Anniken and I own an apartment in a joint ownership (also known as condominium or divided co-property): The apartment is ours, but the rest of the building and the land it sits on are controlled by an association of owners that jointly represent ownership of the whole piece. Every year the board of directors hold a general meeting where all co-owners are invited to join and vote on issues for the coming year. If you live in a city, you’re probably familiar with this or something similar.

This afternoon I attended the annual meeting in our association while Anniken was at work; lucky her. Every year I go to these meetings and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever learn. It’s the same bullshit every year: There is at least one person (several if you’re unlucky) who comment on every single issue, complains about how everything was better in the past, thinks that the current board of directors is doing a half-assed job and generally just fails to shut up before the moderator shoots him or her down.

The big issue this year was a proposed increase in the board of director’s fee by NOK 25 000 (USD ~4 320). The money is to be split between the 7 people on the board. This was of course an outrageous suggestion and the issue was discussed left and right. People argued that the increase was too high and that sitting on the board should not be about the money, it should simply be done because “you want to and love it”. In other words, voluntary work. In the end the board’s proposed increase was turned down by the majority vote of the association.

I’m not much of a public talker and good arguments tend to come to me long after the discussion is over. So it wasn’t until I got home I decided to have a look at the big picture and see how much twenty five thousand really is. Let’s have a look at the worst case scenario, that the increased fee has to be covered by increased shared expenses. This wasn’t the case, though, because the increase was in the budget and the budget was well in the black.

Shared expenses are divided among the members of the association. There are 165 apartments in the condo, and for the sake of the argument, let’s say that this increased cost is divided equally among all of them. In reality this is not how it’s done, though, the actual cost of shared expenses varies based on the size of each apartment.

Anyway. This gives us the following calculation:

NOK 25 000 / 165 apartments = NOK 151,51 per year
NOK 151,51 / 12 months      = NOK  12,62 per month

If the proposed increase had to be covered by increased shared expenses, the increase per month per apartment would have been a mind-blowing NOK 12,62 (USD ~2.18). NOK 12,62 will get you about one thirds of a bus ticket here in Oslo. Last summer you got 0,14 liters (0.3 US pints, 4.73 oz) of beer in the most expensive restaurant for NOK 12,62. I have no idea why this was even something that we had to discuss. Half an hour later we discussed the usage of car heaters in the garage, and the price of using this might at some point increase by NOK 50 (USD ~8.64) per month. This was perfectly fine with the general audience. It’s probably all about mindset: The extra money for the car heaters would benefit everyone more or less directly, while the increased fee for the board of directors only would benefit indirectly. It might be that the board should have proposed the increase differently than they did, but of course everything looks so much clearer in hindsight.

I’m making this up, right? No, I’m not. And if you have every been to one of these meetings yourself, you know exactly how it is. This is why you’ll never find me on a condo board, not unless I get paid like a European football player and no one actually lives in the condo. Being on a board like this is something that will just create a constant hissing noise in your ear, with people leaning on you for all kinds of trivial idiocy. Personally, I can’t see why people volunteer for this. So I’m happy to pay a little money to make sure motivated people do a good job for the condo.

I’ll also have to attend the annual meeting in our previous joint ownership next month because maybe, just maybe, there is something important that has to be discussed. History has shown time and time again that the chance of that happening is pretty damn slim, but once again I’ll just prove that I never learn.