Sunday, November 24, 2013

Condominium Responsibility - Loreto Style

This is a busy time of year here in Loreto Bay, not only is it the beginning of another Season and the repopulation of the community with the return of the Homeowners who spend the summer months in more temperate climates, but this is the time of year that the AGMs are held for the sub-regimes of our Condominium Association.

As I write this, we are still in the midst of these meetings that will extend over two weeks and probably involve a record number of residents attending in person, as well as those who could not be here represented by proxy.  The condominium structure here is governed by Mexican law and, while similar to Condominiums or Homeowner's Associations in Canada and the US, there are some peculiarities and differences as well.

The community of over 600 homes is managed by a master regime board that is made up of representatives from 12 sub-regimes, 8 in the Founder's Neighborhood and 4 in Agua Viva.  The master regime board is responsible for the management decisions affecting the whole development and their decisions are carried out by Associa, the administrator company that we pay to conduct the day to day business operations and manage the various contractors that provide us with services like security, trash collection and landscape maintenance.

On the sub-regime level there are committees of Homeowners that focus on their own part of the community and deal with issues affecting the smaller neighborhoods where their homes are located.  The HOA fees (that typically range between $200 and $300 US per month for an average home) are divided, with part of the money going to the master regime budget to cover community wide operating expenses, and the balance making up each of the sub-regime's budgets that pay for the expenses associated with their neighborhood.

The original condominium structure was put in place by the Developer, following guidelines prescribed by Mexican law, and in the beginning the Developer handled most of the condominium operations.  As the number of completed homes increased, along with the numbers of Owners and the amount of time they spent here, responsibility for the management of Loreto Bay shifted from the Developer, with the Homeowners taking over more control of their Condominium Regime.

In 2009 following the collapse of the original Developer, there was an almost immediate shift to a wholly autonomous Home Owners Association, which required a much higher level of involvement from the Owners to guide and administer a rapidly growing community.  In those early days of self-management a core group of Homeowners stepped up and took over the responsibility for how the rules and regulations we inherited from the Developer would be applied (and in some cases changed) in the "real world", and shape the community that was still evolving.

We are particularly fortunate to have had a strong pool of volunteers with significant qualifications and expertise, willing to step up and commit to serving this community on a volunteer basis and help to get our Homeowners Association up and running, during those formative early years.  Although there has been some turnover of volunteers at the master and sub-regime levels over the years, there appears to be an greater than normal number of new people getting involved for the first time this year, as more of  the original core group "retire" from these condominium responsibilities.

This too is another aspect of the maturing of our community as people bring new ideas and a fresh enthusiasm to the tasks, which complements the knowledge and experience gained by those HOA volunteers who have preceded them. Through this blending of experience and enthusiasm, Loreto Bay will continue to be a vital and healthy community that should be well prepared for the challenges that will face us in the future.

But it is also a time to appreciate the tremendous progress we have made as a community over the past ten years since the first sales event here - and more particularly over the past five years that we have been self-administered.  And it has been during that time, since most of the home construction was finished, that the greatest progress has been made towards infrastructure completion and the beautification of Loreto Bay.  Along with that progress, comes the community pride that we all share for this place we live, and I believe that this sense of pride is immediately apparent to the guests and visitors who come here for the first time.     

Although it is true in condominium organizations everywhere that a majority of owners benefit from the time and efforts of the few who take on the duties of the board and run things.  That contribution becomes even more critical when the properties concerned are vacation and retirement homes located thousands of kilometers away.  But as more and more Owners visit more frequently and/or spend longer times here, and a new cadre of those Owners step up to the responsibilities that come with condominium ownership, we see the example of a young community like this getting stronger as it grows.   

So although condominium governance is normally perceived to be a fairly dry topic, in our case I believe that it serves as another example of how the community is growing and maturing, largely due to the efforts of the Homeowners ourselves.  While there are some aspects of the vision that many of us bought into (as portrayed by the marketing of the Developer) that will never be part of this community, it is becoming increasingly apparent that what we do have here now, is much more than an artist's rendering or some hypothetical amenities in a sales presentation.  What we have built is more than the bricks and mortar we originally purchased, it has become a community with a heart and soul, populated by friends and neighbors, and creating a synergy that in many ways has already become much more than we were originally promised.      

When a small group of original Homeowners gives guidance in the early days to the management of the community and help us to take control of the sometimes challenging situations we found ourselves in.  And then, when the time comes for a "change of the guards", more Owners step up to replace those who have already contributed their time and efforts - then we have yet another important example of "Living Loreto".