Saturday, July 28, 2007

The First Step is to Recognize that You Have a Problem

In ten short days, I appear to have lost my ability to cope with the aforementioned stress.

Most of this has to do with recent developments in my lack-of-living-room.

We had an HOA meeting on Wednesday.  Here is the sum total of progress made on my living room in the month since the last meeting:

Drywall was put over both holes in my ceiling. 

Here's what's so remarkable about this particular piece of progress: 

The drywall has to be removed.  See, one of the holes actually failed the water test, so they should have left it open for further testing after further remediation was done.  And the leak that had been causing the problem in the other hole?  They didn't water test it after the last series of repairs.  So they need to rip out the drywall and water test -- THEN (hopefully) put the drywall back.

Yes, we've actually moved backwards in the efforts to put my living room back together.

I went to the HOA meeting to find this out -- as the management company representative had not answered either of my two emails on the subject.  The first email had been asking her, when she said she was going to have the contractor "partially" reinstall my drywall, exactly which "part" he was supposed to reinstall.  The second email had followed the reinstallation of my drywall, saying, "Dude, he totally drywalled up both holes.  Was he supposed to do that?"  You can see, now, where answering those emails might have been a good thing.  So, when I went to the meeting and asked, "what is going on with my unit?" she first answered, "I don't know."

Yeah, that's gonna put me in a happy frame of mind.

And it was only when I pressed her on it that she finally remembered they'd never water-tested over the second hole, so realized they needed to take that drywall out.

The meeting went downhill from there.  Our monthly dues are going to go up (to about $500 a month!) -- which will make it harder to sell my unit.  There's going to be a special assessment, in the general neighborhood of $5000 per unit -- which will also negatively impact marketability (not to mention that, of course, any buyer will make me pay the entire assessment as part of the deal).  Oh, and they might paint the building -- which would postpone marketing my condo a couple more months, while they get their act together, since I can't very well have people come to look at the unit while it's mid-repaint.

When our HOA president said that he figured the homeowners would easily agree to a $5000 assessment because the units are worth $500,000 (so that's only 1 percent of value), I nearly had kittens.

(Yes, condos out here are in that outrageously high price vicinity.  This is because I live in Southern California.  Depending on where you live, equivalent prices could be as low as, like, 1/3 of that.  Or lower.)

But, anyway, my kitten-having was caused by the fact that, the last time I'd tried to sell the unit, I was hoping for a price in the $500,000 neighborhood, but offers were coming in at more like $460,000 because our dues were so high -- so kicking up the dues and adding a special assessment could only serve to lower the selling price of these units in the foreseeable future.  So what it was looking like on Wednesday is that they're keeping me here and there's no way I can sell the place and I don't even have my living room back to live in it myself

I am not coping well with this.

I am a rational person.  I really am.  Very grounded.  The one time in my life that I experienced real, irrational panic, there was this oddly detached sane voice in my head thinking, "Wow.  That's what irrational panic look like."  Ever since the meeting Wednesday night, the voice in my head has been saying, "Wow.  This is what Stress Management Issues looks like."  I mean, I've actually been walking around with tears at the verge of escaping my eyes for two entire days

My rational self is addressing the problem with a two-pronged attack. The first is that I need a plan to try to change the issues causing me stress.  So far, I'm thinking I'll vote against the special assessment.  This might actually work -- our HOA president believes that they won't get enough people coming to the meeting to ratify the assessment, so he knows that every vote will count.  He assumes (he said as much) that he can count on my vote because I know we need the money.  I do.  But he knows I need my living room back.  No living room; no vote.  Perhaps a month-long delay in imposing the assessment (when they have to send out letters to get enough people to approve it by mail) might prompt the board to, y'know, take my concerns about the delay in my living room a little more seriously.  I may even get the owners of the other affected units to join me on this.  So far, there has been nothing we could do to get the HOA Board and the management company to light a fire under the contractor -- we can't withhold our monthly dues or anything -- but now, they want something from us, and we can hold our "yes" votes hostage until we get what we want.  Petty, but the idea makes me feel like I'm doing something to address the problem, which helps the stress a bit.

The second Stress Management Tool I'm planning to use is the well-loved American technique of spending myself into a happier frame of mind.  (Let's really test this money-can't-buy-happiness thing.)  I'm going about it somewhat rationally.  I've put aside a pile of money, which I intend to waste completely frivolously on Stuff That Makes Me Happy.  Not sure how yet.  Might buy every item on my amazon wish list.  Might go to a spa for a whole day.  Might overnight at Disneyland.  Might go for a tandem skydive.  Dunno.  Even just thinking about how to go about spending myself happy is helping a little bit.  But I know I need to do something rather sizeable to create the necessary attitude change.


grodygeek said...

You didn't have to tell us you are rational. We knew that. Really. And we were gullible enough to believe you too.:-D

I know all about HOA and assessments and dues. I live in a manor. Which means I have a joint entrance and a condo like layout with a pair of private garage stalls. For the sake of discussion lets say my unit is worth $150K. Its close enough, or about a third of what yours is worth. My dues are $230. They've gone up a lot since I moved in 4 years ago.

I don't have any answers to your problem with no living area. I sympathize. Or is that empathize? If you have a pile of money saved, what would happen if you paid to accelerate the work instead of waiting for the HOA to get it done? Think you'd get paid most if not all of it back? What happened if you ran for the board and pushed harder or actually made the calls to get the work done? Send them a card with the nice lawyerly look on the card? Might it not motivate them? I'm thinking through my fingers here, so treat it with a grain of salt and if you completely ignore me I'll just never read you ever again.

Ha! Like I could. D'Oh! Did I type that out loud?

I think you should go somewhere good for your body, namely the spa. Maybe an overnight spa? What do I know? I admit I don't, but I have a friend that is taking her daughter to an overnight spa, right now and she was very excited about it.

I do wish you sincere good luck.

hewasolddog299 said...

One, ask your PCP for an Rx for Xanax to help cope with the immediate, overwhelming effects of the stress. No, not because stress is bad for you. It isn't. Losing your job because your employer thinks you've lost it, is.

Two, careful on the overspending. The penny saved may be the one you need for a retainer for an attorney to represent you in court. Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know all about your legal skills. But they weren't blowing smoke up your hoohah when they said the doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient. Same applies to lawyers and stressed out judges who have a pants fixation.

Third, get aggressive. This circus has overstayed its welcome -- they've had a "reasonable time" to effect repairs. Time to play hardball. They CAN be sued, despite the HOA's by-laws. Time to invoke completion and penalty clauses. "Do the work in 14 days or else." There's more than one way to skin a kitten - where does the President and the board members work? What dirt can a PI dig up on them? Who's screwing whom? Anyone involved in an interlocking directorate which can't stand up to legal scrutiny? Getting even is far more satisfying than getting upset, no?

Finally, know you have folks who feel your frustration -- so keep blowing off steam here. If nothing else, it's blog fodder.