Previously I have told about various jobs that needed my attention as the new president of our community. Some of these jobs were straightforward, and took very little time to resolve. Others however were more troublesome. There was one issue in particular that I was not relishing.
Although our community is now into it’s third year, several of the owners were still complaining about various “snags” which they felt should be resolved by the developer. In comparison to the kind of problems one hears about, they were all relatively minor issues, but the fact that they remained un-resolved made them all the more irritating. The general consensus of opinion was that the developer didn’t care, and had consistently failed to respond to our requests. A familiar story, no doubt.
I decided to take it upon myself to go to the developer’s office and confront the man responsible. As I have said in my other articles, relations with the developer were not the best, but having met this man before, I felt he was a reasonable person, and that perhaps I would be able to strike up a rapport with him and move things gently on a little. Unfortunately, neither the previous president nor the administrator had thought to fill me in on exactly what measures had, or had not, been taken previously. My own fault, perhaps, for not checking more thoroughly.
The meeting went pretty well, inasmuch as the atmosphere was very convivial. The developer’s man smilingly produced a copy of the letter sent to him by our administrator over two years ago, including the list of jobs outstanding, and then proceeded to go through each item, checking them off as “jobs completed”, none of which I could argue with.
I had not been aware of this list. As I bluffed my way forward, saying “ah, yes, but what about this?”, he simply smiled at me and said, not surprisingly, “we have completed everything you asked us to, and now, when the building is over two years old, you add to the list and want us to come and repair new problems?” I knew full well, as did all the owners, that these were not “new” problems, but felt powerless to argue the point, and left the office feeling somewhat humiliated.
This whole experience has been a learning curve. This particular event served to illustrate the importance of communication, and of keeping detailed records of all communication. On taking over the presidency I was given nothing in the way of paperwork or records. Of course, the administrator’s office has records of at least some, if not all, correspondence, and I would strongly advise anyone finding themselves in the position of taking over the presidency of their community to take the time to acquaint themselves with as much of what has gone on previously as possible. Personally, I like to keep my own records of all that I have dealt with to date, and when (or if) the time comes for me to hand over the reigns, I will be only too happy to pass it all on to somebody else!
I sent a letter to all my fellow owners a short while after our community meeting, as un update on issues that we had discussed. In this letter, I explained that I had met with the developer personally, but had basically hit a brick wall, and concluded that there was nothing more to be achieved by pursuing him. Needless to say, this did not meet with a great deal of satisfaction, and to this day I find myself frequently engaged in conversations with neighbours along the lines of “the developer should do this, the developer should do that”. I would be delighted if any of these neighbours felt like going to the developer’s office themselves and tackling them, but somehow this seems unlikely.
As I said before, none of these are major issues, and I personally think it would be more productive to get on with maintaining our community ourselves, but developers seem to have a pretty bad reputation in general, (often justified) and people will always seek someone to blame for everything. It is very convenient to take out one’s frustration against the developer! Of course, my opinion is only a small percentage of the whole community, and as president one has to always try to keep this in mind. It can be difficult to remember this, particularly when there is often so much apathy on the part of other owners. However, the annual meeting of the community is one time when everyone is only too eager to voice their opinions, and I fully expect this subject to come up again in our next meeting.
Probably the most worrying problem we have had since the very beginning has been one involving the underground parking flooding every time there is a heavy downpour. I was aware that during the previous president’s time, discussions had taken place with both the builder/developer and the water board, to try to establish where the problem (and therefore the blame) lay. I was also aware that the problem clearly had not been resolved, and that I had now effectively inherited the job of trying to get something done about it.
Although having to wade through about six inches of water to get to your car is inconvenient to say the least, from the community point of view, the more pressing problem was that of the lift. The lift shaft has a well at the bottom, which goes about three feet below the floor level of the garage, to allow room for cables and parts of the mechanism. This well was filling up each time we had heavy rainfalls, and this in turn was causing potential long term damage to the machinery. We have had to buy a portable pump to drain the well when this happens, a job which seems to always fall to either myself or the vice-president, since there is rarely anybody else available (or willing!) to help. But the remaining dampness is slowly causing rusting of parts of the mechanism, and may also be hazardous to the electrical installations.
I have repeatedly asked our administrator to tell me what is being done about this situation. It would appear that the developer/builder is not at fault. The problem in fact lies beyond our boundaries. Our building is located on a hill, and when there is a heavy downpour, it becomes a raging torrent of a river. At the bottom of the hill, there is a roundabout on which the manhole covers lift right up and float away, such is the force of water coming down the bursting drains. The water in our garage is actually coming up through the drains which are supposed to take water out to the street. A few years ago, I remember getting stranded in a restaurant a little further down the same street, because the road outside was completely flooded. This is a problem which has existed for many years in this area, and is basically due to the drainage pipes under the street being too narrow in diameter to handle the volume of water that, admittedly rarely, can fall in a short space of time.
The problem, not specifically related to us, but the area in general, has even been highlighted in the local press, and it does not seem that anybody in the council is actually trying to deny responsibility. However, from what we can gather, there are no immediate plans to rectify the problem, since this would involve major work for which there is no budget.
Having gone through the records with the administrator (I had learnt my lesson!) I noted that the council had in fact reimbursed us for the cost of the pump plus a repair bill from the lift company. This would appear to me to be an admission of liability. I have asked the administrator if this gives any strength to our case, or if we can get some kind of written assurance that any future damages will also be paid for by the council, but this has only been met with sheepish grins and shrugs. The distinct impression that I get, is that this is one of those situations that nobody believes is worth fighting. It seems incredible that nothing can be done, other than wait for the next inundation, and just hope for the best if there is any cost involved in repairing the damage. I have asked the administrator to contact our own insurance company about the issue, since we have legal representation included in our policy, but to be honest, I don’t hold out much hope of getting anywhere by that route.
One thing is for sure. Since we pay the administrator to deal with this type of problem, I as president will try not to get any more involved in it than regularly reminding him that we, the owners, expect something to be done. Come the next community meeting, I will hand over to Señor Administrator to give an update, as soon as the question is raised. And in the meantime, I will try to keep my car on the high ground!