Thursday, March 10, 2005

Help me, please!

Warning: this entry has nothing to do with dating and everything do to with my horrible upstairs neighbor (aka, hun). My question: Am I really such a horrible person? The set-up: I own a condominium in a four-unit building. Since there are only four units, we self-manage. I am the treasurer. We have a small front lawn that needs mowing with a tiny area (maybe 5x10) under our shrubs that needs weeding. In the back, we have a landscaped patio enclosed in a privacy fence and a big parking lot outside the fence. The problem: We have never come to any satisfactory arrangement as to how to take care of the outdoor common areas. I have tried to organize our group and assign tasks. This lead to anger on hun’s part and confusion on the other two owners’ part. I backed off and then nothing happened. Over the last five months I’ve done two major clean-ups in the back. I raked leaves, debris and trash in December. I filled three extra large black lawn bags. I emailed the other owners that I’d done this and left the bags inside our fence. All thanked me. One of them disposed of the bags and said to let her know if I needed help next time. Last month, I weeded and cut back the plants in our patio and picked up trash and debris in the parking lot. This time I filled the equivalent of two large bags. I emailed everyone to let them know there were bags in the back. This time I also sent a request for suggestions on how we could work together. I pointed out that doing these clean-up jobs to together would save time and be much easier. I got no responses but someone threw the trash away eventually. Today, in response to a brief message from my clueless upstairs neighbor, I wrote this:
[snip—about demise of drug dealer next door] I still see trash accumulating in the back parking lot. Anyone have time to keep it clean back there? I feel like I'm doing it all on my own. You all don't respond to my messages. Please, does someone have a suggestion about how to take care of our property??? It's also been almost two years that I have been treasurer. I'm ready for someone else to take this job on. Volunteers? I've automated all of the regular bills, so the main task is to get the checks deposited every month. It would also help a great deal if you have a home computer.
Now, I’m not stupid. I expected that I would get an angry response from hun. But I wanted some kind of interaction with them. It will be summer soon and that’s when most of the work needs to be done. I want to settle this issue now. Hun responds:
completely offensive! thanks for the laugh.
I respond:
Why [hun], you are more than welcome. I have asked politely for help cleaning and taking care of the yard. I have asked politely for suggestions as to how we four can take care of the property. I am frustrated. Perhaps you all haven't noticed the trash accumulating in the back? Is it offensive that I want help? Is it offensive that I want to resign as treasurer? Can we come to some kind of understanding? Some way to work together? That is all I want.
It is offensive that you announce everything you do - as seldom as you do it, yeah it's offensive. Have I noticed the garbage - hell yeah I have. I have spent 2 years picking it up. NOTE: You have picked it up once? maybe twice? Do I send emails announcing my "efforts" to the world - no. It's a part of condo life. Resign. Sweep the freaking Streets for all I care, but leave me off these emails where you pat yourself on the back in an effort to make everyone else feel bad. Doesn't work and it is a waste of cyberspace.
Wow, you are pretty angry [hun]. Do you have suggestions about how to run things? I just see you "yelling" at me, yet again. I never said that I was the only one cleaning up, just that I felt like I was the only one. I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. All I want is for us to work together. [hun], if you sent emails telling us about your work around the building, I would thank you. I would not swear at you. I have asked, many times, for suggestions as to how we can work together. Of course, it's true that I have only done two major clean-up chores over the last few months and I did write to you about them. In all this time, it took about 3-4 hours of my time to keep things (relatively) in order. No, it was not a ton of work. Would it have been easier if we could have shared the load? YES. That is my point. We do not have to be completely independent operators in this condo. We should be able to work together. I still hope we can.
Then I wrote a separate note to the two other condo owners:
I want to apologize for subjecting you the current unpleasant email exchange between hun and me. I have to admit that when I sent my first response to [clueless upstairs neighbor]'s message I was pretty sure I would get an angry reply from hun. Unfortunately, that is what happened. I would like to ask the two of you to think about how we can work together to maintain our building. If you are angry at me as well, I can accept that. However, please understand that all I have ever wanted to do is to figure out some way that we can share the responsibilities and work together.
I’m afraid I've mishandled the whole thing. Have I been smug? Self-righteous? I wouldn’t mind being put in my place, a little. Why doesn't hun say, "I usually pick up the back, but I got frustrated too. Please don't take all the credit for taking care of the place." That would be better. And, then, in my fantasy she add, "Let's figure out a way to work together and stop this sniping." But instead of anything like a suggestion I get back complete silence from two neighbors and complete anger from the other. Help me, please! I have considered moving to resolve this. I may still move. But, in the meantime, what should I do? Ignore it all and let the place go? Keep doing my share (whatever that is) and never, ever talk to the other neighbors again? (This last would be very hard because it would make me feel very angry.) I just find it so unbelievable that with such a tiny amount of work to do we can’t find some way to work together. I’ve probably screwed everything up by how I’ve handled it. But I just don’t know what else to do. It’s a day like today that it would really help to find something to be grateful for. Of course, that means it’s particularly hard. Sigh. I'm definitely going to yoga.


  1. Yikes sounds uncomfortable to say the least. Is it possible that you could resolve it by budgeting in a service to handle it?

  2. The only specific thing I can say is that notes never work between housemates, neighbours, etc. because they can always be misinterpreted.

    As sucky as it is to talk face to face with horrible people (and this person just sounds like they have kitty litter up their ass), that's really the only way to solve it. Go around the corner to a restaurant or something, get a quick drink and point out specific agenda items you need to discuss. Are there other officers of the association? Maybe you should have term limites to prevent something like this in future.

    Budgeting a service is definitely the way to go - that way, nobody is doing more than their share at any given time, and someone *else* who is external to the group gets the blame for doing/not doing things. Are there any neighbourhood churches/schools/community centers/etc who would have a group that provides services like these in exchange for donations to the group? (I know, it's working for money - but maybe more honestly than just an individual or a business who might not think it's such a big job to take on).


  3. Hiring someone is a good idea. My only objection is that it would end up being something I had sole responsibility for--but it is probably the way. Maybe I can delegate it to clueless upstairs neighbor. There is some hope for her.

    The last condo meeting we had ended up with hun storming out in anger--over just the same issues you see in the emails.

    Oh, and hun is the PRESIDENT of our association. That is a joke.


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