Chatting Over the Garden Fence I moved to this condo in 2009 I spent the first couple of years just settling in, and then it occurred to me that I wanted to get to know a few of my neighbours. I also wanted to know what decisions were being made, so I started going to the monthly Home Owners’ Association meetings.

It turned out there was a lot going on. Large amounts of money were being saved and spent. Trespassers were being caught and evicted. Repairs were being done. Maintenance schedules were being kept up. A court case was grinding its way through the courts. And, just a few devoted people, in concert with a property management company, were making all these decisions on behalf of the owners of 176 properties.

I was surprised that at most meetings I was the only home owner in the audience because it seemed to me that the discussions provided information all owners would want to know. When a vacancy came about on the Board I volunteered, and I have been participating ever since.

My knowledge of accounting is limited to knowing the difference between positive and negative numbers, so I’m not much help there. I can, though, offer my observations and opinions on other matters that don’t require expert knowledge. Thankfully, we are able to pay professionals of various kinds when they are needed.

It is a testament to how well things have been managed that we suddenly had a flurry of concerned residents at this month’s meeting. The property manager assigned to our complex retired a few months ago and the management company has had difficulty in finding someone to replace him. As a consequence, minor details have been overlooked and unit owners have not had the email updates he had been sending out.

As the Board members sat with a pile of documents and reports awaiting our decisions, several owners came to express their frustrations about things like construction workers leaving empty water bottles lying about and the neighbour’s smoke drifting in their unit. These are all issues which have an immediate effect upon residents and that formerly had been quietly and efficiently dealt with.

Longer term, higher-priced issues like renovations and repairs were not of immediate concern. What mattered more to the guests at the meeting was knowing who to call when there was an issue with, say, paying the HOA fees or getting a new access control fob to enter the building.

As the time passed, I could see other Board members becoming anxious in case we ran out of time to discuss all the items on the agenda. In fact, a lot of important issues were dealt with hurriedly after the visiting owners had left. The amount of time spent in relation to the significance of agenda items was a long way out of proportion. On the other hand, it was really good to see so many people in attendance. The time spent listening to their concerns was valuable in and of itself.

If you live in a community of any sort, I recommend that you go to the meetings once in a while. You’ll be surprised at how much is being discussed and accomplished that you didn’t know about. You will also have a chance to complain about whatever bugs you and to find out that other people are thinking the same things. It’s a bit like chatting over the garden fence: it’s a very neighbourly thing to do.


Image source: Patches of Heaven

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