Board Shorts# 6 - Sharing
To share or not to share?: an interesting question
by Peter Walpole
Short of having your adult child’s family move back in with you, condo ownership may be one of the ultimate examples of shared living.
Some things are best never shared: a toothbrush, personal space, confidences … Others are best shared: experiences, hugs, memories … And condo living can sometimes be a mix of positive and negative shares. You have close neighbors. You certainly don’t want to share their noise or disturbances. But you do welcome the sense of ‘community’ that condo living can give.
As a condo director, you have challenges around sharing. Many condos share facilities with another Board. Experience has taught me that Shared Facilities can be a major challenge. Right off the top there is a SF budget. The two (or more) Boards that ‘share’ must agree on a budget and spending priorities. The demographics of the sharers may differ greatly: individuals in tower blocks with families in townhouses; owner/occupiers with tenants; residents with commercial. The permutations are endless. So too the squabbles.
If one of the parties to a SF decides to veto every move of the other, then mediation will soon be a reasonable ‘use of force’. I suggest that if your board looks like it is failing to agree on SF issues, that you need to take a lead to change that environment. A successful Shared Facility Committee (or similar group) is admired by all condo Boards—and has lessons we can all share.
As a Board member, you will certainly encounter issues between residents that results from inappropriate sharing. Noise is a frequent issue, as is smoking and parking. They all come down to one party deciding their priorities are more important. A shared, cooperative Board process is required to sort those problems. Work with your manager!
Do not share
Like your toothbrush, some things must never be shared. As a Board member, you signed a document covering confidentiality. You are legally bound by it. You will certainly become aware of privacy issues. You might want to ‘share’ info that Mr. X has recently died. Without permission, you can’t. You might want to organize help for Ms. Y who just gave birth. Again, privacy rules stop you (unless you have clear permission). Issues with staff, difficult residents, move-ins … all of these must be considered private and confidential. Financial issues and Board discussions are confidential—until properly published.
So, a condo is shared living space. But it is also an environment where individuals have well documented legal privacy. The walls may let you hear your neighbor’s conversations, but you can’t share their thoughts—unless invited to do so.
As a Board member, you must learn the additional rules that regulate your use of private info. And alongside, you are responsible to ensure everyone has a safe, shared environment in which to live.
Nobody claimed it was easy. But if you clarify the boundaries between public and private, your life as a Board member will be easier. You are not condo security. Don’t even go there. And keep silent on Board discussions. But do everything you can to ensure Shared Facilities are available to everyone.
And be sure to publicize what your Board has done to ensure everyone has a comfortable place to live. That too is sharing.
In short, sharing is not an easy topic for Boards. But you’ll manage.