Property Management Issues
What to Expect When You Are Expecting
No…not that kind of expecting. Expectations. We all have them. We have different expectations for a variety of things as well, and they depend on our mood. We expect our coffee order to be made correctly. We expect people to drive safely. We expect responses to our emails. These are all fine and good, but when do our expectations hit the roof?
No…not that kind of expecting.
Expectations. We all have them. We have different expectations for a variety of things as well, and they depend on our mood. We expect our coffee order to be made correctly. We expect people to drive safely. We expect responses to our emails. These are all fine and good, but when do our expectations hit the roof? Or, if our expectations are not met, how do we react? Do we lash out at that barista? Do we wave an unsavoury finger out the window and blast the horn? Do we send daily follow-up emails until we hear back? I would like to dive into our hopes a little bit more here, because they can be difficult to manage. There is not an intrinsic issue with having expectations. They are not inherently negative; we want to have hopes, and it is good to anticipate a positive result. However, what we wish to happen cannot always be so.
What does this have to do with condominiums you may be wondering? Well, as a property manager, we must deal with a few expectations. Hundreds of them, in fact. The residents each come with a wide range of expectations, and the manager must, well, manage all of them. Different outlooks are not the problem of course-it is when a result is yearned after and that such result is impossible.
I have come armed with examples that are not fabricated for the purpose of this blog. To start, we have a townhome condo where many of the residents come from low-income households and money is very tight. We are reminded of that by the owners, and how the rising condo fees are preventing food from coming to their tables. However, this condo has building issues that cannot be ignored, otherwise the Board and manager would be liable, and insurance would not assist. The expectation is that the manager/Board find a way to deal with the issues without costing the homeowner money. Does this sound impossible? Unless there are other ways to make income or save majorly on costs, it is a mission that not even Tom Cruise could complete. Yet, it is placed upon the shoulders of those making decisions. Managers should be empathetic, but miracle workers we are not (usually).
Another example is a high-rise building that was advertised as top of the line, full of amenities and high quality finishes. Well, this building is not quite as extravagant as publicized. There are many items in the building that require repair but the builder is dragging their feet on addressing them. The condo fees were kept low to sell units, but they are not enough to pay for the day-to-day maintenance at the building nor sufficient to contribute to the bare reserve fund. The residents have expectations for items to be repaired in a timely manner, for fees to stay the same as what they were told, and (fill in the blank here on other things one would hope for when spending a lot of money on a new build). The manager is often seen as the sketchy ranger sauntering into the saloon, and the residents are the squinty-eyed, suspicious patrons. We let everyone know the way the town should be run, and the drinks start flying.
This is very dramatic and is not the case at every building, nor is every new owner uneducated on condominium living. But please trust that it is a repeated and frequent circumstance where the manager must contend with what real estate agents said, and the Board has to fend off frustrated residents cornering them in the hallways. We can exchange the tossed drinks for hostile emails and phone calls.
My last example (for word count purposes) is a common elements condo, where residents are responsible for the inside and outside of their home. The monthly fee is low since the condo does not have many components and the corporation does not have many duties, but snow removal is one of them. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to pile snow on the site, so it must be hauled away. The costs of this are high, and the residents are not pleased since the plows cause damage, as does the salt. The expectation is for the snow to be dealt with in a way that does not impact the residents, and also, is not so darn expensive! Unless the entire roadways were heated, there are just no other options, and the residents must contend with the property that they chose to live at.
What I’d like to move onto now is when your expectations cannot be met. The first feeling may be that of shock, outrage, or disappointment. Then you may ask why, and sometimes the answer does not satiate your overwhelming feelings. Why is my walkway not shoveled by 8 a.m.? Why are there dandelions in the grass still? Why does my upstairs neighbor shower at midnight? Why doesn’t anyone pick up their dog waste? All questions that you want addressed. You are paying for results, right? If the answer does not seem acceptable, I implore you to think about solutions. Property managers are willing to speak about them as well, since sometimes we can come up with ideas together. Boards are often willing to put their heads together too. But if the solutions posed are not good enough for you, how do you react?
I understand that pending the expectation, the result may vary. If you have an active leak, anything but an urgent solution would not be acceptable. However, we have to be realistic on what can be done before expecting someone to have a solution to something that is not cut and dry. Managers and Boards want to offer solutions that work for everyone, but if the expectation passes the roof and is heading straight for the moon, we must put our foot down. Many things can be done, but if costs are a concern, the ceiling will appear very quickly.
I want to end this by asking for respect. I also want to reiterate that I am not complaining about complaints. We WANT people to report issues rather than suffer in silence. We do not want people to hold onto an issue for years until it festers and explodes into something much worse. However, if you do not hear what you want to hear (or read what you want to read), please think about who you are speaking to. We all have emotions and human reactions. We all want to go to bed at night and feel good about our interactions. And if you let your disappointment or anger or other emotion over-rule you, you may just end up saying something awful to a person in place to assist you. Everyone deserves to be treated decently and with common courtesy, and no matter how hard the pill is to swallow. Hopefully this reminder helps the medicine go down.
Sara Hicks, B.A., (H.), OLCM, RCM, LCCI
Vice President, Owner, MF Property Management
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