QUESTION: The board recently informed everyone that we are facing a large special assessment to re-roof and waterproof our buildings. I don't believe them. What can I do to stop the assessment?
ANSWER: In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Swiss-born psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief of someone who is dying. Over the years I've witnessed owners go through the same stages when they face large special assessments for necessary repairs. Following are the stages:
Denial. "They don't know what they're talking about. The repairs aren't necessary; the contractor is just looking for work. The board must be getting a kickback; let's recall the board."
Anger. "This is a disaster! The board is incompetent and management is inept. Let's sue them."
Bargaining. "Can we defer the repairs? Can't we just patch the roof (until I sell my unit)? Aren't there cheaper alternatives? Will insurance pay for the repairs?"
Depression. "I can't bear the costs. This will force me to sell my unit. I can't put my family through this."
- Acceptance. "I know the repairs need to be done. I'm ready to pay the assessment."
Unfortunately, some associations don't make it to "Acceptance." Instead, a small group of owners will sometimes lead a charge to recall the board and stop the repairs. Directors will often throw up their hands and resign or be recalled (as happened in the collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida). The new board then shuts down all work and fires everyone in sight.
This usually leads to litigation from owners who are suffering from water intrusion and mold. Finally, after costly litigation, the association is forced to make the repairs originally proposed; only now the repairs are more expensive and the association has the added burden of legal fees.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.