First Impressions

There is an old saying “You never get a second chance at a first impression”. This is never truer than at the beginning of the school year when major recruiting is done. Besides organizing informative and fun events for the rushees, the chapter house needs to be looking its absolute best. Effective cleaning and removal of excess furniture and stored goods is a must. Windows, doors, walls and floors should be repaired and spit shined. In a phrase: Put on the Ritz! and you’ll make a lasting impression of rushees, their parents, alumni, university officials, the neighbors and community.
 
Spit Shining. Move in condition of the chapter facilities is often a wildcard. Some chapter houses are relatively well maintained while others “need work” (a lot of work). To attract the best pledges, the facilities should be clean and good repair. If the house is unclean and shabby, what kind or pledges will you attract? (Answer: Those that don’t mind living like pigs.) Strive for the best condition that your money and sweat equity can muster.
 
Rental Agreements. The primary function of a house corporation is to administrate owned or rental chapter house facilities. If the house corporation owns the property, a rental agreement needs to be executed between the house corporation and active chapter. If the chapter house is owned by private investors or the university, the house corporation needs to execute a rental agreement with those entities and another one with active chapter.
 
Condition of Premises. Whatever condition the facilities are in, a written Condition of Premises should be prepared. That list should include separate list for each bedroom and one for the common areas. A Condition of Premises specific to the bedroom occupied should be provided to each resident. The Condition of Premises for the common areas can be delivered to the Consul. Each one of these documents establishes a benchmark for measuring normal wear and tear which excludes broken windows, holes in the walls and doors and other damage not caused by normal wear and tear. It also documents if there are existing damages so that the tenant won’t get blamed for something he didn’t do. Upon move out, the Condition of Premises is used to compare
move out with move in condition. If warranted, money can be retained from the security deposit. 
 
Security Deposit. A reasonable amount of money should be collected from each tenant to secure payment of the house bill and damage to the premises. This should be at least $200 and more if you can get it. The security deposit may be inadequate to cover what is owed but at least it will help. You can press for formal collection for the balance.
 
Rules. A list of reasonable rules should be included in the rental agreements and clearly posted in the House including prohibitions on smoking, candles, etc.
 
Fire & Life Safety. Evacuation routes and emergency procedures should be clearly posted and reviewed at the first active chapter meeting and again at the beginning of each semester. For owned chapter houses, the house corporation should perform at least quarterly inspections accompanied by the House Manager and Consul to review the fire alarm system, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, exit signs and emergency lights for proper function. Hallways, stairwells and exits clear from obstructions 
 
Cleaning & Maintenance Inspection. At least every two months, the house corporation should inspect the facilities for cleanliness and repair. In particular, review the kitchen and bathrooms where unclean conditions are a health hazard. Take appropriate action.
 
Fund Raising. With rising operation costs, many chapters fall short in rent revenue to address ongoing maintenance and repairs. Fund raising should be part of every house corporation’s purpose whether to raise money for renovation, new construction or scholarships. Even universities are constantly fund raising. 
 
Where do you think all those new dormitories and buildings come from? Fraternities are no exception. Fund
raising has many benefits:
 
< Provides the money necessary to effect repairs
< Provides a sense of higher purpose for the house corporation. Long range planning and execution is much more satisfying than short term crisis management.
< Creates a volunteer “magnet”. Successful brothers like being part of a successful and visionary purpose.
< Rallies the alumni. Even though many alums don’t make it to Homecoming every year, newsletters showing them the good work their donations have facilitated do make a big impact and reinforce the staying power of Sigma Chi.
 
As you enter the new school year, rally your house corporation to handle the business of effective chapter house management. Making a great first impression is worth its weight in gold and success breeds success.