Homeowner meetings died, and neighborhood relationships disappeared. These are not good times for neighborhood communities.
The meetings cause strife and antipathy, and it is enough to talk about them for millions of owners to distort the movement. In recent years, the participation in these calls has dropped significantly, being made once a year when it is ordinary—accounts are approved and positions are changed—or as appropriate when it is extraordinary—to approve the execution of works or changes to administrators. farms, for example. These meetings, which decades ago were sacred, have lost their importance, although they are important to prevent some neighbors from deciding for others and, above all, so that the building—the properties of the owner—will not lose value.
Between 60% and 80% were absent, according to property managers consulted. “The last 400 meetings we held allowed us to say that 30% attended in person, almost 5% were represented by delegates, and 65% did not attend the meetings,” said Roberto Ruiz, from GAF Ruiz Lizondo, who manages about 175 communities. Zaragoza. It could be the worst. “In one meeting, I found that no one came, and I had to ring the bell so that a neighbor could come down and call the meeting,” said Alberto Izquierdo, a registered property manager who manages 280 buildings in the province of Barcelona.
José Francisco Martínez (44 years old), owner of an apartment in Gavà (Barcelona), says that the approval of the spill board or the increase in fees “will affect him a lot.” However, he acknowledged that he had stopped attending before the pandemic due to two basic reasons: the meeting schedule was incompatible with his work as a freelancer, and “neighbors were waiting for the meeting to release and shame the neighbor because I don’t know what.” complaint from a year ago.” And he added: “The meetings became a kind of rallies with speeches and discussions. “Some people thought they were in one of the TV shows.”
Property managers agree that low attendance is a reflection of today’s society, which is more individualistic, less participatory, and less collaborative. “They are different people, and the only thing they have in common is that they live in the same building,” said Carmela Lavandeira, a registered property manager and lawyer in A Coruña.
Many of these members forget an important thing: “Our home does not begin when we close the door of our apartment, but it begins with the portal,” said Roberto Ruiz. The administrator identified 10 reasons why neighbors do not attend meetings: lack of time, lack of interest, feeling that they are not heard, comfort of the delegation, avoiding conflict and tension, feeling inexperienced or lack of preparation, lack of knowledge of the importance, generational change, and limitations of the Horizontal Property Law. “We can’t forget that this is a law from the 1960s with a lot of patches,” Ruiz said.
Francisco Javier Sojo, 44 years old, lives in Badajoz and has not attended his community meetings for more than a decade. “Some topics are interesting and necessary, but we often talk about irrelevant things. Also, groups are formed, and there is no way to debate what is best for the community.” He believes that “the ideal is to stop giving opinions just to annoy or contradict your opponent.”
Many factors work for and against unpopular boards. Attendance varies depending on the size of the farm—the fewer neighbors, the greater the participation; in large urbanizations, attendance can be 8% or 10%; and the weight of young and middle-aged people—from 30 to 55 years old. “The elderly are the ones who attend the most and are more willing to participate; they have a tradition of attending these meetings and are more used to human contact,” said Izquierdo. In the remaining ages, the level of commitment to the community decreases significantly.
We also need to consider the number of rented apartments in the building, either traditional rental or tourist or seasonal housing (for students). “Many of these owners do not live in the building and sometimes not even in the city, so they do not attend the meetings. In fact, when it’s their turn to become presidents, it’s a real governance problem,” Lavandeira said, recommending to his clients not to appoint a president who doesn’t live on a farm. “90% of the owners who rent apartments, whether individuals or legal entities, do not attend the meetings,” Izquierdo agreed. And more so when it comes to heritage houses. “Sometimes there are 15 owners,” said this administrator.
More or less help depends, ultimately, on the issues at hand. “The general view is that for important issues, such as the increase in fees or the works, almost all the owners attended or delegated those who did not attend. In these meetings, the professionals not only inform but also advise and explain the doubts about these issues, preventing the meeting from going beyond the established topics and also avoiding discussions between the attendees,” said Pablo Abascal, president of the Council of General Association of Property Administrators (CGCAFE). In the analysis of administrator Roberto Ruiz, it was observed that “44% attended or delegated an extraordinary meeting, compared to 34% who attended or delegated an ordinary meeting.” This is because the rare deal deals with issues where money is involved.
Not attending meetings is comforting for many owners, but it’s not free. They must follow the decisions made. “There’s no point in complaining later on the stairs, at the bar, or in an email to the manager,” Ruiz said. It is enough for one person to attend the second call (half an hour after the first), as long as all the owners are called to the meeting by what is established in the Horizontal Property Law, so that the agreement becomes valid and binding. Of course, as long as these are things that require a simple majority, for example, the approval of accounts or budgets, work and continuity are necessary, explains Lavandeira.
When discussing more important issues, such as energy efficiency, limiting residential areas for tourist use, or renting community spaces, a qualified majority (which can be three-fifths or thirds, depending on the case) Neighbors have one month to vote for or against, even if they can’t attend the meeting. If they do not speak for 30 days, their vote will be added to the qualified majority. “The owners have a period of three months to challenge the agreement if it is against the law or the laws, seriously harms the interest of the community for the benefit of some, gives serious damage to an owner, or the agreement was adopted in an abusive manner,” the administrator indicated. The period of challenge can reach up to one year if the agreement is against the law, as they indicated to CGCAFE.
It doesn’t help that neighborhood ties are missing, something that is especially pronounced in buildings with tourist apartments and high tenant turnover. One in four Spaniards expresses frustration with their relationship with their neighbors: 23% admit that they rarely talk to them and 22% once a month, while only 48% know the name of one of their neighbors and 10% of the left, according to a report by Grupo Mutua Proprietary. In addition, 4 out of 10 have never cooperated with their neighbors, and 30% have never participated in meetings.