Community managers are required to be on call 24/7 for emergencies. We accept this element of our responsibilities; however, we do not accept the flagrant misuse of the “emergency” calls we receive that mostly result in a matter that is either (1) owner responsibility, (2) not an emergency at all, or (3) an emergency that should have been directed to a medical or criminal first responder.
I have written on the subject of the dearth of residents who do not read their governing documents (ahem…including some board members) and are not familiar with what they are responsible for maintaining, repairing or replacing under the terms of the Association’ documents. For example, a recent “emergency” call was placed to our office on a holiday to inspect issue in a homeowners’ association. They insisted it was a roof leak (in this case an association responsibility), but upon our arrival admitted that they had inspected the attic and found no evidence of a roof leak, but they did not know who else to call on a holiday weekend. The leak was a condensation line for their HVAC, and we respectfully suggested they call their HVAC maintenance company as it was their responsibility, and promptly left.
At a high-end waterfront, condominium we manage, I got a call from security approximately 11pm stating that an owner had returned home from a business trip and found her antique Oriental rug had been damaged due to the neighbor’s recent authorized renovation, and demanded to speak with me about who was going to pay for the damage to her prized possession?! The irate owner was informed months in advance that the neighbor was going to have a complete interior renovation and there were going to be a series of vendors on their floor for months. I thanked the security officer (who was just trying to de-escalate the issue) and phoned the owner. After hearing the complaint from the owner, my first question was “why is the rug still in the hallway entry?” She replied, “it is my entry too, I have rights”! “Your election to allow your rug to remain in an area with heavy construction traffic is ill-advised, and although you have the right to leave it there, it does not make much sense in light of the fact that it is personally and monetarily valuable to you, does it”?, I answered. “Click.” The line went dead; conversation over. This was NOT an emergency.
In another incident, I was reached on the emergency line to find that the security gate officer had been contacted by an owner to have “someone” come to pick her and her elderly husband up from an area approximately one mile away due to her husbands inability to walk back to the community! “Call 9-1-1”, I exclaimed! I don’t want to call 9-1-1, just ask one of the maintenance guys to come and pick us up on the golf cart”, she replied. “Mrs. Smith, I am hanging up this phone, please call 9-1-1 immediately, I scolded. Of course, my first inclination was to comply with her request, but I know better. This “good deed” would have placed the husband in further danger, the maintenance guy would have been put in a terrible position, and the association and/or management company would be liable should the worst occur!
My general rule is: an emergency is blood, flood or fire. If there is blood on association property due to a fall or other calamity, or if there is water leaking, pooling to gushing, or if there is smoke; it’s an emergency! My staff is well trained by now to identify what constitutes an emergency, although I do encourage them to err on the side of the resident. Community managers want to serve, but we do not forfeit our right to enjoy our time off because of the emergency clause in the employment agreement. We’ve all experienced similar circumstances. My advice is to continue to communicate to the staff and vendors what is, and is not, and emergency.
Endeavor to persevere.
Tanoa Lynne Poirier is the Managing Principal at Poirier Enterprises Inc., specializing in the management of community associations, commercial and investment properties, and individual residences in South Florida.
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