A few days ago I went to a condo owners meeting in Phuket, Thailand.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a lover of meetings.
Often people use them as an excuse to avoid making decisions - except deciding to have another meeting, of course.
But I promised a client I would go on his behalf. So off I went.
The meeting had been called to discuss much needed improvements to the common areas.
And there was going to be a vote on increasing common area maintenance fees (CAM) from 45 Baht to 65 Baht per m2 - a 45 per cent increase.
I thought this would be fiercely debated. But I couldn’t have been more wrong...
The meeting was scheduled for 10 am.
By that time only one other person had showed up.
I asked the person in charge who else was coming. She said the developers were representing several owners and they’d be there soon.
Another person turned up at 10.30 and helped himself to coffee and biscuits.
By now, I was starting to get fed up.
There were big financial decisions to make which would directly affect the investments of 52 condominium owners. Were they really not bothered?
Finally, at 10.45, another 6 people sauntered in and the meeting began.
As usual, the first thing on the agenda was to appoint a chairperson.
You won't be surprised to hear that nobody wanted to do it.
So I volunteered just to get things moving. I was so sick of waiting.
The first topic was the increase in CAM fees: The condo was almost out of money. And if the owners didn't agree to pay more there would be no money for anything.
I expected uproar.
But there was silence.
Not one person asked; why is the condo nearly bust? What happened to the money? Or, who is responsible for this?
To be honest, I was shocked.
I asked if people understood what was being discussed. There was some muttering.
“It is your money not the developer’s” I said, with little response.
So I cast my vote.
And things moved swiftly on - without a single question from anyone.
In fact, they didn't seem interested at all. Some were sending text messages or maybe playing games on their phones. Others got up to help themselves to more biscuits.
But when we got onto the subject of satellite TV people became animated...
Their current provider charges 2,500 Baht a month. The condo manager wanted to change to a new supplier charging 7,000 Baht a month.
What channels would be included? Would the signal strength be better? Can we get Premier League Football? Does everyone have to get the same package?
This was serious stuff.
The subject was hotly debated for over 10 minutes.
Eventually the juristic person was told to find out more information.
As the meeting continued it became clear there were real problems with the way the condominium was being managed.
900,000 Baht (US$30,000) was missing from the sinking fund. It had mysteriously vanished and was unaccounted for.
The juristic person said they would have to use what was left to pay for essential things like cleaning equipment, a repair to the water tank and some additional lighting.
I pointed out that there wasn’t actually any money left to pay for anything.
The sinking fund had been pretty much wiped out.
So, if the CAM fees were not increased there would be no money to run the condo.
One guy, who I think had been asleep, finally woke up and said:
"I think we better find out how much all these things are going to cost before we agree to spend any money on anything."
"We should find out exactly what's left and have another meeting!" he declared.
And that was it. The meeting was over.
What had we achieved?
We had decided to have another meeting.
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Rebecca Smith is a real estate journalist and author with over 15 years experience. She has published several books to date:
'The Definitive Guide to buying property in Phuket'
'The Definitive Guide to buying property in Thailand'
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