Some years ago, I attended a meeting of the owners of an apartment block that I lived in. The services in the block were funded by a charge raised by a property management company, and included refuse charges, insurance, landscaping, electric gate maintenance and a sinking fund to fund ongoing painting and repairs. The meeting was a fascinatingly raw insight into how the Irish see their society.
First up was a complaint by one owner about how the management charge was too high, and he demanded that it be reduced. The representative of the management company proceeded to go through the charge, explaining what was provided, until the sinking fund was reached, and a row broke out as to why we should be funding it, with nearly half the attendees wanting to abolish it to cut management fees. The Rep advised very strongly that to do so would damage the resale value of all the apartments, as it meant that ongoing maintenance would stop. The proposal was narrowly defeated, to cries of “ridiculous” and murmurings that the meeting was somehow “fixed”, even though this was the first ever meeting.
Next up was a suggestion by an engineer who lived in the block that a satellite dish could be erected on the roof of one of the blocks. He suggested that it could be hidden from view, and that residents who wished to benefit from it could pay for their own cabling. He recognised that the cabling would have to be done professionally, to ensure safety and the appearence of the building. Uproar. One owner, who pointed out that he “was a solicitor” pointed out that this was in contravention of the lease, and that “nobody wants the development to look like Ballymun”. The proposal was voted down.
Then one woman got up and told how her apartment had been broken into. Much sympathy, until she suggested that it was as a result of a “design flaw” in her apartment (apparently, her apartment had windows) and she should be “compensated”. A few heads nodded. The Rep then pointed out that her own insurance (which she refused to claim on) should deal with the matter, as it wasn’t covered by block insurance, and that any compensation would have to be funded by the other owners. Silence. A few owners agreed with her being compensated but were against them actually paying for it. Someone then asked the solicitor for a legal opinion. He said that he couldn’t possibly give a “professional opinion” without studying the matter. “Didn’t stop you five minutes ago.” The embittered engineer quipped. The issue petered out, with the woman mumbling about it “not being fair” that she was out of pocket.
The meeting ended, with one group feeling bitter that an imaginary “click” was running everything, a man with a reasonable idea feeling dejected, a woman feeling hard done by because other people wouldn’t give her their money, and a general sense of dissatisfaction despite the fact that all the people in the room had 100% control over the property company. There was almost a sense of satisfaction at being dissatisfied.