Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dish Antennas - an Update

Satellite dish antennas are a little like starlings -- or cockroaches. Where you see one, you're likely to see more.

That's exactly what happened to us.

A tenant moved into an owner's unit and ordered a high-definition (HD) satellite dish antenna. Toward the end of the day, the installer arrived, and casually asked the tenant if he had permission to install the dish.

"Yes," replied the tenant, having obtained verbal approval from the owner (who had not read the CC&Rs).

Soon, a second installer arrived, and in order to help them both finish up their day, assisted. Situating the antenna isn't something that the tenant or owner had considered, so the installers solved the problem by installing the dish on the limited common area that belongs to the neighbor upstairs.

"When you turn everybody in the building on to HD, we won't have to install another dish," promoted the installer.

When informed about the illegal installation, the tenant pointed to a (standard TV -- non HD -- satellite) dish attached to another building. (The standard TV device mounts in a linear fashion that could be accommodated on the wood trim of the building.)

"We saw that antenna and thought it was okay to install one," came the tenant's explanation.

The board sent a formal Notice of Violation to the owner, who acknowledged not having read that permission from the board was required in order to install such a device.

Upon receipt of the owner's petition, the board decided that we would allow the installation, but in a spot that was away from the center of the "beauty shot," center-of-attention, aesthetically, for the complex, and on the common area of the building. We agreed on an elevated installation at the back corner of the building, away from the street and more or less out of sight. We also asked for a damage deposit sufficient to cover the cost of repairing our building when the device was removed.

When the new installer came to move the device, we discussed the installation options for reception and for aesthetics. Bottom line: the triangular-shaped installation footprint required could only be accommodated by drilling through the side of the building, thus compromising its waterproof membrane.

As well, there was no area within the limited common area deck available to the tenant where this extraordinary footprint could be accommodated.

The FCC rule allowing dish antenna devices states that the device must fit within the one-meter-in-diameter limit, but makes no mention of the installation footprint. (This device required an 'L'-shaped footprint about 35" along the base of the 'L' and about 20" up the leg.)

We burned up nearly three week's time for the board; the tenant and owner produced an untold amount of consternation.

Our resolution was to deny the petition based on there being no place in the common area where the HD dish antenna's installation footprint could be accommodated.

Given the FCC ruling that a board cannot deny anyone's ability to consume satellite TV signals, we asked the owner to petition the board for installation within the confines of their limited common area, a deck. We required an installation plan that covered the installation process: either drilling into the floor of the deck or installation using a tripod.

In the final analysis, the owner and the tenant decided not to offer another petition, based on the increased damage deposit required should they choose to drill into the floor of the deck, and the liability involved in mounting the device on a tripod, which subjected it potentially to the vagaries of wind and weather, and the damage it could cause should it become loose.

(The owner paid the cancellation fee.)

Governing Tips:
  • Review your governing documents in light of the FCC rule, and verify that you can manage device installation within your physical community. HD dishes are larger than standard TV dishes, although still within the one-meter-in-diameter size limit, but their installation footprint is significantly different.
  • Require a complete description of the device in your petitions for installation, including its installation footprint. Ask for photos and dimensions of the installation hardware and the weight of the device.
  • Require a damage deposit sufficient to cover any repairs when the dish is removed.

Here's an FCC link you may find helpful.

Practical Tip: If you know that dish antenna installation requires board approval and you notice that an installation about to happen, run, don't walk, out to the installer and ask to see the written permission from the board to install the device. If none can be produced, ask the installer for written confirmation that s/he is about to install a device without permission. Your board will thank you!

Punch Line: The satellite vendor doesn't want the dish. When cancelling the contract, the customer is required to return the 'boxes' from inside the home. Removing and disposing of the dish is the customer's responsibility.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Condominium Board Branding - A Tutorial

Branding? Egads, isn't that a Madison Avenue thing? And what's branding go to do with condominium boards?

Your membership, the owners, perceive you in some way. That is your brand. Here, then, an opportunity to investigate and change your brand, if such action would improve the tenor of your community.

Brand your communication. Whether you use a newsletter, board meeting minutes, e-mails or a community social Web site, such as, the way you communicate and the effort you put into communicating with your membership can close the gap between what is expected of a board and what you can deliver.

Start Here

If you start with the Wikipedia entry on Branding, you'll read extensively about the notion. You can use that site to learn what you need to know about branding. As you read, focus on your condominium board as the entity to be branded.

Here's an applicable quote, though, that explains the point with precision:
"People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique."

Whether your association is established or just starting up, when the board pays attention to its brand through communication, the community can become more harmonious and perceived as well-run.

In particular, this entry focuses on 'attitude branding': the "...choice to represent a larger feeling." Cultural brands that represent this idea include Starbucks, The Body Shop and Apple. In fact, Schultz (Starbucks' leader) proposes that "[attitude branding]...adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience."

In truth, condominium boards embody the democratic governance of a community of homes and the owners involved, according to its governing documents. Branding in this context means communicating the work of the board in a way that reflects its efforts to lead effectively, and to preserve the strong sense of community that can develop among neighbors -- its 'larger feeling'.

The board effects its brand through every piece of communication and through every behaviour it exhibits. This means that a board can build and enhance its brand, or destroy one so its brand becomes distasteful or pejorative.

An Exercise

What comes to mind as you close your eyes and envision the name of your board?

How did that happen? What events, communications, happenings developed into your image of your board?

This entry explores ways you can maintain the brand you have or migrate your brand to the brand you want for your condominium board.

How To Define Your Board's Brand

First, you already know your audience/ market. It's the people who own units in your condominium community. It's also prospective buyers and real estate agents who will help buy and sell units.

Second, every communication from the board represents an opportunity to affect your brand.

Third, board behaviour also effects your brand, whether by example, in board meetings and sometimes, even in private conversations.

Here's Your Homework

Pick Words That Describe Your Brand. With your board in dialog, define the qualities of the work you perform. Use descriptive words that apply. Examples are 'thorough', 'thoughtful', 'timely', 'fair', 'informative', 'knowledgeably', 'inclusive', 'helpful', and so forth. Be exhaustive. Develop a long list. Then pick the top few words and deliver your volunteer service accordingly.

(Your job as a board member is to 'preserve, enhance and maintain' the value of the commercial real estate that the community owns in common: use these terms, too.)

In choosing the top few words, discuss ways in which your 'brand attitude' interacts with your owners. (Remember, brand attitude is the 'larger feeling'.) We're saddled in our work with 'home', and that generates a larger feeling for many owners.

Define What Owners Want From the Board. With your board in dialog, list what owners expect from the board. Use complete sentences, so that as you work through this list, your expectations are clearly stated. You may need to poll your membership to discover these expectations.

Define the Current Impression of Your Board from Your Owners' Point of View. With your board in dialog, answer the questions:
  • What do owners think of/ feel about the board today?
  • What do we, the board, want owners to think of/ feel about the board in the future?
  • Which tools can we use to move our brand in the direction we want?
List the Problems That Owners Expect the Board to Solve and Discuss Ways You can Anticipate Them. With your board in dialog, answer these questions:
  • What problems and issues to owners expect us to address/ fix/ solve?
  • How much education do owners need in order to balance our ability to solve problems with our ability to meet owners' expectations?
  • How can we anticipate problems and issues and address them before they become too time-consuming?
Now That You can Communicate and Focus as a Board, List Tasks for Each Board Member. With your board in dialog, develop lists, calendars, resources, time limits, budgets and so forth, that you require in order to communicate to your ownership the good work your board completes.

Tips --
  • Choose a type face and a colour that you use consistently in your written communication. Use a professionally designed template where ever possible, so that your text is readable, with easy access to important points.
  • Use a style guide to help the writer use capital letters, emphasis type styles, quote marks and generally show uniformity in written communications. (I like the Wired Style Guide and don't use it consistently, because it doesn't always answer the style questions I ask. I always aim for consistency.)
  • In writing, it's a good idea to use the present tense (where possible) and to write so that the reader -- owners and prospective owners -- sense that you are 'at their elbow'. Read the difference between --
Your account has been credited accordingly.
We will credit your account with your payment.

or the difference between --

Our CC&Rs dictate where you can park.
You can find your assigned parking stall(s) in the CC&Rs,
under the section titled Limited Common Elements.

  • When the board acts on behalf of owners, say so: write it that way. Make the board the pro-active, first-person voice in your communication. When guiding and 'educating' owners, address them as 'you'. Avoid sounding superior or authoritarian.
  • If necessary, "...get the right people on the bus. And get the right people off the bus."
    -- Jim Collins in "Good to Great."


When a board understands its ability to brand its work, and does so with purpose and direction, the board crafts and employs its own tools -- its own communication tools -- that can deliver a branded experience to owners. Whether the board uses newsletters, board meeting minutes, Web sites, social networking sites, or other forms of communication, it can brand every representation of its work.

The homework will aid in establishing healthy communication patterns among board members and between the board and owners. This kind of communication offers an opportunity to build the habit of employing unfaltering and dedicated efforts to focus on the work at hand. It can help you weed out emotional, platform-grand-standers who can effectively derail board work and community harmony.

(If you haven't read it already, please study the post that covers board meeting minutes. Board behaviour in open board meetings and action as documented in the minutes may be the key branding tools of any board.)

Be consistent. Over time your brand will become known and predictable.