D.M. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am new to the board of a 28-home common interest property. Our monthly fee is about $260 and covers landscaping, plowing, outside lights, roofing and siding. I have two questions:
Can you tell me what the average common interest monthly fee is in Connecticut??
Can a common interest property board request new lawn maintenance and plowing quotes from new potential vendors by using the initial vendor’s contract and redacting all reference to the company name and rates?
Mister Condo replies:
D.M., welcome to the Board. I hope you truly enjoy the experience of assisting your community association as a volunteer leader. Your common fees strike me as exceptionally low in Connecticut but I need to point out that every association is different and comparing common fees is an apples and oranges situation. There is no “average” because no two associations are the same. The only thing associations have in common is that their annual budgets will dictate their common fee schedules. Similar looking associations on different sides of the street may have fees that vary hundreds of dollars each year. Why? Some association do a better job than others when it comes to long-range planning and capital improvement saving. If Condo Association A is putting away 20% of their fees towards future repairs and Condo Association B is only putting away 10%, which one do you think is going to have lower common fees? The problem is that Condo Association B is much more likely to have the need to defer maintenance or levy special assessments when the time comes for repairs. The sweetness of low common fees is quickly displaced with the bitterness of a special assessment!As for your unusual idea about using a vendor bid as the basis for a Request for Proposal (RFP) with other vendors, you certainly could. But I wouldn’t. Have the association secretary or other Board member draw up the items needed by the association as part of the bid process. You can use your vendor quote as a template if you’d like but use your own words. A savvy competitor would likely recognize the other vendor’s quote and bid accordingly. You are setting the stage for a bad relationship with your current contractor. Prepare your own RFP and send it to any contractors you are interested in considering. Remember, low bid is only as good as the reputation and service provided by the contractor. Many times, you will get what you pay for and little else. All the best!