Page 8 - CooperatorNews Chicagoland Spring 2022
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8 COOPERATORNEWS CHICAGOLAND  —SPRING 2022  CHICAGO.COOPERATORNEWS.COM  Staszczak says that another major is-  sue that’s especially common in condo-  minium associations is owners not really  erning those communities.  understanding percentage ownership and   common areas. “Percentage of ownership  that can help correct the problem. “Lead-  seems to be a major source of confusion  ing up to purchase,” he says, “at contract,  ent from living in a multifamily building.   for new owners,” he says. The idea that the  as  documents  start  coming  through  from  And in co-ops, there is an interviewing pro-  more space you have, the more percentage  the association’s attorney to the buyer's at-  share you have—and hence the higher your  torney, the attorneys should make sure the  sale of shares to a new shareholder. That in-  monthly assessment—escapes many. “They  buyer is reading them. Savvy buyers should  terview is helpful in making the new owner   want to know why different residents pay  also request and read through the minutes  aware of many of these issues.   different monthly assessments, because they  of past board meetings, which are available   don’t understand percentage ownership  to them. They should understand the com-  and how that affects them.” When it comes  munity they’re buying into. It’s to their ben-  to common areas or elements, most new  efit to become familiar with the community  sionals—brokers in particular. Many real-  owners just think of a community room, an  and how it runs. There are lots of small de-  in-house gym, or garden-style courtyard—  but the building’s infrastructure, including   façade and roof, boiler and HVAC equip-  ment, plumbing and electrical systems, as   well as lobbies, hallways, and storage areas   are also common elements, and as such are   maintained and repaired using funds from   residents’ monthly fees to the condo asso-  ciation or co-op.    Commensurate with this problem is a   lack of understanding of budgets. “Resi-  dents may not understand how budgets are   built,” says Sprudzs, “and so they don’t un-  derstand where their monthly maintenance   goes, or the difference between types of line   items, like fixed vs. variable costs. First-time  tails a buyer should know that are found in  gest—sternly, if necessary, though not rude-  owners also often don’t understand what  these documents. You should know if you  ly—that the owner or shareholder contact   type  of  insurance  they  themselves  need.  have an assigned parking space or if they’re  management for more information or reso-  Renter’s insurance is not good enough \[for  separately deeded, for instance. If it’s the lat-  a condo or co-op\]. They need \[homeowners  ter, and the buyer didn’t buy a space along   or\] co-op insurance. Renter’s doesn’t cover  with their unit, they don’t have parking”—  individual unit owner responsibility for  which would be a nasty shock if part of the  sociations and corporations prefer to have   common areas in an insurance claim.”  Relatedly, “New owners also often think  or HOA was that they thought their unit in-  the co-op or condo is responsible for re-  pairs inside their units,” says Halper. “They   don’t understand they own the interiors  ciations have a website and \[make their\]  ties may not have full-time or even part-  and what’s in them, and are responsible for  governing documents available online. The  time management and may be serviced   them.” A good example is a refrigerator. If  buyer can go there to learn about the docu-  your refrigerator stops working in a rental,  ments and what they contain.” She says that  Residents in any multifamily setting should   you call the landlord. In a co-op or condo,  “it’s also important to have a realtor who is  understand the channels of communication   because everything on your side of the walls  familiar with the specific community and  and responsibility in their particular com-  is your property, you have to replace it your-  self.   A more complicated example is a clogged  Buyers often assume things without asking   sink. If the clog is in a portion of pipe in-  side the wall, the co-op or condo owns it,  do I get my keys?’ You get them at closing,  rules and requirements that govern their   and therefore has to repair it, and pay for  from the broker, not like in a rental situa-  the repair. If the clogged section of pipe is  tion. And if you need to change the locks,  themselves about what exactly it is they’re   inside an individual unit, the unit owner or  you call a locksmith—not the association.”  shareholder has to fix it—and foot the bill.   Not understanding the distinction between  should educate buyers, but in reality, it just  members, it will also stop a lot of misunder-  private and common elements, and how  doesn’t work that way. Buyers must edu-  that distinction determines who’s respon-  sible for what is at the root of a great many  don’t require that buyers educate them-  disputes between residents, boards, and  selves about co-op or condo life. Requir-  property managers.   How Common is the Problem?  In a word, pervasive. The problem of  orientation’ class, so you can’t require it. It   owner and shareholder ignorance spans co-  ops and condos, HOAs, and over-55 com-  munities. Younger buyers upgrading from  holders or owners, a kind of ‘Living in Our   rentals and older buyers downsizing from  Building for Dummies’ manual. It’s referred   private homes are often ignorant of not only  to as a welcome package, but it’s up to the   rules and lifestyle conventions in their new  owner to use it. Bigger buildings with a long   communities, but of the documents gov-  Staszczak has a few recommendations  townhouse communities often have com-  reason a buyer chose a particular building  all questions directed to management; oth-  cluded a parking spot.  Sprudzs adds that “some condo asso-  community living in general—not one who  munity, and direct their questions, com-  is  only  familiar  with  single-family  homes.  plaints, and comments accordingly.  questions. New owners will ask me, ‘Where  problem  is  for  buyers  to  be  aware  of  the   “In an ideal world,” says Halper, “we  them better, more informed community   cate themselves. Most co-ops and condos   ing it would be a turnoff for many buyers   as well. Buyers won’t take an ‘ownership   will never happen. Honestly, I’ve never seen   it. There are a few buildings that have as-  sembled a sort of handbook for new share-  history as a co-op usually do this.”   Interestingly, Staszczak notes that HOA   munity manuals, because they’re so differ-  cess with the board before approval of the   Staszczak says that “another factor be-  fore going to contract that can make a big   difference is working with the right profes-  tors don’t have the best background in how   a co-op or condo operates.  Use one who   does. Also use an attorney who specializes   in co-ops and condos—not just a real estate   attorney. Work with the right professionals.”  The Board’s Role   When faced with questions (or com-  plaints)  from  a  new  member  of  the  com-  munity about any issues, the pros agree that   the best response from board members is a   smile and a suggestion for how to find an   appropriate answer to the question—at least   the first time. If a new owner or shareholder   persists  in  badgering  board  members  and   refuses to educate themselves, the board   member is well within their rights to sug-  lution of their problem.  Much of this will depend on the indi-  vidual co-op or condo, of course. Some as-  ers prefer those questions to be directed to   board members. Often this depends on the   size of the community. Smaller communi-  by a superintendent or building engineer.   Finally, perhaps the best answer to this   most important investment, and to educate   investing in. Doing so will not only make   standings before they start.    n  A J Sidransky is a staff writer/reporter for   CooperatorNews, and a published novelist. He   can be reached at   ORIENTING...  continued from page 1  than if they had made those decisions   during the fall or winter months.”  Neil Betoff, president of STAR Build-  ing Services in Shrewsbury, New Jersey,   says that his company was already largely   booked up by April. “\[Late February\] is   the perfect time to do your spring clean-  ing walk through, in large part because   you want to get on the vendor’s work   schedule,” he advises.   And Scott Dalley, a real estate man-  agement consultant based in Maine, sug-  gests boards start preparing for the up-  coming season six months in advance.   “If you wait until springtime to engage   with landscaping vendors, or to con-  sider  an  improvement  project  on  your   grounds, then you will be way behind the   eight ball,” he says. “You may sacrifice   both value and quality of work. For a big   planting project, for example, you want   to be starting a year in advance, as you   may want to get materials in the ground,   depending on the nature of the work. A   landscaping project undertaken in the   fall can literally bear fruit, or at least the   desired effect of your planning, when the   spring arrives.”  Safety & Structure  First and foremost, a building and its   surrounding property should be visually   inspected for anything that could affect   safety or structural integrity. Bressler   suggests choosing a starting point—ei-  ther the roof or the cellar—and work-  ing through to the other end thoroughly   and methodically. “Check pipes, fittings,   structure, seals, and so forth for any dam-  age, leaks, cracks, et cetera, and notify any   vendors you may need with your repair   lists,” he says. “While you are conducting   your inspections and soft starts”—the   preliminary tests of equipment that has   been dormant  over  the  winter, like  air   conditioners or pool pumps—“make spot   repairs as you go along. If existing staff   cannot handle it, contact your vendors   now, before they get very busy and you   will have to wait. Prioritize your projects   and set them on a timeline. This will al-  low you to go back to one central location   to check them off as completed.”  Betoff says that the often-harsh New   Jersey winters are especially rough on   sidewalks and pavement, so managers   and  supers  should  pay  particular  atten-  tion to these surfaces as they conduct   their walk-throughs. “Look for cracking   and problems with sidewalks, parking-  lot alligatoring \[a condition where a se-  ries of cracks appear in one area of pave-  ment that often intersect and crisscross   in  a  scaly  pattern\],  potholes,  and dam-  aged curbs from snow removal plows,” he   says. “Now is the time to fix those. Also   look for cracks on the building exterior—  continued on page 10  SPRING...  continued from page 1  “At contract, as   documents start coming   through from the   association’s attorney to   the buyer’s attorney, the   attorneys should make sure   the buyer is reading them.”         —Eric Staszczak

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