by Steve Koga
No heat? No AC? Water leak? Screen repair? Should you call Ghostbusters or a board member? Nope, don’t think so .. try the management office.
Assessments too high? Redo the lobby and plaza? Upgrade the water risers and elevator cab? Borrow money to seal the windows? Improve or get rid of the pool and health club? Buy bulk internet and cable TV? Ghostbusters or the Management Office? Nope .. contact a board member.
Unless you have demons and ghosts in your condo, you probably can rule out calling the Ghostbusters for anything. But regarding these other issues, who exactly is responsible for what around here?
In a democracy, the people elect their representatives to represent their interests and be responsible for operating their government. Park Tower is like a democracy; the Owners — collectively, the Park Tower Condominium Association — elect their representatives (the five Board members) and charge them with representing their interests and taking responsibility for operating a 54 story condo building.
In fact, the Board is required to exercise for the Owners — the PTCA — all the powers, duties, and authority vested in the Association by the Illinois Condominium Act, the Park Tower Condominium Declaration and Bylaws, as well as by court cases such as the recent “Palm” case. All these can be referred to as the Board’s “governing instruments.” This responsibility includes hiring professionals to advise the Board, like a management company, attorneys and accountants.
Note that Renters – while they are a large and important segment of our residents – are not owners. Renters’ interests are best represented by clear and positive relationships with their landlords, the legal basis for which is Chicago’s Landlord Tenant Ordinance. Renters do not vote in our board elections, only Owners.
One of the first steps the Board takes in carrying out its responsibilities to the Owners of Park Tower is to hire a qualified professional management company capable of operating and overseeing the services that such a huge building require. Once a licensed, qualified and professional management company is hired, its responsibility is to operate and manage Park Tower on a day-to-day basis.
The Board should refrain from getting in the way of the management company‘s operations. The Board should not micro-manage and second guess those qualified professionals it has hired to operate Park Tower, a huge building. Board members are generally not qualified – nor are they licensed – to determine what is needed, how to fix, or how to improve the many systems a 54 story condo building requires.
The Board should then assess what their constituents, the Owners who elected them, want done for their home in Park Tower. Only IF the Owners convey their views and opinions – their vision for Park Tower and how they want their home to be – will the Board know what is important to the Owners and prioritize these goals. Of course as in any democracy, all Owners will seldom agree on the same goals, and even when they do, there will be disagreement on how to achieve those goals.
So, how do you convey your views and opinions? First, as in any democracy, educate yourself about the candidates who are willing to sacrifice their precious time to represent you – they don’t get paid. Find out if they share the same goals and vision as you do for Park Tower. Find out if they value the same things as you do in owning a condo here.
THEN VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATE YOU FEEL WILL BEST REPRESENT YOUR VISION AND GOALS FOR YOUR HOME AT PARK TOWER!
Next, you need to communicate with the Board Members and express your views – talk to them, go to the Board meetings and express your views; go to the Owners open forums and express your views there, too.
The Board is then responsible for analyzing the Owners’ views and putting together a policy that will accomplish what the majority of the Owners want for Park Tower .. and therein sometimes lies a problem: A minority of Owners may not be happy with the policies the Board has implemented for the majority. It’s even more difficult for the Board to implement policies where the Owners are evenly split on what they want for Park Tower.
In addition, the Board should rely on the expertise of the management company to tell it what this 54 story building with over 700 condo units needs to keep running efficiently and provide the type of home Owners expect for Park Tower.
One of the biggest responsibilities of the Board is to formulate a budget for the operating expenses of Park Tower and for capital improvements Park Tower needs to maintain itself as a home for its Owners. At the same time the Board must be sensitive to and responsive to Owners’ need to keep the assessments affordable – they need to be able to afford to live in their homes in Park Tower.
Once it has hired a management company, analyzed the needs and wants for Park Tower, and adopted a budget, the Board is then charged with directing the management company to operate and improve Park Tower in a manner consistent with the budget and the Owners’ desires.
Another responsibility of the Board is to determine rules for the Owners to follow so that all can enjoy their homes in Park Tower.
If a homeowner owned a stand-alone home on an acre lot, he or she could pretty much do anything they wanted without disturbing their neighbor. Their peculiar habits, level of cleanliness, level of noise and odor, visitors and security would probably have little impact to their neighbors. But even then, if things get too far out of hand, the neighbors may complain and seek some type of corrective action so their rights are also respected.
With over 700 units back to back over 54 floors, the need for each Owner to enjoy his home without disrespecting his neighbors’ rights becomes very difficult. So once again the Board must listen to what the majority of the Owners desire with respect to how they want to enjoy their homes. The Board must implement a framework of rules and regulations that allows each Owner to enjoy his own home and at the same time allow a neighbor to enjoy his, which may be immediately next door.
To this end, the Board commissions committees to ascertain the views of the Owners, hold meetings to discuss proposals, and adopt and amend rules that reflect what the Owners want and desire for living in their Park Tower homes. As in any democracy, the rules change as the Owners and their desires change – as our government changes and amends laws to answer the desires of the voters. Park Tower’s rules and regulations, like our government laws, are a constantly changing and continuing process.
It is the management company’s job to enforce these rules when Owners violate them, thereby disrespecting their neighbor. Hence, don’t complain to the management company about a rule if you view it as unfair. That complaint should go to the Board. And don’t complain to the Board about the day-to-day operation of Park Tower or the enforcement of the rules. That complaint should go to the management company.
The Board should set policy based on the Owners wants and desires, like the Legislature Branch of our state and Federal governments. The management company is charged with carrying out and implementing the policies of the Board, as are the executive branches of our state and federal governments.
Operation of Park Tower and implementation of the Board’s policies are not the role of the Board – that is the roll of the management company.
The role of the Board is to represent the Owners, formulate a budget that will allow Park Tower to meet its needs as well as the wants and desires of its many Owners, and formulate the parameters each Owner must follow in order to enjoy his or her home while respecting a neighbor’s privacy rights.
Finally, if an Owner feels the management company is not meeting its responsibility in operating Park Tower and implementing the Board’s policies, then that complaint should be directed to the Board to deal with. And if an Owner doesn’t feel the Board is doing its job in establishing an affordable budget and implementing policies that the majority of the Owners want and desire, then the Owners must vote them out of office and elect new directors. Of course, if you are satisfied with existing Board members, then you should vote to retain them.
An election of three Board members will be held in June – so educate yourself about the candidates and VOTE !
Don’t surrender your right to vote. Democracy requires your education and participation or in the end it will fail.