The Open Condominium

This probably won’t come as a shock to anyone reading these articles, but pretty much every record about a condominium and its business is an official document of the condominium association. You probably will not also be shocked to find out that the majority of boards don’t believe this. It is one of the more fascinating double-takes we face; the director runs on “transparency” because a decision didn’t go their way and then, once on the board, start having secret “committee” meetings and conducting business by email. All without providing the relevant information to the association for disclosure.

It obviously frustrates us as C.O.R.E. believes in the principles behind “Open Books”. This is an overarching philosophy which encourages organizations to share the information so that all stakeholders can make the best decision for the organization. It is mostly about the accounting and financial aspect of the business, but, taken to heart, is really about all organizational records which have an impact on how we work together.

Conceptually, the open records concept should be totally practical in an property owners association, regardless of its technical type. The unit owners are members of the association, or, in the situation of a co-op, they are shareholders, and as members should be able to know what is being decided upon by those who make those decisions. The records should be immediately available and even searchable. This is transparency – every decision is documented and available for review.

Interestingly enough, we get lots of pushback on the concept of true transparency. Email is the biggest culprit. I am stunned sometimes by the number of emails directors send on a daily basis about the property. They are all group emails and often start with “Do we agree that…?” After a dozen or so back-and-forth’s, the board president (usually) then writes management and says, “We decided to do X”.

To be clear, this is not transparent. This is not open business. This is not a documented decision on behalf of your association. This is the antithesis of open records and transparency.

Directors have no power outside of a properly noticed board meeting. Check your bylaws. Directors have 4 roles in a meeting: Make a motion, second a motion, debate on the motion and finally, vote on the motion. Walking around your complex with enough other directors and discussion business and deciding amongst yourselves what you want to accomplish is, in fact, a board meeting. A completely obscured, black box, approach to condominium oversight.

So, boards, start practicing transparency. Below are some of the immediate steps you can take to bring true transparency quickly and painlessly to your association:

  • Provide proper notice to all meetings of directors where a decision is to be made
  • Record accurate minutes to your meeting
  • Approve all prior minutes
  • Post the approved minutes to your website (don’t have a website? Contact us and we can help you with that)
  • For every board meeting minutes, include all reports, analysis, and statements prepared for discussion
  • Document every financial decision in the minutes by stating who is being paid, how much, and what fund should be used to pay it. This is especially important when you are looking at exceeding your budget
  • Invite owners into the budget preparation committee. Keep minutes of the committee meetings and post them to your association website.
  • Put your insurance information on the website
  • Put your bylaws, CC&R’s, and house rules on the website.
  • If you vote by email, make the entire email chain available on the website

This is a great start towards transparency. The website is key though as it puts the records in an immediately available space which cuts down the time and effort in pulling records together. The records are theirs so make them easily available.

C.O.R.E. Services, LLC is focused on bringing strong effective management to condominium associations and supporting those who wish to be member-managed do so at the lowest possible time investment. If you would like more information or have a question you would like answered, email us today.

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