In a New York TImes “Ask Real Estate” letter from last December, a co-op shareholder lamented the sorry state of her 10-unit building: the board president was abdicating his position with no willing successor, and the managing agent was opting not to renew their contract, leaving the co-op adrift as far as leadership was concerned. The latter development is particularly striking, since unlike the board president - who was most likely volunteering a generous amount of time to tend to co-op business - the managing agent was being paid to keep a firm hand on the tiller.
All of this raises some questions. How bad can a relationship between a co-op or condo community and its management get before the manager decides to cut their losses and bail? What can a manager do to right the ship when things are particularly turbulent?
More often than not, a manager will fight tooth and nail to rebuild a wobbly working dynamic with a client community.
“We have never given a building back due to board members’ failing to work together,” says Joe Kanner, owner of Quantum Property Management in Elmsford, New York. “When an issue does arise, we would sit down with the board and try to work out any differences, whether between members, or with us. We would make this an agenda item for a board meeting such that it could be discussed openly and action taken. I honestly see no reason why we would ever terminate a relationship with a client.”
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have a perfect track record. “You have to assess whether working for an association is profitable enough to warrant any elevated stress,” says Ellen Kornfeld, VP of the Lovett Group of Companies in New York City. “You’re dealing with individuals with their own issues and their own egos; some admittedly are not playing with a full deck. I had one association with which I’d been working 10 or 15 years, in all that time having never raised the fee. Eventually, I did so by $1,500 and they scoffed. The reality was I’d been doing them a service all along, but they didn’t appreciate the time I’d put in or the quality of the work, so I stopped. You have to determine whether it would be more beneficial to take on a different client. And if you do that, you’ll probably make the amount of money you’d have made had the former association just accepted the raise in fees, if not even more.”