First steps toward living easily and comfortably in a new condominium

Every homeowner association should have a newsletter. Somehow, a newsletter seems to bring a sense of community to a condominium complex. It doesn't have to be very fancy, but it does need the following:

* An editor. Someone has to be responsible for writing and issuing a newsletter. Don't make the mistake of assigning a committee to this task; assign an editor.

* Some help. Don's make the editor slip each copy under the doors of your fellow owners; help him. Contribute gossip or news or announcements, but be sure that you contribute something. It should be everyone's newsletter, with broad appeal.

* Helpful information. Do groups hold a parade every Valentine's Day right in front of the complex, tying up traffic at night? Warn members about it. Is there a phone number to report leaky pipes or broken gates? Give the phone number in every issue. Does everyone pour bacon fat down the drains? Tell them not to.

* Names of important contacts. Does everyone come to board meetings? Hardly. Report the news. List the board members and their phone numbers. List the number of the office and the names of the managers.

* Brevity. Keep the newsletter short and people will reat it. If it's too long and filled with froth, they'll line bird cages with it.

* A schedule. Try to issue an edition regularly. Pick a schedule (monthly, every three weeks, after each board meeting, or whenever) and stick to it.

* A sense of humor. Keep the newsletter light whenever you can. People will look forward to reading it.

Some associations also allow classified ads in their newsletters; other do not.

Your board may have strong feelings one way or the other. If you allow ads, charge a smallm fee to help cover the expenses for supplies, printing, etc., with any profit (it should be minimal) going to the association.

I recommend against display ads or outside ads. It should be a homeowner newsletter and not a commercial venture. Some people specialize in writing such newsletters for others, but it's better if one of your own condo owners is the editor. It's cheaper, too. You get free labor.

Such a newsletter gives you advantages in other areas.

By publishing the names and infractions of recalcitrants that are fined for late payment fees, harboring barking dogs, or some other nuisance activity, a small measure of leverage is added to the board's powers.

In summary, the condo experience is fun.The outside maintenance is done for you, although the expense is still yours. A condo has all the financial advantages that a single-family house does. Unlike a house, however, you are dependent on the board of directors for major decisions. Many people consider this an additional advantage, but the handy do-it-yourselfer will not.

Like most other human endeavors, the condo experience can be enjoyable if you want it to be. A condo dweller has a number of important interests in common with his neighbors.

As long as humans remain a sociable species, people will continue to enjoy condos.

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