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Burned Out by Board Service - James Hardy Mar 20, 2007


I need a reality check as I am becoming burned out by my service as President.

What with weak management, apathetic shareholders, and fellow board members who are not pulling their weight, I am burning out.

Any advice?

I do not want to pack it in just yet?




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My recommendation.... Have lunch or phone conversation with a fellow Director from another co-op or condo board. It has inspired me in the past in a number of ways:
1- Generate new ideas to invigorate the Board
2- Generate new ideas to handle shareholder issues
3- Provided fantastic feedback for dealing with a weak mgmt. company.
4- Provided a nice "sounding board" for reviewing current and potential challenges.



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Soon ending my third term... I hear you : )

Maybe it's time to step back and reassess your reasons for running for the Board in the first place; did you have a plan in place when you started your tenure? Have you been able to accomplish what you wanted, or are you meeting obstacles which are frustrating you (ie., "weak management, apathetic shareholders" etc.)? Is there anything you can do to change those obstacles -- energizing your Board, engaging your Shareholders, challenging your management? Can you mitigate your own frustration in any way?

Being President is draining and time-consuming, especially if your management company or Board has come to depend on your efforts to get things done. Have you delegated enough responsibility for others to feel involved? Have you discussed your vision for the building with them and gained agreement with those goals?

Are you questioning your need for a "reality check" (and your last statement, which you made into a question, may be an indicator of this) because you're concerned that no one else is ready/willing to step up to the plate... ?


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Board president burnout is common, especially if no one is helping and things are dragging you down. You're climbing a hill but you've got a rope that's wrapped around a big rock tied to your ankle. You have to cut the rope.

Board members aren't pulling their weight? - Give them more to do, or ask for help and hope they give it. Find out what coop area most interests them (building repairs, finances, legal issues, sublets), make them the point person for that area, and have them report regularly to the board on how things are going. Also, get to knwo your shareholders. Look for potential board candidates, urge them to run at the next annual meeting and get some new faces on the board.

Weak management? - Decide where it's weakest, talk to your property manager and his supervisors, and figure out how it can be improved. Or maybe it's time to start looking for a new management company.

Shareholder apathy? - Apathy often sets in when people feel there's no point to complaints/requests because they don't think it will do any good. If they see positive changes it can make a difference. So can better communication. Have a board member start a newsletter. Make up a simple form and put a suggestion box in the mail room. Distribute a notice that announces it, tells people you want their ideas/input and say every submission will receive a reply. Put a board member in charge of it. Have the board discuss submissions and make sure replies are sent. There are always people who won't get involved but apathy can be turned around if people see changes and know that their voice matters.

As everyone on this message board probably sees by now, I write a lot. I hope my input helps in some cases and thanks to all of you for participating in this forum. I've found a lot of good advice here. It resolves a lot of problems - and it also helps to stave off burnout!


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Window Brands - Board Newbie Mar 19, 2007


Has anyone ever replaced aluminum windows with vinyl ones? Are Crystal Windows good ones? We have gotten estimates on Pella replacements and now getting some other quotes. Crystal was not 25% less than Pella but we are weighing if it is wise to go with a none national brand name. Any thoughts? Thanks,


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We didn't replace aluminum windows with vinyl, but some of our shareholders used vendors that provided windows from Crystal and all said they are happy with them. I've heard that Crystal is an award-winning company. Board directors in other co-ops have also told me good things about them. We've had no direct dealings with Crystal - just passing this along for what it's worth.


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http://www.habitatmag.com/sg2007/glass/jbf.htm. Small company is honest and fairly priced. Redid our 16 unit co-ops 100 windows efficiently and professionally. All our dealings went relatively smoothly from start to finish. At the end of the day we were pleased with the work and the results. That was our expereince. Good luck with your window project.


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a really nice thing to do (worth the cost) is to get wooden inside frames and aluminum outside frames . you can give the resident the poption of paying the difference in cost but wooden interior frames are so so so much nicer - plus you can =easily paint them to any color.


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coop may NOT institure a meet and greet - way it is Mar 19, 2007


that is an invasion of privacy - and this is illegal. They can merely ask the name of the roomate. nothing else at all. period.


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"bad" board member - steve w Mar 18, 2007


V, can you be more specific? What is "bad"? Voting their interests over the shareholders'? Spending money to improve public space on their floors instead of everyone's? Missing meetings? Forgetting to bring snacks when it's their turn?
steve w


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maintenance - steve w Mar 18, 2007


Everyone thinks the mainenance fee he/she pays is far too high. Unfortunately, most everyone bases his/her assumption on subjective feelings, not objective measures.

AdC is correct. You just can't say that $1.50/square foot is the line between a good deal and a bad deal.

In my building, we have 43 units in a 21-year-old coop in a structure that's 100 years old. Our average maintenance fee is about 88 cents per square foot (that includes a range from below 76 cents to just under a dollar).

So it's cheap in comparison to the fee in question, right? Well, yes and no.

Sure, it's low, but until a few years ago we had NO reserves. Our operating budget covered only current expenses -- that is, the corp was living month-to-month. The shareholders valued low maintenance over a financial safety net which is a foolish idea. (A few years ago, we implemented a flip tax, which created a nice reserves cushion and a healthy operating account.)

With that low maintenance, we have only 1 employee -- the super -- in a building that once had three full-time employees. It's not as clean as it was, and even minor repairs have to wait for the daily sweeping/trash/boiler oversite, and renovation monitoring. One person can do only so much.

If we charged $1.50 per square foot, we could afford to hire a handyman and a part-time doorman (we have neither), as well as afford to improve lighting, update the lobby, and start saving to upgrade our decades-old elevator.

I moved here from a co-op where the maintenance was just over $1 per square foot. It has 240 units, so with all those people paying in, the full-time building staff was more than a dozen -- and the interior was spotless. There was always someone on call to fix a problem. Two separate gardens looked immaculate. And so on.

So look at what you're paying for:
-- How many people work for the building (super, porters, handymen, doormen, concierge)?
-- How big are the reserves (higher or lower than the building's annual budget -- at least half the annual budget is a decent ballpark figure)?
-- How much of the maintenance fee is paying the mortgage (that is the tax-deductible percentage; what's left over after that portion pays all the other expenses of the building)?
-- What's the neighborhood like (neighbor buildings may try to outdo each other, which can help attract buyers should you ever sell your apt)?

And the big questions: what is the physical condition?
-- How long before the roof needs to be replaced?
-- How long before the windows need to be replaced?
-- The elevator?
-- What about repointing the bricks?
-- Any money set aside for those, or if the project was recently done, how much of the maint fee is paying for it?

Also remember that some buildings keep their maint fee low by charging an assessment that essentially lasts forever (as opposed to one that lasts two months or two years to pay for something specific). If the maint sounds low, find out if any assessments exist and when they will end (and how much they cost).

In short, no specific maintenance fee is too high or too low -- without knowing how the money is spent. Remember, the maint fee pays for everything in your building, so you should know HOW it is being spent.

If you'd like more information, send me an e-mail.


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No Subject - o Mar 17, 2007


As a board member we have entered into line of credit of over 1 Million $$. I have been denied a copy of the loan documentation. I was told that If I need to review it I would have to go to either the lawyer's office or the managing agent's office. At this point in time I have no knowledge, neither does any one else on the board, with the exception of two members, as to the terms, rate, penalties for non payment,etc. What to do. Please advise.


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Let me categorically state that as a board member in my co-op I have access to anything and everything, except the waiting list for parking spaces. Why no view into the waiting list of parking spaces? Because parking is a sensitive issue and as board members we stay out of the way and never influence a resident’s position on the list.

Other than the above, we have access to everything.

By the way, we have a line of credit and every board member is aware of the terms of the line and when we draw down and when we repay it. In point of fact, we always repay the line of credit within our financial fiscal year and never carry a balance to the new fiscal year.

So in this case, suggest the following:
1. Phone call to the president.
2. Letter to the president copy to all board members.
3. Letter to the co-op attorney.
4. Letter to the holder of the directors and officers insurance, copy to the co-op attorney.



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I agree with the Ted that you should first speak with the board pres to ask (again) for a copy of the loan agreement. If he/she says no, write a letter to the board pres, stating his/her previous refusal, and asking again to see the documents -- and cc the entire board, managing agent (and his/her boss), and the corp atty.

Our board recently increase its line of credit, and to do so the board had to vote in favor of it. Unless your l.o.c. was acquired without board approval, I can see no reason why the information should be withheld from the entire board. (And if it was acquired without board approval, well, then you definitely need to get the lawyer involved.)

Remember, too, that the board's attorney works for the ENTIRE board, not just the president. The board's atty, therefore, cannot withhold a corp document if a majority of the members ask for it.

-- a board treasurer


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This is precisely what the lawyer has told me that I must get approval from the majority. In my case this will never happen as the majority will say no. What do I do then. I still maintain that I do not need board approval to get copies of documentation ehich we are all entitled to see. The latest objection from the secretary was that "her signature is all over these documents & I would forge her signature as I had done before in trying to access her business accounts". Of course this is false. Another issue with her at the moment.


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There's the crux of the issue: a nonfunctioning board. If the secretary feels free to state that you have committed felonious fraud (which, I believe, is called "libel per se" and may be strong enough to sue over if she says it publicly), you have a board that cannot function.

I'm beginning to think that perhaps you should cut your losses and resign -- and not because the other members won't play fair.

If they won't let the board see this agreement, I wonder what else they're trying to get away with. Even assuming they're doing nothing illegal, any breach of fiduciary duty committed by a few members applies to all (I'm no lawyer; this is my interpretation). You don't want to be dragged down by something you fought against.

If I felt my board was not open, fair or acting on behalf of ALL shareholders, I seriously consider resigning. (This happened to my mother, when she served on a non-profit board (not a co-op); too many hints of impropriety and her lawyer advised her to resign in writing and destroy her personal notes.)

Good luck.


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No board director should operate unilaterally or have power over any other director. Opinions will vary and "majority prevails" - but a majority can't refuse you access to what all directors are entitled. A board is a team of equals. The pres/secretary have certain specific duties, but if you are flatly denied the right to see/approve documents, know how an LOC/other finances are handled or have legitimate questions answered, your coop has a serious problem.

I disagree that you should resign. IF you can support your position as a fair, honest board director and are denied the right to act in that capacity, you do your coop a great disservice by walking away. The problem continues, maybe gets worse, and everyone may suffer consequences.

If coop matters are being mishandled and you get nowhere with the pres/secretary, manager or attorney, take this to the people who can effect change: the shareholders. Present the facts at an open meeting...ask questions and don't let the pres/secretary/attorney brush them off...encourage others to speak, get involved, run for the board. You will stir things up, but you can't avoid it if you want to get the board and the coop back on the right track.

If possible, get non-divisive board directors to stand with you and don't let emotions rule. Work with the shareholders and do it responsibly and professionally.

Problems don't go away if people who can help resolve them go away. You joined the board to improve your coop and to make a positive difference, didn't you? From what you've said, it doesn't sound like you will have a better chance to do that than now.




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Very well said!


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I have put my request for a copy in writing to President & all board members. The objections came from Secretary & president which are the only board members privileged to see these loan documents, although 2 minutes before the end of a board meeting I was passed the 200 page document to review. When I said I would have to copy it & or view it at my leisure, I was told NO.

I have written the attorney as well but no answer. By the way I do not expect an answer from the attorney as I have written him before in other issues & in speaking with him I was told that If the board does not give approval, I cannot see documentation. To further clarify, I have written our lawyer about 70,000 missing in our accounts & to date no response.


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Why not go to the managing agent and view the documents? I feel something fishy is going on when a board member can't get copies of documents pertaining to the building they represent. Keep the pressure on! Don't give up.


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Carpeting hallways - Matt Mar 17, 2007


I am considering carpeting the hallways in our building and was wondering if anyone has feed back on this issue. i am interested in hearing about the upside and more importantly the downside of hallway capret care, maintenance etc.

We have 9 unit per floor in a 6 floor elevator building. The halls are large and "hollow" sounding. I am hoping to quiet the hallway noise but am concerned about cleaning the carpets, stains, and other problems...

Thanks in advance,
-Matt-


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We carpeted our halls 3 years ago. Get good quality, stain resistant carpet and not one that may be discontinued soon. Some buildings get carpet that's sectioned instead of one-piece (or buy an extra roll) in case they need to replace an area later. If you have old vinyl or wood baseboards, replace it with the carpet you get for the floors - creates a nice, finished look.

If you have hollow-sounding floors, carpet cuts down on noise. It also makes halls less barren looking and warmer, especially if they are large.

Carpeting just needs to be vacuumed. It takes less time and effort than maintaining wood/tile/linoleum. We also got a durable runner, like the one we put in the lobby in bad weather, to use when someone moves, gets a big delivery or does renovation work. It protects the carpet from being ripped/damaged by furniture legs, metal cabinets, etc.


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We are also looking to replace our carpet at our mid-rise condo and wish to upgrade the carpet as well. I am hoping we don't have to make too many trade-offs beteen durability and aesthetics. I imagine many fine hotels change their carpets fairly frequently.

Does anyone have any recommendations where to start looking in the Westchester, NY area ? Thx


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Hi Matt

We have carpet in our hallways and I wish we didn't. The super complains about all the stains he has to remove constantly: dog pee pee stains, people dropping liquid detergent and not reporting it right away, food stains, juice stains, and people who allow their garbage to leak on the way to the refuse room. On the floors with many dogs, the carpets have to be cleaned all the time and the cleaning process can wear out the carpets. Think about ease of cleaning a non-carpeted floor versus a carpeting one. I know it cuts down on the noise in the hallway, but I don't think it's worth the expense. Good luck with your decision.


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the Solair is one of the city's "greenest" buildings and has very very durable carpeting the hallway made from recycled matierals. It hides the dirt brilliantly and was very well-priced. It is from Bentley Prince Street. 212 -463-0606.


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J51 and new roof in a coop - m calhoun Mar 16, 2007


pre war coop (manhattan) rebuilding the roof and parapet, facade work. are we eligible for a J-51?

thanks - cannot ask the accountant right now - need your experience!


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The short answer is YES.

Don't count on getting much back, though... we aren't and we put a new roof on a couple of years ago (also pre-War co-op).

Also, count on a long delay in getting a ruling.

And the money comes in RE tax abatements, NOT in cash.

Good luck.


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management company search - twobridges Mar 16, 2007


we have narrowed our search for a management company to
Argo, Bunis, Midboro. would appreciate any feedback if you have had experience with these companies.


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We've had Argo for about 4 years now, and are VERY satisfied with their service.

Our Managing Agent, Hedda Lennon, is well versed in nearly every aspect of co-op management; anything she doesn't know from direct, first-hand experience, she finds out and gets back to us immediately.

We've been through a roof replacement, hiring a new super (twice; the first left for a better paying position), storage cage installation, sewer pipe repairs.... you name it, we've been through it : )

I recommend Argo highly.


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How does Argo handle internal conflict among shareholders?


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Argo's been good at helping us figure out legal issues vis-a-vis Shareholder responsibilities for repairs, etc. -- we find if we then inform all parties involved in a dispute what their responsibilities are, they're much less likely to get "personal" with a conflict.

The Board in my building has made Shareholder communications a kind of "set piece" of our tenure. We interact clearly and often with Shareholders -- from elevator and bulletin board notices, to holiday parties that give everyone a chance to meet and mingle with neighbors, to a newsletter that keeps people informed. We've held informational meetings, too, when issues arise such as security problems.

You'd be surprised just how much a transparent Board can diffuse conflict, and how far the good feelings from a simple holiday party can stretch. Our building's residents consider one another as much friends as neighbors, and new Shareholders often comment that this atmosphere drew them to buy here.

Hope this helps....


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Yes it did! Thanks!


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I'd really caution against relying on recommendations made on a forum like this. You can get a highly recommended management company, but also get stuck with a disastrous management agent; we've been through this with a top-tier management company and the results were both costly and painful.

Interview the actual management agent you would be assigned and also ask for references and most importantly CALL ALL OF THEM. Ideally you want references for buildings using the proposed assigned agent for YOUR building. Then use your common sense. You should get a strong recommendation with some specific areas where the company does well, and other areas where it can do better. When you get too enthuasiastic a recommendation (e.g the company can do no wrong), put more weight into others. On the other hand, if you're seeing a lot of lukewarm "polite" recommendations, you might simply be seeing board members afraid if they convey the problems they're having they'll suffer the wrath of the management company.




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Better laundry service? - BP Mar 16, 2007


We have a 7-yr contract with NYC's largest laundry company. We don't like being locked into them, altho people say they can give us more than a small company could. But service is poor and we never get straight answers on anything. Also, they collect money from machines every month. They say they can't count it on site. We have to take their word on how much they collect and it's always in their favor. We always wind up owing them money.

Our contract expires in December. With a new contract we get new machines and the usual perks (painting, new sink, etc.) We want to explore alternatives. Any recommendations for other companies? Thanks.


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We covered this topic a while back. Please check the archieves. Best of luck.

FN.


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you can. maximum water usage efficiency, etc.
try Herculeus - and you CAN bargian. Nothing is set in stone.
Also, get them to renovate your laundry room before installing their machines. and you can ask for a intro. fee up front of about $5000.


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as water usage. People in the coin laundry business will tell you that dryers are almost a loss leader adn the dryer the clothes are going in the less time they will be used


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that is what I am advocating for our next move. A friend that is president of her broad said they did this with hgreat success.

If you own the machines you can change service contracts much more easily if the service is bad. you are also much more likely tot get the high efficiency washing machines. in the laundry business the money is in the washers because dryers are so inefficient but the good washing machines are more expensive and service companies are reluctant to put them in because of the initial cost and they don't usually care sine they don't pay for energy costs


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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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