Recently we received the following question the answer to which could be helpful to many of you.
Q. Our condominium has a serious need for some renovation work on windows, doors and some balconies. It is going to cost around $3,000 a unit as best we can tell right now. One contractor we consulted said it was not urgent and that we could do it over a period of time. Another contractor indicated that he thought the deterioration would accelerate and we needed to do all the work right away. The Board is divided on which way to go, and right now we only have four Board members, and it is a 50/50 split. Our next election is September and we cannot agree on a new Board member either. We have been at this standoff for four months now, and we need to move ahead with some plans, but we do not seem to be able to do so. Do you have any suggestions?
A. There are a couple of steps you can take which should break the logjam. First of all, it does not seem like you have gotten the opinion of a design professional who has nothing to gain from the construction contract. An architect should be hired to thoroughly examine the problems you are having and to prescribe the best solution for them. The architect would prepare a report, including drawings, to specify exactly how the repairs should be done. The Board could then get an additional opinion from the architect as to the urgency of the repairs. The urgency would, no doubt, be dictated by how much deterioration, and consequential additional cost, that will occur during the waiting period. We presume that the only reason you would want to wait is that you do not have the money to make all the recommended repairs on an immediate basis. Perhaps you need time to raise the money through an increase in the regular assessments in order to avoid a special assessment.
But how do we resolve this disagreement between the four Board members? Possibly a meeting with the architect, after the report is complete, would result in a change of mind of one or more Board members. If that meeting does not result in a resolution, it would appear that it is time to call in a mediator. A mediator is a third party neutral whose job it is to guide the parties to a resolution of their conflict. Several years ago, Virginia began certifying mediators so as to ensure a minimal level of experience and training. Therefore, if you hire a mediator, it would be prudent to inquire about this or her experience and whether or not the mediator has experience in construction and renovation work.
There is cause for great optimism that the involvement of a mediator will solve your problem, because mediations are successful 90 percent of the time. In your case, it is likely the mediation could resolve the issues at a cost of under $500. Considering the significance of the decision that must be made, and its impact on the community, an investment of $500 to get past this deadlock is certainly a reasonable investment of the Associations funds. Considering your Board members’ mutual motivation to get this matter resolved, the fiduciary duty that you all owe to your fellow community members, and the fact that you are neighbors and want to maintain a harmonious relationship, mediation should be successful.