Condo Survival : Part 6

Remember, these are just the events as I recall them. They are my own interpretations of events. My memory is not perfect and I don't want to be sued.

In the last installment, I was elected to the board and we began to meet some of the strange characters in the building.  I'll begin this chapter with our first board meeting. 

Code of Whhhaaattt?

After being elected to the board, Alex, Dee Dee and I wanted to become involved right away.  Of course, the other board members attempted to freeze us out as long as possible, claiming that we could not attend meetings or vote on decisions until we were sworn in and had signed a code of ethics.  The irony that they were using the fact that we had not yet signed a code of ethics to prevent us from saving the building, was not lost on us.

This was basically our reaction when they told us we had to sign a code of ethics:

I mean, the nerve, right?? 

During this time, we received the financial statements and bank balance statements at our own request demand.  I remember Luca knocking on my door one evening.

I swallowed my (very real fear) that he was going to harm me and answered the door with Barkley at my side.  He had a bottle of cheap red wine in his hand and, as he gave it to me, he mumbled something about hoping we could start fresh.  I smiled sweetly and thanked him.

Alex and Dee Dee had also received bottles of wine.  They were shocked!  All the time, we had assumed board members had been receiving real bribes (and we do suspect that some of them had work done in their units) but was it possible that they had fought to keep a property management company who had essentially bankrupted the building just so that they could flirt with our property managers and perhaps enjoy the occasional cheap bottle of red?  It seems impossible but stranger things have happened...

I used that bottle of red to help get me through the joke that was our financial records.  First of all, it seemed to be written to be deliberately vague.  I compared it to some old board meeting minutes (there were very few that had been properly documented) that were on loan from another concerned building resident.  Alex, Dee Dee and I began to piece things together...

We noticed several letters of protest from years before when the board was considering renovating the hallways.  We also noticed minutes indicating that the board was aware that they had insufficient funds to replace the boilers.  Somehow, they decided to proceed with the renovation in spite of this.  The reno was done by our property manager's "preferred contractor" (I was later told by other building contractors that our property manager always accepted kickbacks.  I was also warned to be careful around him because he called me some filthy names, including the c-word.)  We focused on the hallway reno because it drained every penny from our reserve fund.  We could not find evidence of a single quote for the work and we only saw a receipt from $16,000 in wallpaper, which was a very small fraction of the cost of the work.

What else did we find?  Many disturbing things including former board members still signing cheques payable to current board members and receipts for "work completed" in units (by the property manager's preferred contractor) when we had evidence that such work was never performed.  We were just beginning to scratch the surface and it was already a mess.

So Many Meetings

We knew we would need to act quickly if we wanted to remove property management before they could cause more damage to our building.  We also needed to vote.  On the other side was Myrtle and Irene (The Queen of Hearts resigned after giving a confusing nonsensical speech about an elephant in the room and the fact that being a board member means lying by omission... read into that what you like.)  On our side were Alex, Dee Dee and myself.  But then there was the "wild card", "Robert" who wore his slippers and robe around the building as if it were all his own living room.  Robert had a bad habit of hanging out in the lobby early on Saturday mornings so that he could read other people's newspapers.  He also seemed to be the only person who used the building's sauna.  He creeped me out.

We knew very little about Robert, except that he seemed to have his own agenda and was friends with this lady:

He seemed to be more on our side than the other side.  He also seemed to be the sworn enemy of The Kingpin:
 You may remember her as:

I was worried because there had been rumours about him abusing his power as a board member in the past and accessing other people's units.  He did seem to have an unhealthy obsession with all the keys to the building.  Man, did he want to get his hands on those keys!  His vote was impossible to control (or influence with logic) but we at least knew that he would fight against our current property management company.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?  Beggars can't be choosers!

We began our strategic extraction of our property management company by electing me as board president.  I then began to call meetings when I knew property management could not attend.  At the first of these meetings, I went on the offensive with some of the information Alex, Dee Dee and I had uncovered. 

We had to get Myrtle and Irene to agree to fire our property management company or things would be much more difficult.  A unanimous board vote would be the tidiest way to do things. 

We attacked Myrtle, who had been president at the time, demanding to know how they could leave so much money unaccounted for and how they could spend money on something aesthetic like a hallway when there was no money to replace the boilers.  She just played dumb and in an annoyingly naive voice, claimed that property management had told them that they could afford the renovation.

She was walking right into our trap.

"If that were true," I was nearly yelling by now... "Why didn't you fire them when you learned that they had lied?"  She seemed confused.  She had no response and despite Irene's attempts to come to her rescue, she was playing defense now. 

Without The Kingpin (the brains of their operation), neither lady knew what to do and because The Kingpin liked to keep her hands clean, she was not on the board and couldn't help them. 

From here it was a breeze to get Myrtle and Irene to admit that if our poor financial state was really the fault of property management and not their own, (as they claimed to be the case) we may be able to find a better company.  We agreed to meet again in a couple of nights.  Alex, Dee Dee and I had already researched better companies and had lined up interviews.  In the interest of fairness, I suggested that Myrtle, Irene and Robert do the same.

After several hours of meetings, we had chosen a new company who was willing to take us on as a special project.  Our new property manager was great and I still consider her to be a friend.  She even helped us to draft a letter of termination for our former management company.

Sending it to them was hugely satisfying!  They would be with us for another month before our new company could start so we needed to work on a little damage control:

During this time, Dee Dee and Alex worked on another part of our plan: freezing property management out of our bank accounts!  After many calls and trips to the banks, it was confirmed that our property manager would no longer have access to our accounts.  We also discovered a GIC for $40,000 which never appeared in any of the financial statements and had never been disclosed to us as board members.  The GIC could only be accessed by Luca's boss, "Daniel"...

... and appeared to have been hidden there just before the last AGM.  It seems they had prepared for the board to change hands.  Finding $40,000 wouldn't save our building, but it was a start!  You would think all the owners in the building would be thrilled but, surprisingly, we were still called some pretty ugly names.  Oh well...

A New Era

With a new property management company and a little extra cash in the bank, we thought people in the building would finally be happy.  We even negotiated office hours (which our property manager had not had in the past) so that people could have their questions answered in person. 

Immediately we began looking at the budget and determining where we could save money.  But we hadn't realized that the building not only had a corrupt board and management company, but it also suffered from some of the strangest residents any of us had ever seen.  Members of the new property management company may or may not have told us years later that our building was the craziest building anyone at their company had ever seen. 

It wasn't long before our new property manager learned that the building was infected with lunatics who would rather live in a financially ruined building than save a little money by getting the grass cut less frequently.  In fact, many of the people who spent hours of our property manager's time complaining, simply didn't have the intellectual capacity to understand the logic and reason in her answers:

"No, the building will not pay to fix your car because you drove it into the garage door."
"No, it is not the super's job to do chores around your unit when he's supposed to be cleaning the hallways."
"Sir, I understand that you don't care for children, but we cannot ban them from the building."
"Ma'am, please stop stealing all the toilet paper from the common areas or we will tell the super to stop replacing it..."
"Sir, we can not stucco the building exterior at the moment.  We just finished explaining that we have no money"
"No, we do not have the money for a 24 hour concierge.  We just explained that we need to replenish the reserve fund, not add new services and amenities."

FYI- these are all real answers and responses to the questions and actions of my former neighbours.

We attempted to host a building meeting to explain the situation and introduce owners to our new property manager.  Of course, it was derailed by silly questions and screaming at every turn:

 The meeting was so ridiculous, tedious and awkward, that I just wanted to do this...

Or this:

And I wished I could say something like this:

Despite the craziness, there were some good people who lived in our building too.  Knowing that we were helping them (and ourselves) out of a bad situation, kept us going.
Of course, the other side threw us curve-balls each chance they had.  One day, our sauna was shut down by public health because The Kingpin reported it.  Now, the only person who used the sauna was Robert (her mortal enemy) and this was obviously a targeted attack.  At the board meeting, when we tried to explain to Robert that there was currently no money to repair it and that we would have to close it temporarily, he started to become unhinged. 
We locked the door to the gym and sauna room (the super being the only one with a key) and, in the days that followed,  Robert began circling the parking lot on his bicycle obsessively.  It was a little creepy but we assumed he'd get over it eventually.  We were wrong.
An Unwelcome Surprise
One evening, Corey noticed the light to the exercise room was on.  I called Alex and our super down to investigate.  Inside, we found Robert, passed out on a piece of gym equipment.  He was wearing nothing but weight-lifting gloves and underwear.  Seriously.  You can't make this stuff up.

As a board member, he knew better than anyone that the gym and sauna were off-limits for safety reasons.  He started raising his voice as soon as he saw us, claiming that we were "ruining everyone's weekend"... To this day, I'm not sure whether he was high or not.  We tried to diffuse the situation and asked him to just leave the gym so we could lock it... we didn't want a fight. 

He looked up at us, grinned, and deliberately lifted his knee so we could see right up the leg of his boxer shorts.  It was shocking and sort of hilarious in hindsight but it also felt demeaning.

Not wanting to give him the satisfaction of our shock, I calmly asked him to close his legs and politely informed him that we could see his "junk".  Alex still laughs about that line to this day.

Unfortunately, he did not leave so easily.  It was obvious that he had a stash of keys somewhere and he refused to give our super the key.  He also lunged at Alex, resulting in a call to the police.  I wish I could say that night was the last time the police were called... but I can't.

 More next time!
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