Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fight the Power

With some new blood on the board (myself and my neighbor across the hall), we set about sorting through the friggin mess that comprised our business affairs. We did all of the mundane stuff like set a permanent date to meet every month and discussed the direction in which we thought the association should go. We also chose officers and proceeded to discuss what needs should be addressed in the order of their importance.

For clarity’s sake please note that our developer was still on the board in an advisory capacity. Those were his words not mine.

In short he wanted to keep an eye on us to make sure that the condo association’s interests were not going to conflict with his interests as a developer. Lord forbid a monkey wrench gets thrown into his master plans.

When we met for the first time in February our developer wasn’t present and didn’t make any excuses for his absence. We proceeded without him.

Despite the fact we didn’t have any hard numbers, we all had a strong feeling that the association was not on sound financial ground. No one could point to a comprehensive spreadsheet of what was money was coming in and what was being spent. We also didn’t truly know who was behind on assessments and by how much. I had also just found out that one of the non-resident owner units that had a renter was in the middle of the foreclosure process.

How did I find that bit of information out you ask?

Due to an ongoing problem we had with the residents of some of the units leaving their household trash on top of the dumpster instead of putting it inside (due to the locked gates---they were too lazy to unlock the gates and properly dispose of their trash), I personally put on my gloves and did a little trash picking.

There’s no quicker way to get a fine from the cash strapped City of Chicago than to have open trash in and or around your dumpster. Additionally I hate rats. Want to attract a big swarm of those beady eyed little suckers? Have open trash around and let the feast begin.

I wanted irrefutable evidence against our anonymous culprit and the best way to find that out is to dig through their trash. Well you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found that mortgage foreclosure papers had been sent to one of our non-resident owner’s address.

Great, we had money issues AND a foreclosure. This condo thing was getting better and better.

When I presented evidence of the foreclosure at the meeting, our new president stated that he already knew about the situation. I nearly broke my neck to turn and look at him. He didn’t feel it necessary to inform anyone about this issue as he felt it didn’t affect the condo association and he didn’t want to unnecessarily put “someone’s business in the street.”

I’m sure the smack of my palm against my forehead was heard ‘round the world.

Because of the late notice to not just this foreclosure situation but the three others that immediately followed my discovery of this news, we as a condo association could not file a lien against the property to recover the back assessments that were owed to us. Not anyone’s business indeed. What a crock of shit.

Just to give you yet another gentle reminder kids, condo boards aren’t for lazy people or sissies. You actually have to do some work to make sure things are in top working order. If you fall down on the job, your shit will wind up like ours. Trust me it ain’t no fun making these types of decisions on almost a daily basis and also trying to negotiate the pitfalls of your own personal life as well. Long story short, just do it the right way to begin with. Question everything. Document everything.

Now back to today’s story…

Our developer’s partner’s girlfriend was our treasurer for the first two years that our developer was our president. Yeah, I know, we are supreme dumbasses for letting it happen but let’s get the whole truth out there. If I’m gonna tell it, I might as well tell the ugly along with the good and the bad. She along with our developer made deposits and took care of the bills until she decided last year that the responsibility was too much for her. Then of course she also decided to move out of her unit without so much as a “so long suckers” before she rented out the unit to her sister(s).

That left our now president (the one who didn’t want to put anyone’s business in the street) in charge of the books. While I have a problem with his execution and follow through with much of our condo business, I will say this in his defense---He did make sure our bills were paid on time and that people (mostly) paid their assessments. By nature he is not a technocrat so Excel spread sheets and sending notices of late assessments aren’t his thing. Nonetheless, as we have found and are finding out---everything must be documented. He kept us afloat until the new people could come in and start kicking ass and taking names. For that I’m grateful.

One of the first things our president said to me was that this was like having another job and he wasn’t bullshiting. If he did need help though, my only question is why didn’t he ask for a lifeline sooner? While I may not have been able to run for the board, that didn’t preclude me or anyone else from helping out where and when it was needed. It would have saved all of us a hell of a lot of trouble.

When the financials arrived, from what I understand they were in a paper bag (or something similar) and it took our treasurer about three weeks with the help of one of our other neighbor to put everything together in a spreadsheet. A nicely done spreadsheet might I add. What’s coming in, what’s going out and to whom. Easy to read and completely digestible---those girls are geniuses.

Financials in working order---check!

Now our next order of business was to examine the yearly budget to see where we could cut corners so we didn’t have to raise regular assessments.

Time for the south siders to play “Show Me the Money” or “Get Money and Get Your Ass Out!”

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