Editor’s Note: Welcome to our newest section, “Vent It Out Friday” where we just have a commentary on just about everything. This highly opinionated, highly emotional section will appear (as much as possible) every Friday. Soon, we’ll also be opening “Vent It Out Friday” to our readers, but for now, you can respond to the topic at hand via the comments section below.
Upon opening my mailbox, I received a formally written letter which will undoubted become ubiquitous to anyone living in a private subdivision or condominium: VAT on association dues. We have Ms. Kim Henares to thank for the additional financial burden that we’ll have to shoulder each and every month, but I have no qualms about that. If it’s going to help the country, why not? Although the additional P 720.00 per month is somewhat hard to swallow, my real beef is with the P 6,000 in association dues per se, especially if the building association is happily swimming in my money and not doing anything.
As with any business, there’s a general knowledge that if you pay for something, you expect to get something in return. You purchase a plane ticket on Philippine Airlines, you expect to fly. You buy a hamburger in Jollibee, you expect to eat it. You pay for 50 liters of gasoline, you expect to get 50 liters. It’s the same with association dues. The guards you see saluting you at the lobby, the maintenance people sweeping the floor, the fancy CCTV cameras scattered around the condominium’s vicinity, even the use of the gym and swimming pool aren’t there for free. You paid for them.
And there lies the problem. It’s well and good if your hard-earned money going into the coffers of the association (now with added VAT) goes some way. But in my case, it doesn’t seem so. I don’t live in a posh development created by a Mega World, Ayala Land, or Century Properties. I live in a modest eight-story (plus penthouse) condominium called Torre de Salcedo in Makati. With only four units per floor, we’re talking about just 30 tenants in the entire building, and yet, it’s funny how dysfunctional this particular association has become.
It starts with the officers themselves: we have an absentee president, a worthless vice-president, and a corporate secretary who does nothing but bend the rules (imagine how she can get away with having four cars when tenants only have one assigned parking slot each). Then things get even more interesting when items start missing; things such as gas voucher gifts (worth P 5,000) and lately, tire valve caps. And to finish everything off: the moment you call their attention to something along the lines of “this thing needs to be fixed” or “that thing is missing, can you help me look for it”, their only reply is: “can you park your car closer to the wall, the corporate secretary can’t fit her Ford Fiesta into the parking slot (which isn’t her’s, of course)”. Well, sorry your parking skills are comparable to that of a student driver, but I won’t risk nicking my Forester’s hatch on the large metal pipe on the ceiling (but funny enough, I actually obliged and moved my car back). And then there are the guards themselves who have been reduced to unthinking, automated machinery with three built-in responses: “good morning/evening”, “can you move your car back a bit more”, and “here’s your association dues for the month: certified correct and payment not received”.
As obsessive-compulsive as I am with my car, I tend to notice each and every scratch, dent, dirt, and what have you. More than once, I called the attention of the building association on shadier things like spray painting in the basement garage (it threatened to add a new layer of lacquer on my clear coat) and a leaking drain pipe that baptized my car with a water/cement mixture each time it rained. And in those times, the association worked. They fixed the problem and I felt happy. Now, it’s a completely different story. The association is more than happy to accept my payment for nothing in return. I’m not donating money here. I paid for service, and I expect service. What’s worse, this building’s administration likes to tack on a list of delinquent tenants who haven’t paid their dues, behaving as they’re very righteous. Sometimes I’d like to return the favor by posting a huge note on the community billboard saying how many times they’ve failed to address my concerns.
I certainly sound gripping here, and I won’t deny that. But I’m forced to think: if this is what happens in a small condominium, I can’t imagine it is to live in a 20, 30, or even 40 story complex. It must be remembered that anyone and everyone who pays for service deserves service, no matter how small, in return. As a tenant and as a car enthusiast who loves and takes care of his car deserves a clean and secure parking space, at the very least. Building and village associations should set an example and not be content with just bending the rules. To the different associations out there, before you increase your rates or pass on the VAT to the tenants take a hard look at yourselves and ask: do you deserve my money. In your case, hopefully the answer’s a resounding yes, because in my case, I think I deserve better.