How Boards Can Best Handle Difficult Decisions Making the Tough Choices

Sometimes, no matter how much it may pain us to do so, we all have to say or do unpleasant things. That can certainly be the case for co-op and condo board members, most of whom will one day face the dreary prospect of raising maintenance fees, instituting assessments or levying flip taxes. Those tasks may come with the territory but that doesn’t make it any easier for these individuals to have to step forward and break the news to friends and neighbors alike.

What can be done to soothe the pain of an unpopular announcement or decision? What’s the best way to earn the buy-in and support of the very people on whom these issues will have the biggest impact? It boils down to preparation, honesty and lots and lots of conversation.

Saying the Unpopular Magic Words

While board members are faced constantly with large-scale decisions and tough calls, there are a few hot-button topics almost guaranteed to stir up trouble among residents. First and foremost: the green stuff. “It’s all about the money,” says attorney Ronald L. Perl, a partner with the law firm of Hill Wallack, LLP in Princeton, New Jersey. “Decisions that result in assessments or additional charges are never popular. No one wants to spend money especially these days.”

Scott Dalley, senior vice president of Access Property Management Inc. in Flemington, New Jersey, agrees. “The most difficult decision for a board to make is an increase in maintenance fees or some sort of assessment.”

These days, more and more of these difficult financial decisions are being made, given the state of the U.S. economy and the stark rise in fuel prices over the last six to 12 months. No matter how hard a board might try to find another solution to budget shortfalls, most likely there will still be a need for an increase somewhere close down the road.

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