I may have really gotten in over my head this time, but there was a shortage of volunteers for this job: president of my condo association's board of directors.
In my condo association, there are five other owners besides me. One is in foreclosure and doesn't understand that there is no landlord to fix everything for her, one is headed for foreclosure and doesn't speak English, one doesn't live on the property, one just moved in a month ago, and one is the developer (who owns four units).
And we have a real mess on our hands. The developer didn't collect assessments. The checks I sent him went uncashed. He didn't set up bank accounts for the association--he paid all the bills from his personal account. When our management company quit last summer and sent him a check for the balance of the reserves account, he deposited the reserves into his personal account and used them to pay operating expenses. The check for the balance of the operating account sat untouched on his desk.
When I say that he "paid the bills," what I mean is that he occasionally paid the bills. He generally waited until he received a final notice before shut-off. And sometimes, even a shut-off notice wasn't enough to compel him to pay. The electric company shut off the power, the gas company shut off the gas, and the phone company shut down the phone lines that connected our fire alarm to the fire department.
The lawn went unmowed and the hedges were never trimmed, so the Village threatened to issue a citation against the association. Tired of trying to convince the developer to live up to his responsibilities (and getting nowhere by pointing out that he might be able to sell his remaining units if he would keep the place up), I bought a lawnmower and mowed the lawn myself. Why waste my energy trying to get him to do his damn job, when instead I could be productive and get a good workout? I pulled the weeds. I swept and mopped the common areas. I cleaned the glass doors. I changed light bulbs and put fresh batteries in the smoke detectors in the common areas.
Last summer I realized that it had been three years since the recording of the declaration of condominium, and according to Illinois law it was time for the developer to turn over control of the association to an owner-elected board. He wouldn't do it--couldn't get his act together, he was moving into a new house, his attorney was too "slammed" with work to get the paperwork together, and so forth.
In April, the common area electricity was shut off again for non-payment. The emergency lighting hadn't been maintained and didn't work, so the stairwells were pitch black. There was no hot water in the building. The next day I called the developer in a red-hot rage to threaten him with legal action if he didn't turn over the association to the owners. We finally had the turnover meeting in May, and in the meantime we had acquired another owner who was willing to serve on the board.
So now we have a board, and we are slowly slogging our way through this disaster. We had our first board meeting. We've opened bank accounts, set up a post office box, paid the past-due bills, and had the roof inspected. We had the property cleaned up so the Village wouldn't do it for us and bill us for the work. We are drafting rules and regulations.
A live-in relative of one of the owners moved his refrigerator into the common area and plugged it in. We posted notices advising residents that common area electrical outlets are not to be used for this purpose. The relative yelled at and threatened the board's secretary, but in the end he loaded the refrigerator (and all the other stuff he had stored in the common area) into his truck and drove away.
The owner who owes the association over $3,000 called me to ask when we're address the things around the building that need repair.
Well . . . how 'bout . . . when people pay what they owe, so we have money to pay for repairs.
Also, she needed to explain that she doesn't have a job so she can't pay her debt. She also wanted me to know that she doesn't see why her cleaning lady can't park in other people's deeded parking spaces. Because she needs her own parking space for her Lexus.
I promise you, it's true.
I have a feeling this situation will get worse before it gets better, so this blog may take on a new life as the place where I get the condo association out of my system. And when it does get better, I'll share that too.