When you buy a condo you automatically become a member of your building’s (or development’s) Association. Think of it this way: by living where you do, you become a citizen of the neighborhood. You formally participate in your building’s affairs through the Association.
So what should you do to make sure you become a good member in your condo’s Association?
Pay Your Dues. Obviously. But don’t just pay them. Pay them on time and in full. Particularly in smaller buildings, your Association may be fairly informal – but this doesn’t mean it’s okay to pay your dues ten days late, or pay half now, half later. People appreciate and respect punctuality, particularly when it comes to bills.
Be Aware. Depending on the size of your Association, this can mean very different things. If you live in a complex that has 80 units, you don’t necessarily need to go to every Association meeting. However, you should at least browse your Association’s newsletter and email blasts, so that you have an idea of what’s going on – and so that you’ll be able to participate if there’s something you strongly disagree with.
With a smaller Association (think 16 or fewer units), try your best to attend the Association meetings. Possibly there won’t be any other way to find out what’s going on, plus your neighbors will appreciate meeting you and discussing things with you face-to-face. And, they’ll notice (and wonder) if you’re perpetually absent.
Consider Participating. If you work a 60-hour-a-week job and you don’t have time to participate in your Association, you don’t have time. You’re under no obligation to serve as an officer or board member – or to help with a community gardening project, for example. It’s perfectly reasonable for you contribution to be entirely financial. That said, consider getting involved. You’ll meet your neighbors, you’ll have a greater influence over what happens in your building and you may even have fun.
Maintenance is Everyone’s Business. When you lived in a rental you might not have cared if the front walk is covered with ice and snow, or if three lights in a row were out in the communal hallway, or if the vestibule sorely needed a new paint job; that was your landlord’s business, not yours. When you live in a condo, these communal spaces are everyone’s and, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which, your own property value), you want to make sure that they get fixed.
If you have a large association, this can be as simple as calling your management company and explaining the problem. If you have a small association, you may need to bring up the issue at the next meeting (if it’s a major issue), or figure out whom to talk to get the problem fixed (if it’s medium or minor problem) or just fix it yourself (if it’s minor and you know the usual protocol, such as spare light bulbs are kept in the front hall closet).
Don’t Overstep Your Bounds. While staying aware and involved are signs of a good Association member, it’s also important to remember that you’re a member of a larger organization. This means that while you have a voice in the building’s goings-on, don’t try to strong-arm people into agreeing with you – for example, you don’t personally get to decide when and whether your building’s trim gets repainted and what color. Nor would an impromptu planting of a sapling in the front lawn be appreciated. You need to be willing to consult with others and work together.
While being part of an Association can be a little bit of extra work, it’s worth putting some effort into being a good member – after all, a smoothly-running, happy Association is the hallmark of well-run building and a good place to live. And it’s up to all the condo owners to help make it happen.