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Columnist
Condo elections not for the faint of heart
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 6/26/2008 12:06 AM

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Last week I found myself at the Castleford Hearthstone Condo Association's annual meeting, held at the Hoffman Estates police station.

It was condo board election night. I dropped by after receiving complaints from a condo owner that the condo board was up to no good. I was told they were unfairly fining owners over a bevy of silly offenses.

The complaints were mainly that the management company communicated poorly with owners and wasn't doing its jobs property.

Condo owners everywhere, not just at Castleford, have similar beefs.

Some complaints are legit, as some condo boards do capitalize on owners who are unfamiliar with the charter and bylaws.

At this meeting, there was a movement and petition to have all members of the board impeached. For whatever reason, that effort never progressed, and the election went as usual.

But the night wasn't without yelling. A female resident was told by the condo association attorney that she couldn't vote because she owed the association fines.

Many condo owners aren't familiar with the rules or work of their associations. They're the ones who act surprised after something that's been in the works for months gets approved. They claim they're too busy to keep up with condo meetings, but complain when they're supposedly kept out of the loop.

Condo board members often feel underappreciated. Though no one forced them to run, they're volunteering their time for the position. Though it's once a month, or something similar, that's one less night they spend with their families or friends. And in the interim, they're supposed to drop everything and be available to their fellow owners.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that neither side does a very good job communicating. When thoughts are exchanged, things don't always remain civil and the bad feelings pile up.

After attending the meeting and talking with residents, I've got a few tips for those living in condos.

If you're a board member, don't laugh or snicker at anyone posing a question - no matter how mundane that question may be. There's no measuring how arrogant that comes off as. And get rid of that sense of entitlement. Even though it's a volunteer position, you're supposed to represent the unit owners. Even the neighbors you don't like. Don't forget that.

For condo owners not on the board, try to attend a couple of meetings a year, not just the one where everyone else jams the room. That way you'll know how your board works on normal conditions. That way you'll be better informed. And if you can't attend a meeting, find a neighbor who was there, or talk to a board member. Don't leave them alone on an island after you've elected them. Work with them.

Because if nothing changes, you'll be back in a crowded room next year sharing the same discontent.

Got any interesting Hoffman Estates story ideas? Send them along to Ashok Selvam at (847) 427-4475 or aselvam@dailyherald.com.