Few things can raise one's blood pressure like signing a big contract. That can be especially true for board members or managers signing sometimes mammoth contracts on behalf of a co-op or condo association, obligating their neighbors, friends and themselves to page after page of fine print. Thankfully, there are more than a few ways to get things properly signed on the dotted lines, and it all starts with ensuring a very thorough vetting of the contract in question.
It's crucial for a condominium community to establish successful business relationships, whether with a building contractor or a landscaping firm, and ensuring that a contract is fully vetted and amenable to both sides before work begins. Part of finding that assurance rests in having an attorney carefully examine the contract from top to bottom.
“It’s very important to have an attorney read over the contract,” says Jacqueline C. Marzan, senior attorney with the Jay Steven Levine Law Group in Boca Raton. For condominium boards trying to keep costs down, it's tempting to try and save money by not hiring an attorney—but that bit of supposed thriftiness could result in a bad contract that costs the association much, much more in the future.
Too often, attorneys for the association do not get involved until it’s too late. “After the fact, we’re just able to give suggestions on what to do” in response to a problem or unfavorable terms, Marzan says. It makes far more sense to avoid those issues at the beginning of the contract process. “You lose your negotiating power if the contract is already signed,” Marzan says. “We want to make sure your rights are protected from the outset.”
And, “it's the minor expense of looking at it early versus the later expense of sorting out problems,” adds Attorney Ben Solomon, managing partner and co-founder of Association Law Group in Miami. “A lawyer has a lot less to work with later if the contract wasn’t set up properly to begin with. Associations are very budget-conscious, which is a good thing, but they need a responsible attorney who can protect them with appropriate language.”