Five Best Practices for Improving Condo Board Communication
Funny, isn’t it, how a flock of geese can manage to communicate well enough to prevent mid-air collisions but people find this task very difficult. Communication is always one of those things that get forgotten. Who has time to be writing to owners letting them know what’s going on? After all, directors are volunteers and have much better things to do – like attending meetings and planning the future of the condo. When the Condo Information Centre compiled the comments they received from over 4500 people regarding condo living, 49% of them complained about the lack of communication between the condo board and themselves.
The best condo Boards understand that good governance includes communicating effectively with the owners. These boards don’t forget about tenants, who are also residents, and need to have some of the same information as the owners.
Directors serving on these Boards have internalized the philosophy that the openness and transparency that comes from good communication practices is the only way to govern. Most important is for the board to adopt a philosophy of sharing everything before it is asked for it. This shows the board has nothing to hide.
- Make all condo records available to owners
So what should be shared? To start, make all the condo’s records available to owners. This includes key governance documents (declaration, bylaws, rules) and reports (like the Annual Financial Statements, operating budgets, and reserve fund studies).
Also be sure that minutes from board meetings are shared as soon as they are approved and post updates on any financial issues (special assessments, operating budget increases, etc.) well in advance. The Condo Act requires the board to provide a specific number of days’ notice, but there is no reason more notice cannot be provided when possible.
Obviously, I realize that some things cannot be shared – personal information about owners, contract/tender details – but boards can share information about how a decision was made without breaching confidentiality.
- Use technology to share information
Going digital is the only way in today’s age of technological innovation to share documents effectively and inexpensively. No one has time to sift through boxes of paper files to find a report. A website can be setup to allow for document storage. Even easier is to use software like BoardSpace. Websites are a critical hub for sharing information with owners, tenants, and property managers and is easy to keep up-to-date and filled with convenient links to all the necessary documents and materials mentioned in the first point.
3. Set up a bulletin board or e-board in a central location
This lends itself more easily to high-rise style condos, but townhouse complexes can usually find a common area where owners and tenants can go to find up-to-date information offline. This is a fantastic way to post late-minute reminders about things like maintenance issues, the need to remove cars for paving or line painting or the upcoming AGM. Bulletin boards are of particular importance to accommodate owners who are not computer literate.
4. Publish a condo newsletter
A newsletter is a good way to keep in touch with owners. Newsletters can be done through email or in traditional hardcopy – I prefer a digital version as it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly. There are easy-to-use technology solutions available to help get this job done. I highly recommend getting a newsletter produced on a quarterly basis, but this may be too frequent for some boards. Newsletters are time-consuming to prepare. Even better is for the board to organize a newsletter committee made up of owners who volunteer to be responsible for preparing them.
5. Educate at every opportunity
Condos are complicated and difficult to understand. It is a major challenge for owners to understand fully what condo ownership means. One way to fight this is to provide educational opportunities for the owners at every occasion. Try sharing short informational videos on the condo website or inviting a speaker to the next annual general meeting. Owners need to be proactive too. If you are an owner and want to know more about a particular topic; ask for it or better still, volunteer to find out and share with other owners via the newsletter, website or at an AGM.
It is usually the responsibility of the property manager to provide documents to owners; imagine how much easier it would be if owners can access these documents themselves. I remember one property manager telling me that he charged $50 an hour to show owners documents. This is crazy! Condo owners paid for these documents through their condo fees, why should they have to pay to view them or get copies. By implementing these five best practices for improving condo board communication, you can promote a culture of transparency and openness that fosters good community.
What are some of your biggest condo board communication challenges? How have you overcome these challenges? Share your thoughts by tweeting @BoardSpaceinc