Can Apartment Owners’ Associations be run professionally? ?>

Can Apartment Owners’ Associations be run professionally?

“In Mexico an air conditioner is called a politician because it makes a lot of noise but doesn’t work very well.” – Len Deighton (English writer, b. 1929)

Lack of participation and involvement, personality clashes, petty politics taking precedence over real issues and an inability to come together to address pressing problems effectively. Sounds like the Indian Parliament or State Legislative Assembly? Guess again. This could be a lot closer to you than you think. Apartment Owners Associations are statutory bodies comprising all the owners of apartments in a particular building / complex, and tasked with running the day to day operations of the building, as well as implementing long-term strategies for the residents benefit. However, in many cases, inter-personal and other issues come in the way of an effective managing committee, unfortunately at the cost of Residents.

With apartment buildings, and that too, high-rise buildings, part of multi-building complexes, mushrooming all over India, living in apartments is now the norm, rather than the exception that it used to be. And consequently, Indians are getting an experience in living together in a close community that shares resources significantly and requires a formal body to manage these shared resources. All apartment buildings / complexes are run by the Apartment Owners Associations – formal bodies, registered with the various State Registrar of Societies and comprising as members, the individual apartment owners. The Association is a full-fledged organisation that manages and operates all common resources and facilities including electricity, water, general maintenance, garden, etc. It usually employs a few people as staff and has a full-time manager. The Association is run by the ‘Managing Committee’ (MC), made up of members elected to this role on (usually) an annual basis. An Association has significant funds at its command, made up of the contribution of maintenance charges from all members. It is the MC that decides how to use these funds, both for operational expenses as well as long-term capital expenses. It is imperative, therefore, that the Association have a smoothly functioning, effective MC that makes optimal use of the funds for the residents’ benefit. Unfortunately, people will be people, and in a real world, many irrelevant and petty issues come in the way of an effectively functioning MC. The causes for this are many, including some listed below. ‘Volunteers cannot be professional’: In my opinion, the one biggest cause of such issues is the mindset that running an association is ‘volunteer work’ and therefore, cannot be done professionally. This is nothing but an excuse, and that too, a pretty bad one. Extending this argument would mean that the multitude of charities and other volunteer-based organisations we have today cannot be run professionally and therefore go against the reality that a lot of these organisations are actually run more efficiently than corporates.

The point is that we have to clearly demarcate between the responsibilities attached to a role and the manner in which a person comes to take up the role – as long as the person taking up the role on her own, knows all the associated responsibilities fully well. Once a person takes up a role, the manner in which she took it up is irrelevant, be it by volunteering or by being appointed on a paid salary. She should discharge all the responsibilities associated with the role to her fullest ability, and if for whatever reason, she finds herself unable to do so, she should highlight the same to all stakeholders and seek the best way forward.

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