titillating drama that unfolds at times. It can be entertaining but I find it disturbing too.

    I am though not sure about how people love to go about telling others their business in public. If I had a problem I’ll do one of 2 things:

    1. Tell my neighbor directly. Of course in a very PC manner.

    2. Address it to the concierge/security who needs to know whats going on so the can record the matter and I personally tell the building manager, by phone or e-mail.

    I have had issues with a resident ( I cant call her a neighbor..because what she did was doing was VERY un-neighborly) Who was doing very disgusting things in her balcony below mine and I decided route 2 was needed (above) as previous encounters were futile and I addressed it to the concierge and that was it. It was dealt with the same day. I would never bring that up to the general meeting ever! Thank the Lord she has moved!

    But you’d be surprised what I have had to sit down to and the snickering and snorting that I’ve involuntarily expended by the sheer guts some people bring to these board meetings.

    These meetings should never be about feuding neighbors or grievances regarding personal matters. But I find that it does end up that the open floor turns out to be a battle (4 out of the 5 I have attended over the years) between certain people. Which makes it painful and a waste of time.

    I do agree though that mostly “mature” resident turn out mostly in our meetings. I hardly ever see people of my age attend.

    I also find rentals never tend to show to these things…

  4. Condo Owner says:

    I sit on the board of my condo as well and it really does amaze me how little people care. During the monthly meetings, you hear all these complaints about this and that, and then, a lot of the times, we don’t resolve it in the favour of the resident because they are simply unreasonable. This doesn’t stop them from continuously sending us harassing emails and pester us and the property manager throughout the entire year.

    However, the very same people will never come to the AGM where they can present their case and potentially “expose” and “embarass” us in front of everyone else if they believe that they are so right.

    Go figure.

  5. LC says:

    I think it’s a generational thing as well as the temporary nature of downtown condo ownership.

    The majority of owners in attendance at my previous AGM’s were over 40 and were keenly interested in the financial health of the complex. These were people who downsized into condos and were prepared to live there for the long term.

    I find the younger buyers out there (20-35) jumped on the condo-buying bandwagon and feel that paying their maintenance fees relieves them from any sense of duty to protect their investment.

    A fool and his/her money….

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