Condo association fights and arguments cause trouble
Feb 2011 23

If you want to own a home in downtown Boston, just about 90% of you are going to end up living in a condominium. The lucky/fortunate few will be able to buy a single-family home, but the vast majority of you (us) are going to end up owning a floor in a five-story walk-up with neighbors in very close proximity to us, a part of what’s known as the “condo association”.

A few weeks back, the Boston Globe ran a series of articles on what it’s like to live in a condo association. Basically, hell on earth, was their point of view. There was the story of the condo owner in a building on Beacon Hill who basically hated her neighbors who hated her back.

But, for most of us, living with others in a condo building is simply a part of life. Infrequently do we get involved in the personal lives of our neighbors – we may never even see them in the hallways for months at a time. (Yes, it’s true.)

The Boston.com real estate blog had a clever little entry about the different types of condo associations you might encounter. I think the author, Sam Schneiderman, hit it right on the head, in his Challenging condo associations entry.

He organizes the typical condo associations under five headings. Which one’s yours?

1.) Financially-mismanaged condo assoc.
2.) Physically-mismanaged condo assoc.
3.) Invisible condo assoc.
4.) The broke condo assoc.
5.) The well-managed condo assoc.

I’ve never been a part of any of those, truth-be-told. Maybe well-managed, but that’s only because it was still under the control of the builder, and he took care of everything.

Each of the other four comes with its own set of problems. If I had to rank, the “financially- and broke-association” is worst: the type of association where there’s never enough money to pay for desperately-needed repairs. Try coming up with $30,000 as a special assessment from owners when you need a new roof. Better would be to have monthly condo fees sufficient to build a capital reserve. And, these days, not only is it wise because you’ll have money on hand, it’s practically a necessity if you ever expect to get a potential buyer approved for a home loan.

If your association has low owner-occupancy, then you may have already encountered the “physically-mismanaged” association. If a lot of owners are renting out their units, and they live elsewhere, they probably don’t know or care about leaks or broken doors – they just want their rent checks. Only a disaster or major crime will get a rise out of them.

A commenter adds one more: There’s also the mentally mismanaged condo association, with at least one member who is both highly vocal and bats**t insane. Apparently this is required by city ordinance in Cambridge, where every association has one.

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