Keeping it Copacetic Tips for healthy agent-board relationships

All relationships–even the healthiest ones–need constant care and maintenance. Whether it’s person-to-person or business-to-client, relationships must be cultivated in order to thrive–a fact that holds doubly true for the crucial connection between co-op and condo boards and their managing agents.

At times, maintaining the connection can be a challenge. There are several keys, however, to maintaining an efficient and effective relationship between board and agent. Underpinning everything is a mutual acknowledgement of the enormous responsibilities undertaken by both board members and agents. Managing agents must recognize that the average board member is an unpaid volunteer concerned enough about his or her home to devote time and energy to its day-to-day operation. By the same token, board members must also recognize the efforts of their agent. According to Sherry Frankel, president of property management firm Caran Properties, Inc. in Manhattan, "The board needs to recognize that the managing agent has a very large responsibility and needs [the board’s] support and assistance."

Getting the Job Done

Management responsibilities are broad in scope. A managing agent’s ever-changing roles often include that of accountant, negotiator, diplomat, engineer, therapist, interior designer, lawyer and best friend. An agent will be part of nearly every decision–big or small–affecting a building and its inhabitants. Agents attend to day-to-day financial transactions, manage and hire staff, and work hand-in-hand with the board on matters of policy and implementation, advising and providing the information necessary to make everything work smoothly, practically, and legally.

And that’s just the everyday duties. Agents step in whenever duty calls. If a legal matter arises, the agent is on hand, recommending or bringing along experts to advise and protect their client. If garbage is piling up along the basement stairs and causing a problem, the agent works with the superintendent to get the problem solved. If a board is considering revamping a building’s common area, it’s often the agent who will secure bids, interview designers and contractors, and help the board determine the best, most efficient way to undertake the project. "We want to help save money and use people who we know are good," says John Lipuma, president of Brooklyn-based JAL Diversified Management. "Boards come to us for just about everything," says Frankel. "They seek our advice and opinion on just about everything, unless it’s an issue specifically for an attorney or CPA."

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