Condo Nazis
“We'll spend the money and fix up the place and when the money's all gone we'll resign and sell our homes.
—President of the Board of Directors Wildwood of Deer Creek
   Deerfield Beach Florida

A Condo Nazi, or a Condo Dictator, is a director—usually the president, sometimes the treasurer—whose objectives and business manners are counterproductive to the welfare of the community. Personal characteristics are different in every case. However, here is a list of traits that would indicate a director whose personality is too dictatorial or confrontational for the good of his or her condo.

1.  A president or director who feels that they cannot be replaced.
2.  A director who spends a good deal of time in the management office.
3.  Good managers and staff quit because they don’t want to work under
     this person.
4.  A director who constantly wants to fire employees or replace contractors.
5.  Other directors resign rather than work with this person.
6.  A director who is quick to sic the corporation lawyer on an owner.
7.  The president makes decisions without waiting for the board’s approval.
8.  A president who takes over the manager’s job.
9.  A president makes decisions without informing the board.

Entrenched board
Some corporations have difficulty in finding people who are willing to serve on the board. In these condos, any interested owner has an opportunity to be a director. However, other condos suffer from entrenched boards that have no interest in sharing their power with any new volunteers and are determined to retain their positions at almost any cost.

Why? It depends on the people and the corporation.

Some entrenched boards protect the interests of the developer or a certain segment of owners. For example, the board may favour the owner of the commercial units over the residential owners or the seniors over young families. In other condos, the directors protect the investor-landlords from the wrath of the owner-residents.

Other boards are determined to keep the fees lower than what is needed in order to help seniors on fixed incomes and the low-income owners.

The directors may have replaced an incompetent or corrupt board and are afraid that the old bad habits may slip back on the board.

The corporation may be divided by ethnic or religious differences and the board is afraid that the “new owners” are upsetting their peaceful community. A condo with a majority of “white” Canadian seniors may get riled when younger Asian families start moving in.

Perhaps the board members are enjoying kickbacks from the contractors; it's hard to tell how common this is. That would give them a financial stake in retaining their positions.

A board may be staying in power so it can continue to hide their past incompetence and/or the corporation’s bad financial situation and to postpone badly needed maintenance fee increases and special assessments.

The board could be dominated by a couple of control freaks (Condo Nazis) who are convinced no one else is capable of replacing them.

The board president and a single board member may remain in power for years while there is a large turnover of owners floating through the other three board positions. This can be a sign that a president is too difficult to work with.

Entrenched board members are suspicious of new board members and any owner who shows too much interest in the corporation’s affairs so they limit communications, love secrecy and tend to hide behind rules and policies. They can be extremely hard to remove from office.

Condo Nazis at work
I got a phone call from a board member in Scarborough looking for help. He was a member of a five-person board and he was not allowed to see any of the monthly financial statements. Three directors and the manager make the decisions before the board meetings and then just railroad them through.

When he was on the board, he never saw the shared facilities minutes or financial statements. He would ask and the answer was sure you can see them, but then nobody would provide them. At times, when he went to see the manager in his office, he was told he was trespassing and he had to leave or the manager would call the police.

A second director at that condo told me that the owners elect people they trust, but the rest of the board just ignores them and ignores the policies and rules on how board meetings should be conducted.

Their building has a large number of low-income immigrants. There are language problems and the owners and the two new board members do not know the procedures on how to organize a slate to run against the three entrenched board members.

After a few months of being abused, the two directors resigned.

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