Monthly Archives: June 2012

Flirting with Disaster (Management Planning)

S.R. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are some good guidelines for protocol that constitutes an emergency, and a disaster management plan?

Mister Condo replies:

S.R., I hope you don’t mind but I broke up your query into two questions as they are related but different. Disaster management planning is a great idea for all condo communities. In fact, some of the companies involved in disaster management will actually work with your condo to develop a disaster management plan today. By planning before there is a problem, you are well on your way to minimizing the damage should a disaster strike.

One of the most impressive programs I have seen in our state is offered by JP Maguire. They call it Preferred Emergency Response Client, or PERC. You can read all about it at their website, http://www.percprotection.com/

In a nutshell, PERC gets your condo ready for the unfortunate event of a disaster. By establishing a plan well in advance of tragedy, the intensity of having to make decisions when your judgment may be clouded or impaired is avoided. The community can rest easy knowing that a plan is in place and the Board has one less decision to make should disaster strike.

I hope your community never needs disaster recovery but I hope you’ll take this advice to heart and make a plan. Your whole community will thank you!

What Constitutes Emergency Spending?

S.R. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What authority does a President have in an emergency situation to authorize expenditure? Our Board is suggesting limiting the expenditure authority to the President for only $1,000 in an emergency? What are your thoughts and concerns? Should the President’s discretionary emergency spending be limited?

Mister Condo replies:

S.R., “Emergency” spending should be reserved for a true emergency. If your condo were located along a river bed that is on the verge of flooding, you would be thankful to have someone in the association like the President with the power to purchase sandbags to help stave off the damage. That might be considered a true emergency expenditure. The real issue here is what constitutes an emergency. If a Board president is claiming a right to make discretionary expenditures and classify them as emergencies, there may be a problem.

Since you live in a community with less than 25 units, I am guessing there aren’t that many truly emergent expenses. There may be times when it is simply more efficient for a Board President to make a decision that is in the community’s best interest than it is to wait for the next Board meeting and have the decision go through proper channels. That is not the correct way to do it but as long as there are no objections from residents, I can understand how a community might function that way. However, the President is setting him/her self up for a potential problem in that any community member can cry foul and bring suit against the President for not following the rules and by-laws of the association, which, generally speaking, do not empower any Board member to make discretionary decisions on how or when to spend association money.

A better approach would be to anticipate expenses and have the Board vote on the expenditures before they are made. In the event of a true emergency – flood, earthquake, fire, and storm – true emergency decisions may need to be made. Those decisions should be made to stop further damage. I don’t know if I would want to limit the spending authority of a President if the safety of the community were at stake. However, the decision to spend money to repair emergency-related damage may have to wait until the next Board meeting, which could be called quickly in the event of a true emergency. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that your community doesn’t need any more emergency expenditures.

In Hot Water over a Hot Tub

B.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently installed a hot tub in my condo so I can relax and enjoy myself. Turns out one of my neighbors saw the delivery truck and called the management company to complain. The property manager sent me a letter informing me that hot tubs are not allowed at my condo and that I have to remove it. I really enjoy my hot tub and I don’t want to return it. Is there any way I can keep the hot tub at my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

B.F., a relaxing soak in a hot tub sure sounds good right about now. However, my condo doesn’t allow hot tubs any more than yours does so it looks like we’ll both need to get soaked elsewhere…

If your condo rules prohibit hot tubs, I really don’t see any way around you having to remove your hot tub. You can choose to ignore the demand to remove the hot tub and you will likely be fined by your association. You can hire an attorney and try to fight to keep your hot tub but you would very likely lose that battle as well and run up a hefty legal bill for yourself and your association along the way. Ultimately, your condo association would win a court order forcing you to remove your hot tub.

My advice is to remove the hot tub at your earliest convenience. You could petition the Board to change the rule for all units regarding hot tubs but there is very likely a good reason for the rule in the first place. Noise is a common reason, followed by the potential of flooding for you or your neighboring units should the hot tub malfunction. I do not know of any community reversing themselves on their hot tub bans so I think your best course of action is to apologize for the infraction and seek your hot tub enjoyment elsewhere. Happy soaking!