Anyone who has spent time serving on the board of his or her co-op or condo knows that it is a job that no one can do alone. Even if you have the most conscientious group of board members, the job is too time-consuming for a group of volunteers to do in their spare time. That's where your management team comes in; the professionals hired by the board to help in the day-to-day and long-term operations of the building. But even if your board has hired the best management firm, the best attorney, the best accountant and so on, the team is only as good as its coach. And in the case of a co-op or condo, the board has to act as the coach: organizing meetings, making sure the various team members are working together, facilitating communications and working out strategies.
The main three members of your professional team are the managing agent, the accountant and the attorney. In addition to these three, many buildings will retain an architect or engineer on an ongoing basis and a construction manager or designer for particular projects. Your insurance broker, mortgage broker and financial adviser will also play important roles, although their expertise will only be required on a periodic basis. This group of professionals is the team that the board will rely on for advice, expertise and hands-on contributions to the running of the building.
Of course, in some ways, referring to this group of professionals as a team is a misnomer. They are a team insofar as they must be able to work together in order to accomplish the common goals of the board, but they are not a team in that they must act independently of one another and each must serve as a check and balance against the others to ensure that they are providing proper service to the building. Thus, it is imperative that the board know exactly what to expect from each professional so that it can oversee building operations as effectively as possible.
The managing agent, together with the firm's back office staff, is responsible for collecting maintenance or common charges, keeping the physical plant operating, managing the building staff, enforcing policies, solving problems of residents and hiring contractors. He or she must also see to it that repairs are made, violations are cured, bills are paid, proposals are assembled and board meetings are organized.
The attorney's function is to offer legal advice, as well as spot any problems in building policy that could result in litigation down the road. The accountant is needed to see to it that all financial transactions conducted by the building have been handled properly. Your insurance broker should be called on at least once a year to analyze the building's coverage and check around for lower premium opportunities. Your mortgage broker will be called on when the underlying mortgage comes due or if the co-op needs to refinance to pay for some major capital improvements. The board should have a financial adviser or broker who will offer advice on where to invest the reserve fund for maximum return and safety. And whenever a major contracting job is being considered, the board should consult a licensed architect or engineer to analyze the scope of the job, write the specs, review the bids and oversee the job. The services of a construction manager and/or interior designer may also be requi ffb red in these situations.