Tragedy of the commons
that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed
upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the
common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an
individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more
inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill; as in
families many attendants are often less useful than a few.”
—Aristotle (384-322 BC)
This theory helps explain why owners resist paying into the reserve
funds, especially those who do not plan to keep their units for long and owners who are on fixed low incomes.
understand that condominium living faces the economic
reality that all owners want to live in a clean, well
maintained property that enjoys continuous appreciation in property
values. However many owners do not want to pay for it.
are several economic theories that study the dilemma of the shirking of
common responsibility in favour of private gain. They include:
of the commons
In economics, the Tragedy of the Commons (such as the condo's
common elements) is the deterioration of shared
resources by individuals, acting independently and rationally according
to each one's self-interest, despite their knowing that depleting
the common elements is contrary to their long-term best interests.
As a result, the hallway carpets become badly worn,
burnt out light bulbs take a long time to be replaced and leaks in the parking garage are ignored.
Many individual units may be beautifully furnished but as soon as the
residents walk out their front door onto the common areas, they enter a depressing environment.
This is where
a person ignores the needs of the group whenever he feels that by doing
so, he will gain.
This is why, in order to keep the monthly fees low, amenities that are
used by a minority, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, hobby rooms or badminton courts, may be
use balcony enclosed with
This is where six people decide to go out for dinner and that they will
split the bill equally six ways. The person who orders the most
expensive meal is partially subsidized by the other five while the
person who orders the cheapest meal subsidizes the five others.
In condos this is the problem faced when all utilities are
included in the monthly fees.
Because everyone else will subsidize heavy consumption of electricity,
some people leave the lights on when they leave the room and will not
leaky tap or a running toilet.
This describes the people who will use public or common amenities but
do not pay for their upkeep. A person who boards a public bus without
paying the fare is an example.
In condominiums it is someone who is in arrears with their common
element fees for 30 to 60 days, paying just before their units will be liened. In a few condos
they just stop paying altogether if the board does not lien units.
Others may use a storage locker or a second parking space but not pay the required monthly fees.
The diffusion of responsibility and/or the bystander effect may release
individuals from the need to act, and if no-one from the group is seen
to act, each individual may be further inhibited by conformity.
This explains why residents may ignore teenagers hanging around the
staircases, drug dealing in the parking garage, excessive noise from
weekend parties and cigarette butts being thrown off the balconies.
bags left outside a condo building
to the bottom
Low condo fees are an important selling feature. Within a
neighbourhood, condos may see the need to compete for potential buyers
by insuring that their common element fees are lower than all
the other condominiums in the area.
The pressure to keep the fees low puts stress on the condo's budget and
so the building begins to slowly deteriorate.
market for lemons
A lemon is an American slang term for a car that is found to be
defective only after it has been bought.
According to this theory, since it is difficult for a condo buyer to
quality of an apartment building's machinery, mechanical components and
structural soundness, they need to hire a competent building inspector
to give them the needed information or they will reduce their asking
price to adjust for these uncertainties.
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