A Proposal To Overhaul Condominium Management - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Marcia Kimura

Marcia Kimura is a 33-year condominium owner and lifetime Hawaii resident who became active since 2014 in condo owner rights efforts, including advocacy involving legislation.

Because the self-governance concept is fundamentally flawed.

A mid-20th century vignette: A young man stands in tall grass, hands in his pockets, gazing wistfully at an empty diner.

Though condominium living, emerging at around that period, is not exactly the cherished tradition that restaurant diner culture was back then, it will go the way of the abandoned diner cars, if the current troubled state of management isn’t replaced.

At its inception, condominiums were nurtured by umbrella organizations whose purpose was to establish a stable housing model. But with time, wayward motives and schemes gave way to a culture of treachery and abuse against the backbone of this housing mode — the owners.

The heart of the matter: If associations need to be rid of anything, it’s the power of condo attorneys and self-seeking board members to profit from, or create injustices inflicted on, owners.

The current condo self-governance concept is flawed chiefly because of its dependence on attorneys, so many of whom, discontented with providing condo boards mere essential consultation, have in effect taken over the reins of management with their profit-driven motives.

As regards boards, there can be no pretext for self-serving motives and actions — that volunteer service is above scrutiny.

A Plausible Alternative

Submitted here for your consideration is a broad six-point condo management overhaul, perhaps sketchy at this outset, but crucial, from this writer’s viewpoint.

  1. Change the volunteer status of boards to compensation on a part-time, 15 hours per week maximum basis. Like commercial business recruitment, a group of appointed owners in each association would assemble a group of candidates who submit applications. They’ll be vetted and evaluated on the basis of their backgrounds and missions for the associations, and salaried commensurately.
  2. The hired individuals would make up a management team minimum of a controller/treasurer; a general manager who, along with the assistant manager, assumes some duties of the in-house association manager; an assistant manager; a secretary; and an in-house association manager who would collect dues and assessments from owners, order services, and manage maintenance staff.
  3. Funding for the part time salaries would be based on previous association outlays for property management, formerly a full time contracted position. If necessary, additional funding would be provided by aggressive fund investments or minimal annual maintenance fee increases of ideally less than $10 per month per owner.
  4. Management personnel would be required to complete education on current condo laws, their own governing documents, collection practices mandated by the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, prevailing foreclosure laws and other basic legal procedures.
  5. Staff acting on behalf of their associations would be prohibited from charging legal fees directly to individual owners for cases other than collecting delinquent maintenance payments. Staff would be required to initiate standard collection procedures — first and follow up demand letters, before necessarily hiring collection attorneys. Association-hired attorneys would not be allowed direct contact with owners, except to request and receive pertinent document submission by owners.
  6. Staff would submit monthly reports to owners and undergo monthly performance evaluations.


In one sense, the current powers that be in condo administration are right: Self-governance, at least in the cherished American tradition, cannot be imposed by government intervention.

Its structural reform must emanate from the inside out, and be secured by those most crucial to its rebirth — the rank and file owners.

Only the courageous among these can make of a decaying institution what there is no other choice to make — one that endures, based on common justice and equity.

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About the Author

Marcia Kimura

Marcia Kimura is a 33-year condominium owner and lifetime Hawaii resident who became active since 2014 in condo owner rights efforts, including advocacy involving legislation.

Latest Comments (0)

While there are abuses by condo associations, run by the developers/majority owners, etc., there are also rogue condo owners that have nothing better to do, but to try and impose their crazed views upon the rest. That being said, there may be few owners with an extra 15 hours per week to give, while working, raising a family and so on, so I'm not sure mandating minimum BOD hours and a small salary is the answer. Maybe better communication is? Not everyone has the time to attend board meetings, so distribute the actual minutes for everyone to read and get up to speed on important issues. I do agree that there needs to be outside financial expertise supervising maintenance and replacement schedules so that surprise assessments are minimized, or eliminated. Keeping fees low is worthless if you get slammed down the road for projects, unless of course you are a short term owner. Finally, management companies have one purpose, to collect fees, distribute annual materials and cover their butts for liability. Do not rely or expect anything else from them, including fiscal responsibility. Otherwise most of proposed changes attempt to address the complex issues facing owners.

wailani1961 · 6 days ago

I strongly disagree. Most of these issues arise from money paid for "surprise" costs. Not to say there are no other issues in governance. But well meaning boards are often proud that their rates are so low - which has negative implications in high cost life cycle maintenance. As condominiums are the backbone of affordable housing I think code changes to their construction during development will help long term rates remain more affordable. Second I recommend the state/city require certain high cost reserve items in the budget at specific lives with benchmark costs. That should address a lot of the issues arising from money paid in. More problematic are the human factors which we can never fully address.

CKMsurf · 1 week ago

Adding money into the mix for association board members will only attracts greed, not necessarily better board members. That money would be better spent on third party expertise who actually has the condo association's best interest.One of the problem with board members is that the demographics differ vastly between large condos vs. small ones as well as high end condos vs. affordable one.To level the field, association boards need the help of honest third party experts who are held accountable. Currently all condo associations are required to have a management company. However too often these management representatives, instead of offering sound advise, are more concerned with their liabilities as well as company profits. If Hawaii is to address the condo association problem, start by holding 3rd party management companies accountable for providing sound advises. For example, management companies should know what maintenances have to be included in condo reserves. Why are so many condos hit with expensive special assessments such as pipe replacements which are often excluded from reserve studies in order to keep maintenance fees artificially low?

Mnemosyne · 1 week ago

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