Published in the ECHO Journal, January 2011
When I volunteered to become a board member many years ago, no one could have prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead. One area that presents the greatest challenges is people, parking and pets. Each of the three has its own degree of headaches. However, in this article, I would like to discuss children in condos.
Every board of directors, at one time or another, has had to deal with either teenagers or younger children who break the rules. The board must find ways to reduce the liability from injury or loss of property due to children’s violations. Many corporations I am sure have their own unique story to share. Included below are only a few of the incidents that other condominium directors have chosen to share with me during our conversations.
They complained of children who painted graffiti on walls and doors, pulling the fire alarm to see how many people would panic, throwing a lit cigarette into a garbage dumpster and scratching residents cars while riding a skate board or bike in an area restricted to them for play. The question is “Does the board or manager have an obligation to discipline? Of course not! However, if a child does something that could result in personal injury or damage to the common areas, some form of action must be in place.
Parents must be informed of their children’s actions. Children must be taught by their parents to respect the safety of other people as well as the property. They must be informed of the condominium rules within the common areas where they continue to live and play. The rules and regulations along with the condominium bylaws and declarations do give the board authority to require that the parents control their children. These documents should also assign some obligations to the parents for acts of their children when violations occur within the condominium property. All board members should review their condominium policies to determine that the parents’ responsibilities and obligations are clearly laid out. If your policies are not clear in this matter, you may want to consider amending or modifying your documents.
Obviously, not all children or teenagers choose to break the rules. Children, after all, are a very important part of our communities. They have rights too and they will in some cases demand their rights be considered. Unfortunately, some children will act out in a very negative manner if they are constantly ignored and their views or opinions are never allowed to be heard. We as adults need to listen to the children and try not to close them out.
There is a method by which the directors may achieve one-on-one positive communication with children. The board organizes director meetings, owner meetings, special meetings, so why not a children or youth meeting? Such a meeting could occur maybe once a year or every second year depending on the specific need. Set this meeting up so that only the children, without their parents, attend. This would allow the children to feel free to communicate their thoughts, views and opinions to improve condo living for kids. The board could talk to the children and find out what their wants and needs are. Plan socials that include the children and ask them to help with the planning. Children can be very enthusiastic and creative if they are only given the opportunity.
Maybe the children would be interested in starting their own Condo Kids Newsletter. This would encourage many of them to become involved in a joint community project. They could organize their own meetings and write stories or suggest ideas for their newsletter. Good communication is the key. If the children are made to feel that they are an important part of the condominium community and allowed to express their ideas and thoughts, you will experience a much happier community—with far fewer negative activities.
Marilyn Lincoln has many years experience in condominium management in Ontario, Canada. She is a member of the Canadian Condominium Institute and has authored a guide on condominium self management.