We always talk about apathy in community associations. Nobody wants to run for the Board. Nobody wants to serve on a committee. Nobody wants to even vote in the annual election. Usually, apathy is more prevalent in communities where the populace believes all is OK. If the place generally looks good, the assessments are stable and the cable never goes out, owners believe there is simply no need to get involved with the headache of running the community by serving on the board. In fact, they are happy that there are others who are willing to step up and take the responsibility.
Here’s the problem with that way of thinking. Most community associations who have been stolen from were thought by their owners to be operating smoothly and efficiently for years on end. Then, all of a sudden, massive theft is uncovered by someone, and it happened because of apathy. It happened because nobody was watching. Nobody cared to actually take a look at a bank statement. Nobody bothered to ask to see a copy of the audit. Nobody bothered to ask how the assessments are being spent.
I recently became involved in a high profile case here in South Florida. The bottom line is that decisions of a prior board put the community in harm’s way. As a result, the entire community was slapped with a massive special assessment to pay a legal settlement. The new Board allowed every attendee to speak at the special assessment meeting. Many owners were rightfully upset that they had to now pay for the wrongful actions of a few prior Board members. More than one swore never to pay the assessment. The interesting part of the meeting came when one of the owners stood up and said that it was too easy to blame the prior Board for the financial mess everyone is now in. Instead, she thought the blame lied elsewhere. She thought the blame lied with all of the people in the room who were now at a board meeting for the first time in years. She looked everyone in the face and said that if everyone routinely showed up to meetings like they did that night, the prior Board would never have been able to take the actions they did. A part of me believes she is right.
Apathy can be very costly, even when it appears all is well. Has apathy harmed your community?