Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter 4, Part 1 - Condo Rules and Regs

For most people, moving to a retirement complex is a leisurely pursuit. For others, however, the purpose of retiring to a senior community is the pursuit of making others’ lives miserable. It is the people in this latter group who make up the bulk of the members on the Harbor View condo boards.

As I mentioned earlier, Harbor View is a huge complex. There are 10,000 residents who are housed in 100 buildings. And each of these buildings functions as its own condo unit with its own fees, its own rules, and most importantly, its own condo board association. Any negative stories that you may have heard about condo boards in Florida are absolutely true. So whereas one condo board president in a retirement community would be quite enough, Harbor View has 100 of them! Mom refuses to go to the condo meetings because all the people ever do there is fight. Even if the topic is petty, or perhaps especially if it’s petty, they will fight about it. Mom told me about a typical meeting they had the first year she arrived:

“What flowers should we plant this year – vincas or pansies?” the secretary of the condo board, Helen asked.

“Can’t we do roses instead? Building 63 has roses, and it looks beautiful,” Marilyn stated.

“Only if you want to pay higher condo fees this year,” the treasurer responded.

“But Building 63’s fees are lower than ours!” Marilyn reported.

“That’s because they’re probably in the red. We have some reserve that will carry us through for another 10 years,” the treasurer argued back.

“That’s because you’re tight with our money,” another resident screamed. “Why are we saving it anyway? Most of us won’t even be here in 10 years.”

Mom broke down and went to a meeting last year because they were going to discuss what color to paint the building. The choices, according to the president, were tan, medium brown, and dark brown. Dark brown had been the clear favorite among the condo board, according to the monthly Building 51 Newsletter. Mom wanted to go to the meeting to convince them to go with a brighter color. “We’re in a sunny, tropical climate and we should blend in with that feel,” Mom argued to the board.

“But we can get a better deal on a brown,” the treasurer counter pointed.

“Aaaah, who cares what color the building is? Who looks at the outside of the building?” Helen retorted.

“Last time I was here, you argued about the flowers outside our building,” Mom replied.

“Well, flowers are different. Everyone in Florida notices flowers,” Helen answered back.

“Well, the building color is much more important than flowers, I think,” Mom said, raising her voice a little. She was beginning to lose her cool.

In the end, Mom was only able to convince them to go with the tan. “Oh well, at least it’s better than that dark brown,” she said to Dad. “I don’t need to look at that dark color to get depressed. I just have to look around at all of the walkers, wheelchairs, canes, gray hair, and hearing aids to do that.”

Or listen to them argue, I thought, when she told me the story.

“On the bright side,” Mom added, “the condo board did convince Sam that the paint job was too big of a task for him to handle.”

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