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incentives to run? - need participation Nov 21, 2007


Who can think of, or has successfully used, incentives to convince more residents to serve on the board?

Some ideas I've heard:

--Term limits (to break up entrenched boards);
--requiring a certain term of service as a condition of membership, or levying a fee in exchange for non-partipation;
--paying nominal honoraria;
--Waiving a month of MT fees.

Our boards tend to attract mainly people who want something; we've had incidents of board members harrasing their neighbors, self-dealing and outright theft.

The smart people seem to steer clear, refusing to serve, and sometimes moving rapidly away.

How can we turn this situation around?

I know many buildings have faced similar issues.

--Need (smarter) participation

> Join the conversation Comments (3)


The best reason I've come up with to encourage shareholders to run for the board is this:

PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT!

For most people, and certainly for me, one's home is the biggest single financial investment we make. As if New York apartment prices aren't high enough, add the cost of the interest on a mortgage and you have a truly huge amount of money tied up in your apartment.

Serving on the board means you decide how to maintain it (replacing old pipes, repairing aesthetic damage like, saving money for future expenses) and how to improve it (buy things with a short warranty or pay for a longer warranty? establish uniform and fair methods to enforce house rules). You decide where the money goes, and how much to take in.

Other reasons:
-- Living in NYC we're lucky in that our apartments appreciate in value nearly without exception. Want to make it worth even more? Improve the building (facade, boiler, elevator), improve the financials, and give people a reason to want to live there.

-- Buying into a cooperative means you really ought to cooperate, and help each other out, even if it means serving a year on the board.

-- Those who serve even one year on the board end up knowing much more about how the building & business run, and what the co-op's possibilities and limitations are. In my own experience, nearly everyone who "retired" from the board in our building no longer complains about the building -- because they know what it's like to be on the other side, trying to resolve those complaints.

Not everyone will want to serve on the board even in the best of buildings; don't badger these folks. Focus on the ones who are fair, polite, and open to alternative points of view.

If you have a dishonest board, you may need to run a slate against them. But don't feel that's the only way. Get a couple of good people to run, and encourage them to campaign.

Let me comment on your other ideas ...
-- Term limits. Fine, but remember that you'll have to find people to fill the forced openings, and that one day you'll force out really good people. (One way around this is to limit terms of offices -- pres, treas, sec -- but not to the board itself.)
-- Requiring service. It's probably not legal, and even if it were, that would mean forcing people into something they won't contribute to. And it means that nutty neighbor with 17 cats or the all-night partier will end up deciding what's best for you.
-- Paying a nominal honorarium/maint fee abatement. Paying is dicey only because it gives people the wrong motivation. That said, waiving one month's maint fee (at the conclusion of a full year's service) would help some of us feel better about the hours of time we volunteer in the service of our neighbors.

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respect
acknowledgement of service
time off for good behavior

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)


Thank you both for these thoughtful responses. We'll see!

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There is no way to motivate any participation unless the person has a call within...

Unfortunately, many organizations that were vibrant in the '70, '80 and '90 are DYING a slow death due to lack of participation.

I belong to two chapters of professional organizations that have or are contemplatng to fold up due to lack of interest... When seeing this, I just realize that our co-op is no exception. After all, we are living in the same age. In fact, I just got an annonymous from (you may use any qualifier you want, it just fits the character) because of a typo in an announcement. However, the person is not able to make it to an annual meeting, the person is not able to commit his/her name, the person is just not even correcting in kindness - it's just trying to hurt me!

Interesting enough you are not alone when it comes to participation. People just want a get a share of market...

Count the good ones, and keep plowing... as in the last 30 minutes of the Indiana Jones movie, an old knight says to Indy, "You chose wisely..." This is the bottom line; don't expect to get the crowds, but just the gems.

Good luck!

AdC


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Reserve vs Capital vs Operating Funds - ABB Nov 13, 2007


I went to the CNYC conference last weekend and to the treasurer sessions, and I'm still a little confused on the different accounts we 'should' have and the purpose of each. My understanding: 1. operating fund (not a lot of excess in here, basically a checking account for regular expenses) 2. Reserve Fund (3 - 6 months of operating expenses as a hedge against emergencies) 3. Capital Reserve Fund: based on your 5 year plan for upcoming expenses and major repairs (boiler, elevator, local law #11, etc) or major initiatives (new roof garden, gym, etc).

Is this breakout what most people are doing? Do you then also have separate savings accounts or CDs or something for a portion of these funds so you're earning some interest within each of these funds (except Operating)?

Advice/guidance/sample splits and targets appreciated!!

> Join the conversation Comments (2)


Perhaps they were trying to tell you that, in addition to a certain amount of reserves that should be estimated for emergencies, you should have your capital fund. The cash reserve should be layered in the form of CDs and T-bonds maturing in such a way that you will have enough funds to take care of the emergencies, plus your money to take care of your long-term plan. Similarly, you will not plan all the major capital expenditures to be taken care every 5- or 10-years, i.e., your boiler replacement, your roof replacement, your underground tank, window replacements, etc. These will be staggered and probably, you may have a capital work every year and your investments should be in line with your plan in order to have cash on hand to pay for these.

So, in builidng reserves you should not only take care of the long-term capital plan, but emergencies by doing an add on to the amount that you need to build.

Finally, all reserves are equal. You will use the money from whatever maturing account you have in order to retire your debt whether it is an emergency or a planned capital improvement. The point is always make a contingency fund for emergencies which should be in accordance with the size of your building and the general coniditons of your facilities and equipment.

AdC

AdC

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Perhaps they were trying to tell you that, in addition to building capital reserves for major projects, you should earmark a portion of these reserves for emergencies. In other words, if you think that you should fund your long term capital fund with $100,000 a year, you should add $10,000 for an emergency fund for a total of $110,000. If you do not use the emergency fund that year it keeps growing. In this way, you stay on course to do your capital replacement even when you had taken money to address emergency situations.

The reserves in the form of CDs and T-bonds should be layered to provide flexibility and enough funds to take care of the emergencies, and your long-term plan. Similarly, you will not plan all the major capital expenditures to be taken care every 5- or 10-years, i.e., your boiler replacement, your roof replacement, your underground tank, window replacements, etc. These will be staggered and probably, you may have capital improvements every year according to an outlined plan. Therefore, your your capital funds should be in line with your plan in order to have cash on hand to pay for these according to the schedule.

So, in buildng reserves you should not only take care of the long-term capital plan, but emergencies by doing an add on to the amount that you will need to build.

Finally, all reserves are created equal as the color of money is the same. You will use the money from whatever maturing account you have in order to retire your debt whether it is an emergency or a planned capital improvement. The point is always add on your captital fund for emergencies which should be in accordance with the size of your building and the general coniditons of your facilities and equipment.

AdC

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Thanks, but I AM confused about the color of money! I thought they were saying that if you segregate capital funds from regular (anything non-capital), there are benefits to the shareholders. Benefits like increasing the tax basis of their apartments so when they sell, the technical profit, and tax, will be lower. And also (maybe, I wasn't clear on this) that the building can apply for J51 credits for cap improvements. But, you have to tell shareholders up front that a portion of maintenance or the assessment, or however you're funding, is for capital improvements and then you would have keep that money separate from other funds to get the benefits (tax basis, J51 credits). And, your managing agent or accountant, would have to keep track of the maintenance or assessments earmarked for cap improvements.

If we don't have to keep it separate by account, it all becomes somewhat easier and clearer. But, if you don't keep it separate by account, you just indicate on reports which funds in the reserve are for what?

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> Join the conversation Comments (2)


You ought to have a meeting with your independent accountant to go over the best way to maximize your tax basis, etc. Also, the comptroller of your management office may provide you some guidance with regard to accounts, etc.

Your operating is kept in your checking and, sometimes, depending on collections and when you pay your bills, you may have a CD associated where you can sweep your account and call from it as required in order to maximize your interest.

Obviously, your reserves are kept separately and only tapped when necessary to do strictly capital, even in emergencies. Unless I don't know what you mean for emergencies, i.e., a major unexpected leak that forces the co-op to spend $50,000 to replace with enhancement of your parking roof (just by way of example).

Your operating budget should be as solid as possible to cover all your expenses during the year. The fact that some builidngs keep the maintenance artificially low and assess to cover deficits may be a problem if you are doing assessments to build reserves and at the same time patch deficits.


In our case, we have three accounts: the operating, a tax escrow to accummulate the surplus during those months in which we have no payments to do, then reserves. We flow monies from escrow to operating and viceversa in order to pay our taxes and insurance. However, the reserves are kept just for major emergencies and capital repairs.

AdC

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I don't mean CD but money market for an account to flow back and forth.

AdC

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Maintenance Poll - Larry G. Nov 11, 2007


Are you raising maintenance this year?

If so, by what percentage?

> Join the conversation Comments (2)


Larry I am doing a lot of things this year, Now please can you elaborate so we can respond.

FN

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Are you, as board members and managers of cooperative housing corporations, who are likely undergoing your budget process for 2008, likely to put forth maintenance increases to be paid by your corporations shareholder for the upcoming fiscal year 2008?

If so, then what percentage over your current maintenance charges are you likely to raise maintenance?

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Each building is different depending on the budget from the prior year. For instance, some of my buildings i budgeted enough to account for rising cost in the 08 year, some we did not.

On average (in most of my buildings),
~fuel is up, and now (today)announced and expected to top $3.00 per gallon on #2 oil - a 17% increase over my last years year end average (these numbers many differ from my other post)
~Insurance is increased 3% (not too bad)
~Water & Sewer is up 11%
~RE Taxes are up, but we are promised a decrease?? (For budgeting purposes ignore the promises and budget up 8%
Salary - up 3.5%

lets average them to 8.5% together,
given these expenses are 70% of the total budget, would give me a mandated 5.95% increase to maintain this years financial stability.

therefore, if you did not budget the extra 6% last year, you should increase this year, and take into account next year, unless you are like many buildings that opt to raise every year by a standard inflationary number.
Some buildings will raise every to years and assess a fuel cost assessment if needed to balance out.
Either way is good - unlike years ago where buildings were not wanting to raise maintenance because they thought it looked bad to potential buyers and banks; I believe buyers and banks are more understanding of the changing times, and we have to change with them. There is alot more instability in the markets nowadays and it is more acceptable to review and revise your maintenance and budget year by year. I believe it better on the shareholders as well.

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We raise yearly costs to shareholders every year by a percentage between 3 to 4%. The rational is that the shareholders become acclimated to an increase very year. Heaven forbid we skip a year and then because of some quirk, we need to raise maintenance by a double digit value. It would be pandemonium. Our assessment has remained constant at about $6 a share for several years. Prior to three years ago, we raised the assessment at the rate of $.25 a year to finally arrive at $6. Now our 45 year old coop building and property with 500 units and 160,000 shares garners about $960.000 a year for our capital improvement program.

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Accounts, Access, Software - Anne Nov 08, 2007


Does anyone know what the standard (and not too expensive) accounting software is for management companies? And, how do you review your invoices, payments, reports? What kind of access to the system do you have? I.e. it seems like there should be a system where an offsite user/treasurer could see the accounts, current balances, run reports, click for details, etc online--rather than receiving paper or pdf reports. Does anyone know if a system like that is available or widely used? Thanks.

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OK, unless I misinterpreted the question Ann, here is my view;'
If you are the treasurer and you have the need to do this, I think the better or more logical question is, why?

First, to answer your question, yes, there are many programs that permit access. (MRI, Yardi, even the old BJ Murray does)this is possible, though maybe not permissible.

Second, your management should be paying all bills on a timely basis, approving any that may need your approval (I PDF them and use email), and providing you a full accounting report at the months end with copies of all the bank statements and bills paid.

If a treasurer has access to my system, I would have to charge a lot more to manage that building. It is the equivalent of hiring a contractor to do a job, them getting underneath him with a level and plumb line. Let him work, he's there so you don't have to be. All you need do is oversee and ensure the proper job is being done. in your case, it is via the monthly financial statement you receive.

~AR

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is on the wrong trail, I suspect.

Ann, are you thinking of self-managing?

Are you trying to pick the brains of managing agents for the right software to let you do that?

; )

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We seem to have a problem with how items are coded by our agent. They 'move around' within the accounts month to month or large unusual items are put in a regular, usually steady, account. This lack of consistency makes it difficult to see how much we are spending on a regular basis and how much for emergencies and other 'one offs'. I was thinking that it might be common practice to have online access to view reports (as is standard in business) and be able to click on an account to see what expenses have been put in it--rather than having to ask about each oddity every time.

Alternatively, I was thinking we need to approve account codes for invoices before they are booked. The purpose is not to micromanage, but to get a decent grip on our finances: what's 'regular' expense and what's unusual--so that we can plan and budget.

I'm trying to find out what other people are doing if they are having these kinds of problems, and what the best solution would be.

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Anne:

Many treasurers and Boards unfortunately do not take the time to thoroughly review and classify, etc. They just go by what management says, read and take the reports as provided, and pop a question here and there when something looks odd. What your asking for is good and in many buildings is needed. You do have the right and ability to customize the reports to fit your needs and requirements.

Who’s GL coding system is management going by? Yours or theirs? Perhaps sitting with the accounting department and PM for an hour will solve it. Make a list of your current coding and desired coding. Have management implement the new codes or sub-codes and have the agent when signing off label it - such as capital/hallway project/engineering or repair/reimbursable/apt7B - etc...
It makes it very easy for you to glean over the list and trace or see exactly what expenses come from where and are allocated to where. The only follow up on your part may be asking if 7B ever reimbursed us for that sink trap repair.

Then, in your monthly reports, have management separate anything that is capital from the operating expenses and emergency repairs from maintenance repairs and itemize what needs to be for the purposes of your next budget.

This is a pain in the a$$ for management, but much better and easier to read and forecast from. We do it for 2 of our buildings and they like it very much.
But providing access to the system would be a definite no-no for us or any other management company (We only provide it to the PM's, the accountant firm and L&T attorneys)
Did I adaquately address/answer your concern?
~AR

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Thanks. That's helpful.

They are using their own GL accounts which do not match well to the accountant's GL accounts and which do not segregate capital from regular expenses. And, they have a tendency to open up new accounts for very small amounts, like $15, while putting large, $11,000, 'one off' expenses in regular accounts--so all is rather confusing.

I had already requested on the next round of reports that they 'code' the invoice copies so I can see where the expenses went, and was thinking I just need to go down there and talk it through so we can agree on some basic principles of where things go and what amounts (large ones!) justify a new account or separation from regular accounts.

What's the 'pain' for management? The coding of invoices or the segregation of capital expenses? I'm not trying to be unreasonable, just trying to get a handle on what's happening and where the money's going so we can budget and plan.

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Great..

You should definitely spend some time at the management office, relay exactly what you wish to happen and why. They will be able to do it (but may gripe a little). If a new type of expenditure comes up (which should not because you would have worked all that out with them), then they should call you to say "what do you want me to do with the $2,000 Goldfingers bill.."
The software ledger will need to be modified by management and the new system implemented. this may take a month or two to get the kinks out, but it should work out in the long term.
I may have exaggerated in that it is a pain, it is more of an inconvenience, but they will get over it...

~AR

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The problem with codes is the codes are not or rarely put on the actual purchase order. So when the invoice comes in accounting takes a guess where it goes. The super/managing agent need to apply the codes upon ordering material or repairs. Problem solved. Of course you have to make sure the codes are applied to the right line item on the budget.
Its also a good idea that every 4 months or so someone sits with the super and showers him/her exactly where the building is on budget. Most of the times, supers - Resident managers do not know, no one tells them or teaches them.
This will help stay on budget.
Pgrech

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That is real good.... I never thought of informing the super as to where we are in the budget. I think that is a great idea for various reasons. (gonna steal that idea and implement it!)thanks

The use of PO numbers (which include the GL code acronym)can help to pre-clasify items.

~AR

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Naaa, your not stealing it. Your very welcome to it.
Be well
Pgrech

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Whether you go by the management office system or the horoscope system, your treasurer and your board should have a copy of the charts of accounts. The treasurer may define each chart of accounts for types of invoice entries he/she wishes to see. (Note: try not to use miscellaneous categories - you end with the kitchen sink if you have such a line item!).

There is nothing that prevents a board member, specially a treasurer to ask for re-classificaiton of an invoice for budget tracking purposes. On a six month basis, i.e., in July, you should ask for expenses year-to-date broken by GL's, and ask for reclassification of those invoices that are out of line with the GL's. It happens often, but not really something to lose sleep over it.

In our case, we ask management to pay anything that the coop is committed to pay under contract or recurrent, i.e., mortgage, taxes, con-ed, water, elevator service, telephones, salaries, etc. However, any other repairs, i.e., plumbing, supplies, electrical, engineering, legal, other professionals, the treasurer goes over them.

My recommendation to any treasurer is to sit with the super and clear the invoices initiated by him/her to ensure that the services were received and that the work was up to standards. Similarly, check supplies carefully with the super as there may be backorders, credits and returns that all should match. Good organizations ask that shipping slips are matched with the invoices. The super should check the received items on the shipping slip, then attached to the invoice for payment.

As PGretch and AR state, the super should be briefed (depending on his status within the co-op) about the financial position of the co-op at any given point in time. Making him aware of the present financial circumstances makes the super a team player. A super who deals with a large department of poters and other service men to supervise and whose skills are more demanding by way of supervision and budget, may be told more detail about the operational items that he/she oversees, i.e., utilities, repairs and salaries, i.e., OT, vacations, etc. than a superintendent of a small builidng where he/she may be a solo performer.



AdC

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Don't miss this Seminar at the CNYC Expo Sunday! - A CNYC Fan Nov 07, 2007


9.15 to 11.15 a.m. 6.BREAKING THE GRIP OF AN ENTRENCHED BOARD Some cooperatives and condominiums cease to function in the democratic way provided by their governing documents. A self-perpetuating board does not communicate with residents, nor call annual meetings, nor hold elections. Then there are those boards dominated for years by investor owners and sponsors, with the issues of resident owners largely ignored. Residents become so disheartened or fearful of the power of the board, that they accept this diminished situation. In some instances, there are very serious repercussions, including depressed re-sale prices and increased costs in obtaining financing. But change is possible. Attorneys Theresa Racht and Alfred M. Taffae will provide advice on how shareholders or unit owners can organize to break the grip of an entrenched board. 69 additional seminars available. Learn more and sign up by visiting http://www.cnyc.coop or calling 212-496-7400

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New York Energy $mart Multifamily Performance Program - AR Nov 07, 2007


In light of recent posts, I thought this may be of intrest:

The New York Energy $mart Multifamily Performance Program harnesses the latest in building science technology and applies it specifically to your building's design and daily operation. Using a partner network, made up of engineers, energy consultants, and other industry professionals, the Multifamily Performance Program uses a customized approach to address the specific energy and operational needs of your building.

In the Existing Buildings Component eligible buildings are required to benchmark their energy performance compared to a set of similar buildings. Depending on their relative rank, they are assigned a performance target to achieve. Implementation of an Energy Reduction Plan and confirmation of achievement of the target make the buildings eligible for NYSERDA incentives.
By participating in the Multifamily Performance Program you will:
• Improve the value of your building
• Provide tenants with a comfortable and affordable living environment
• Save thousands on annual energy costs
Comments and questions should be directed to 1-877-NY-SMART

This is a very informative link and site:

http://www.getenergysmart.org/buildingowners/existingmultifamily/overview.asp

Also, see the http://www.nyserda.org site

~AR

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NYSERDA will be exhibiting at the CNYC Conference's Expo this Sunday too. This is the seminar: 2. BEING GREEN IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT Energy consultant Lewis M. Kwit will lead a discussion of sustainability as it impacts cooperatives and condominiums. The session will offer practical advice for buildings to develop their own sustainability portfolio, the types of technologies which contribute to a sustainable living environment and incentives available from the State, City and Federal governments for implementing these protocols. Joining Mr. Kwit will be sustainability experts from the City of New York, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Green Building Architects and practitioners in multifamily buildings. For more info 212-496-7400 and http://www.cnyc.coop

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I just noticed in my November issue of Habitat on pgs. 26 & 27 NYSERDA and many others will be at the Conference's Expo on Nov. 11. Talking in person always helps.


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Has anyone been able to get them to come do an energy audit? We established a committee and pursued, but just got run around between agencies. Anyone had success? How'd you do it?

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BOARD IS SKIMPING & SCALING DOWN - fredhead Nov 06, 2007


They keep assessing, raising our maintenance,& now decided to charge us all a flip tax when we sell. Our maintenance is high to begin with. The board has now removed landscapers from our premises and is using super as landscaper. the property is too big for super to do. place looks like a pig sty. tired of paying all this maintenance and all board does is scale down. What are they doing with our monies; they are not returning monies for services not being rendered. We spoke to Dave Mejias & he suggested that we contact government upstate to have laws changed. what are we to do in meantime? help.

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Unfortunately, boards do not do a good job of communicating with shareholders the expenses they have to face. Your example sounds like the people next door to me. My next door co-op neighbor was assessed $2 million dollars more in property value last year. I don't know if they tried to contest it, but they are stuck with an invoice to pay, any reductions from contesting the bill will come later on.

If you heard the recent news: those who use heating oil to warm a building, are expected to pay 20% over last year's prices. In our specific case, This will mean approx. $16K more in an $80K oil budget. Only 6 years back, we were paying from $38 to $45K BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

Shall I keep going?...

At our last annual shareholders' meeting, I sort of provided some VERY revealing numbers for shareholders (people love statistics, as you know) Our site manager and independent auditor thought I was very smart in bringing the numbers along -- as you know you have to know your line!:

From 2001 to 2007 our taxes went up 150%. Unfortunately, I don't have the numbers handy to give you an idea of the magnitude of our increase in just 7 years. The tax invoice is not like the bridge over the Westside communicating Riverdale and Manhattan that you can go some other route and not pay. I used to pay $0.10 in 1972 and now it is over $3.00 (I guess E-Z pass made me forget!).

Where is the money coming from? Obviously, if you don't expect skimping, then you are expected to pay. No two ways about it! As long as it is landscaping that you building is skimping you are fine. What about other essential services such as expensive equipment maintenance?

Finally and my very sincere recommendation: join the board to find what some of your fellow shareholders must put up by way of making ends meet at the larger house.

Alternatively, if my recommendation is not part of your plan and if you cannot afford it anymore, then it is time to think of your personal choices. I have already worked my exit plan, i.e., a camping tent, a winnebago, a house in the idillic mountains of PR where I can raise chickens, potatoes and plaintains and perhaps a cow to milk! No, I'm not being sarcastic; it's the dilemma that we all need to come to grips.

Unfortunately, co-ops do not have subsidies and you and I are the only sole supporters of the system.

Good luck!

AdC




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"...a house in the idillic mountains of PR where I can raise chickens, potatoes and plaintains and perhaps a cow to milk.." sounds tempting!

Anyway, oil price this morning is at $2.7983 per gallon for #2 oil. Last year during the heating peak, we were paying $2.29. I anticipate a price of above $3.20 PG in the peak of season. As AdC pointed out, someone has to pay for this.

Boards do not like to raise maintenance every time there is a price increase that was not anticipated, but times are changing and I believe larger and more time structures increases are to, and should be anticipated. Temporary fuel assessments and higher inflationary increases are becoming the norm. These reluctant boards are trying to make up for not raising the maintenance as much as they should by cutting corners elsewhere. Depending on the individual personality of your building, this may or may not be a good idea.

TIP:
Have an assessment done of your boiler, heat timer (and settings), riser & return lines, building envelope, insulation, etc. and remedy all areas needed. Through this I have been able to yield a 15 to even a 38% savings in one other building.

~AR

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also have nyserda do an energy audit of your building. it is subsidized and they will halep you save $. also write to the board and ask them to have the water bil checked. we just got 20k by doing this.

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Who is a good heat consultant to check for the distribution system?

AdC

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Interesting finding in our bldg. Our lobby is 30'x40" and not heated. It is of course warmer than outside in the winter, but people comment how cool it gets if they stop to chat with our doorman or linger for any reason. A door off the lobby goes to the back where our trash areas, laundry and bldg system rooms are. We recently emptied all the back rooms and had our exterminator locate and seal all holes, then the whole area was painted. There were a lot of holes and a few major fissures in boiler and oil tank room walls.

The purpose was pest control and long overdue maintenance but we're noticing how much warmer the lobby is. The walls and floors are marble so the lobby is cool even before temps really start dropping but the difference is already very noticeable.

Proof that sealing holes, etc. is a worthwhile effort. Our lobby is pleasantly warmer. As I said, it isn't heated but if it were, I'm sure the work we did would be saving us money on heating it.

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What I usually do, is have the oil distributor (Castle, Metro, etc..) perform an energy assessment (Free of charge), then I do the rest. I sometimes use Lane engineering for the physical envelope assessment. I perform the distribution, return and system analysis myself. so there is no company I can recommend (maybe I/we should start one!?)
I realize that does not help many people here, so I will explain a few (10) things that you can do yourself to help. Of course there are many more...

1. Ensure all heat risers and returns are insulated as adequately as possible including exposed risers in apartments that are not being used for heat.
2. Ensure all domestic hot water lines are adequately insulated.
3. Have the super turn OFF the automatic water feeder in the boiler. Place a piece of tape at the current fill line and wait 24 hours. Then see how much water was lost. In this weather, anything more than 1/2 inch is too much and may suggest a problem such as water leaks in the boiler (Leaks outside the system can be ascertained by checking the condensation on the pipes at this time), or your return lines. If you have a heat timer with a return line sensor on this line, your boiler is running extra cycles for nothing.
4. Remedy any deficiencies from #3.
5. Sometimes heat distribution is uneven throughout the building. Some will complain about too much heat, some too little. This can be a different cause in different buildings. Two of the most common are: missing radiators on a riser (usually due to previous construction): there will be uneven amounts of heat in each riser - the remedy - tap valves. Another reason is that the air vent valves on the radiator is the wrong size for the location of the radiator. many supers have a hard time figuring which valve to put where and as a result, use the same one everywhere. I found in 100% of the buildings i looked at, I had to replace and reset all the valves. This is a topic that I can almost write a book on!
6. Always make sure that from spring-fall your boiler is set to "low fire" and readjusted in heating season. Otherwise you are burning 2X the needed fuel during those times.
7. Have the tubes and system cleaned regularly (important)
8. Have the heads of the burner cleaned (the super should do this every month)
9. OK, I cannot legally say to do this, or that I do it... on a marginal weather day, your burner waste sometimes double the fuel than a day with solid cold. It will continue the heat cycles all day to establish a temperature that may only be 1-6 degrees above the out door temperature. "many supers I know will turn the boiler on Summer during these days" I do not even get complaints.
10. Shop your oil, don't be afraid just because you have a long term relationship.. that may just be why your over paying.

~AR

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Hi, Fred,

I've done a study of maintenance fees in Manhattan co-ops. If you're in Manhattan, respond here with your neighborhood and your monthly maintenance and the square feet of your apt (very important!), and I'll tell you if your maintenance is higher or lower than your neighbors'.

After all, everyone feels that their maintenance is too high. But as other posters have pointed out, taxes are way up, fuel oil is way up, utilities are up, insurance is up, and inflation is up.

The only thing that isn't up is the cost to ride the Staten Island Ferry. But those boats aren't comfortable for sleeping. Me, I'd go for the farm in Puerto Rico.

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CNYC Annual Housing Conference on Sunday. Nov. 11 - Harry Bailey Nov 06, 2007


If you have issues and questions, this opportunity is the best to get face to face advice from renowned experts in the field. The seminars are the most objective, non-commercial I have ever experienced and I've been around for longer than I care to admit. There's still time to sign up if you act now!

http://www.cnyc.coop.

Hope to see you there!

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Audio tape of telephone conversations - Paul T. Nov 06, 2007


Do any coops or condos audio tapes communications between the management office and residents, contractors, vendors, etc.? Likewise, do buildings tape conversations with the doormen, superintendent, security, etc.?

Does your building have the facility to tape telephone audio conversations?

If no, have you considered taping conversations and what dissuaded you from taking the action?

If yes, which conversations do you tape?

Do you tape conversations with the management office?

Do you tape conversations with the concierge / doormen?

Do you tape conversations with the security office or staff?

Do you tape conversations with the superintendent’s office?

Do you ever tape conversations of those who visit your management office such as to the office window or counter?

How do you handle conversations with belligerent or bellicose residents, contractors, vendors, etc?

Thanks.




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Paul, is there a specific reason? maybe you can elaborate a little more.

FN.

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No. TRUST is the NUMBER ONE issue that makes a good coop/condo work. If I had to resort to recording, I would terminate the relationship with the vendor, staff etc. If I had to record the shareholder, board or Management office, I would hold a meeting to discuss why it has come to this, and if situation was not remedied, then I would look for another building. My job is stressful enough without having to watch my back, and if there is a lack of Trust, then what is the point?
Pgrech

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We have had a number of residents, albeit a small percentage, who when they cannot accept or abide by a rule find it necessary to harass the staff verbally.

We had someone “steal” Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations and sent them a letter to return the decorations or be invoiced for the decorations.

In turn, they screamed at the building manager that they wanted the individual who reported them to be fired.

We have had an individual (an attorney no less) ask for special parking while work was in progress in the garage and when denied the resident called the building manager a Nazi.

Each day there is at least one individual who crosses the line and enters the work of improper behavior. Our staff need not be subject to aberrant behavior.

Sure, we could have our attorney write letters, but why send letters if a voice recording will modify one’s behavior?

That’s why I posed the question, as I am ambivalent in this situation.

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"Sure, we could have our attorney write letters, but why send letters if a voice recording will modify one’s behavior?"

A board member does not get into this type of problems. Let the right professionals take care of the issues. For this reason, I always compare my work to a circus wild beast tamer. I carry a whip and a one-shot gun all the time.

I whip through management; I shoot my gun through the co-op counsel if they did not hear the whip. Discipline does not only come through the counsel's letter, but through the invoice that they receive bill for counsel intervention. When they see the invoice, they will get 20/40 vision if not 20/20.

AdC






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This is why your manager should have plenty of honey and ice-cream to peacefully avert these things

~AR

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Before turning the tape recorder on, you may want to find out what specific warnings you may have to provide to those whom you wish to record since consent may be required. Similarly, when you record, remember that you are also being taped. This was a problem with Nixon, the famous or infamous tapes. You must be extremely cautious as to what you say.

The best way to document is to MEMORIALIZE you conversation if important, i.e., date, time and what as said as soon as is feasible. If you feel that the person with whom you spoke requires the opportunity to clarify the message, then send the person the memo with your understanding of the conversation and let the person clarify if necessary. In this way, both parties have a document of basic understanding of an important discussion.

AdC



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Great advice on this one from AdC

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LOL, if they are calling the manager a nazi for not permitting special parking, imagine what they'd do/say if they knew he was recording them!

While it may be within your rights to record (Providing certain regulations are followed and 1 recorded party is consented), there may be other, more diplomatic ways of achieving your goal. Reviewing and evaluating your management style may be a good place to start. Usually, when there is disarray in any organization, a corporation, a family, an army platoon or even a building, accountability and change comes from the top down. So what I am suggesting is that it may be more prudent to evaluate the effectiveness of both the Board and management in different areas.

Sometimes my task as a property manager is to be a psychologist, psychiatrist and life coach to residents. While I believe the Board should not get involved in personal resident disputes (because, no matter what the outcome, you become the bad guy), it is the managers job to foresee, intercede and prevent situations as you are experiencing. Then, if they do occur, quickly and quietly put out the fire.

All that aside, I do tape certain conversations with certain residents, clients, etc.; but, only when I know there is a potential litigious situation. This has worked to my advantage recently when firing a local 32B Super.

~AR

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Paul,the advise that I would give is to set up a meeting and bring all waring factions to the table to hash thing out. Short of that I would say call Dr. Phil or ask Valerie Plains? to go undercover again.

FN.

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New Sidewalk - boardnewbie Nov 03, 2007


We are demoing the cement and sidewalk in the front of our building and re-pouring -- the public side of it was pocked and a liability. Should the Board have a contract with the cement company and are there warranties that should be included? I have no idea what insures a "good job" or how long it should last. Are there permits and insurances we should have from the cement people? This is happening next week so quick info would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Suggest you can have your outside engineer draft a standard clause or phrase that is included in all contracts that provides a warranty or guarantee from the contractor to you for about a year against sinking, cracking, scaling, flaking, etc.

If it’s a very large job then it would be in the RFP + contract.

If it’s a small project with no real RFP just bids, then it would be in the letter agreement that is signed between the two parties.

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Yes, if you are closing down the entire side walk, then you need a permit from Dept. of Transportation DOT.
You should have some written agreement usually it is in the form of the contractors proposal. Read the proposal and it should state who is responsible for the permit, and what kind of concrete will be used as well as any warranty. If this information is not supplied on the proposal then GET IT. Also, Cert of Insurance should be supplied by the contractor, but You (management) needs to give the contractor the limits of the insurance as well as who is the holder and additional insured. Most of the time a good management company will make sure that all of this is done? Ask your management agent. Otherwise, postpone the work until all the requirements are met. Make sure you do not loose your deposit if you postpone the work.
Who is running your building The Contractors or Management?
PGrech

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Thanks very much, gentlemen! This is great information. We seem to have a breakdown in communication between Management and one person from the Board has been project managing this job. I have since requested he fax copies of all contracts and a work schedule to at least one other member of the Board so we know what is going on and can put the brakes on if all is not in order.

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Peter gives excellent advice here. One more thing you may want to consider is - is this a vaulted space? Then there are waterproofing requirements and more info to obtain. Have a break out in the bid/contract for a set price per square foot, rather than the total contract price - this will set the price for any additional or unforeseen work upfront so the contractor does not charge a higher rate on the change order.

~Usually a regular sidewalk will be 3500psi or more
~ask for an early pour, and you want it to be all one pour as well to ensure consistency.
~Are tree roots underneath? Why is it "pocked?" and a liability? the removal/adjustment of any impedances will need to be spelled out also
~who is responsible to watch the newly poured concrete after it is poured and before it dries? Have the contractor take this responsibility so if someone writes or steps in it. he has to fix it.

OK, that was more than 1

~AR

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Thanks for all the great advice! It was all very useful, helped us get a better contract and an guess what? Our cement guy was refused a permit by the DOT due to an outstanding violation he had. Anyone have any referrals for a small job in Manhattan?

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