New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Living in Oblivion

As a managing agent, part of our job can be summed up with the phrase “managing expectations.” It means giving everyone accurate and timely information, whether good or bad. By making sure everyone is kept informed, rumors and bad feelings can be minimized.

Managing someone’s expectations may not always be well received. In fact, sometimes it makes people angry. Without the ability to couch our conversations in a positive way, however, we would not be doing our job. Do our clients yell at us? Sometimes – but it’s understandable. People need to vent. However, as long as we can calmly work with them, nine times out of ten the conversations end well. Here is an example of one of those situations.

Over a three-day holiday weekend, I received a call from one of my superintendents, who reported that a fill line from a toilet had broken loose and leaked. He was not sure exactly what time it happened, but the porter said he heard water coming down while he was in the basement late in the night. The freight elevator had suffered severe water damage and was taken out of service.

My immediate thought was to organize a cleanup and assess the damage. I got a professional cleanup and remediation company on the site immediately. The building’s insurance carrier and the insurance companies representing the shareholders were all put on notice. Because of the extent of the damage, families would probably be displaced from their homes for months.

How were we going to get shareholders back into their homes? Who was going to be responsible for cleaning and testing and possible remediation? Which components of the apartment were the responsibility of the cooperative and which were the responsibility of the shareholder? Who was going to rebuild the apartments? Who was paying for what? Who was going to make all these decisions? And finally, who was going to communicate all this information to the shareholders?

While experience tells me that these things eventually get worked out, they do not always have a happy ending; people’s lives are turned upside down, personal property is lost. Nevertheless, our job is to find a way to push through.

That’s where “managing expectations” comes in. We act as coordinators and facilitators. We expect our contractors to provide us with accurate, timely information. Our job is to organize much of this on behalf of the cooperative: coordinate with the building’s insurer and contractor and with the shareholder’s insurer and contractor, and then facilitate the work and make sure that we communicate with everyone often and with accurate information.

Our role as agent cannot be defined easily. We are the buffer, the fixer, the assistant, and sometimes just the listener. That’s the job. And managing expectations is a big part of it.

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