Is your TV more important than your home?
A few days ago I went to a condo owners meeting in
Phuket. 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 a.m. 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
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
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!
(by Rebecca Smith - real estate journalist and sales director for Phuket
Ocean Villas and Ocean Villas Group).
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