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Re: Condo assessment rules
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I think you first need to check your bylaws/master deed to determine if the Board acted incorrectly. Typically, the Board has the right to assess members of the association for all reasonable repairs and budgetary shortfalls. In addition, there is probably also language in the governing documents that gives the Board power to assess up to a certain percentage amount of the yearly budget for purposes of capital improvements. I know that in my condo the Board has the power to assess members of the association up to 10% of the annual budget. However, anything over 10% must be approved by a 75% vote of all members.

In your particular instance you need to look at the governing documents and what the assessment is being used for before reaching any conclusions that the board acted improperly and does not have the ability to issue this assessment.

Posted on: 2010/5/18 17:22
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Re: Condo assessment rules
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nprosario wrote:
we just got a letter from our condo association asking for 1k for the next 3 months. is this legal?? what can I do?? Need advice.


If depends if there is an emergency (i.e. new roof needed) and insufficient reserves. There should have been a discussion and vote at least, and not out of the blue.

Posted on: 2010/5/18 14:33
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Re: Condo assessment rules
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nprosario wrote:
we just got a letter from our condo association asking for 1k for the next 3 months. is this legal?? what can I do?? Need advice.

I am curious about the advice you will recieve here on jclist. But as a home owner I hope you have retained an attorney and an accountant.

Posted on: 2010/5/18 13:11
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Condo assessment rules
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we just got a letter from our condo association asking for 1k for the next 3 months. is this legal?? what can I do?? Need advice.

Posted on: 2010/5/18 2:58
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Re: Condo reserves
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Thanks again everybody for all the great advice and comments! It's all tremendously helpful.

Posted on: 2010/4/5 16:08
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Re: Condo reserves
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Minnie: I sent you an IM, please check your inbox.

Posted on: 2010/4/5 14:31
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Re: Condo reserves
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I would not assume that a building is poorly managed unless you know that is the case, because a reserve of $8,000. may not be wonderfully large, but it?s not poor either. Especially when you learn the facts about maintenance costs.

I?m particularly interested in this topic, mainly because of my experience with my own condo purchase. At one time our account was only $300. Since that time, I never took my eyes off the spending. And if you hire an attorney to handle the closing? don?t do like I did and assume they?ve covered everything. Next time I?ll actually have it written into my contract that they'll provide me with the financial statements in a timely manner.

Some folks feel that increasing monthly maintenance fees in order to have a larger reserve, as a cushion, just in case, is the way to go. I disagree. In a building that is maintained regularly, we already know (approx.) how much time we have before something has to be replaced. We know how much must be budgeted in advance to reach that goal. Example: if our roof needs to be replaced in approx. 10 years and the going rate for a new roof is approx. $10,000., then we need to plan ahead by budgeting $1,000. every year, over the next 10 years, in order to pay for the roof in 2020. If something should happen before that time, we have insurance. I?m not in favor of increasing maintenance fees all around to cover the cost of worrying.

It is the board of directors? responsibility to budget accordingly and to be responsible with spending. And it?s the BOD?s responsibility to monitor the activity and spending of a property manager.

In the event a special assessment is needed?. the board of directors can make it easy on the association by spacing out payments over a period of several months. And some homeowner insurance policies even cover ?special assessments?.


Posted on: 2010/4/5 13:30
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Re: Condo reserves
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For a 10 unit building an $18,000 budget sounds right to manage it (albeit may be a little tight). A very simple estimated breakdown would be as follows

$6,000 Building insurance
$2,000 Flood Insurance
$3,600 Condo Mamagement fees (for someone that is good, cut corners on this and you will get shoddy service)
$2,400 Super (trash 2 times a week, shovel snow, cleaning halls, minor repair)
$2,000 Water bill
$2,000 Repair maintenance

Another factor to keep in mind (and this frequently happens with a 10 unit building) is that when one unit may not pay their monthly fee's the associations income level is down $2280 which may have a direct impact on hitting into your bottom line or reserves.

Reserves of $8,000 are generally a good figure for a 10 unit building around here. Banks are also starting to look at reserve figures (amoung other things as a factor when issueing a mortgage to ensure that the building's association is financially sound).

When it comes to knowing "where do all the costs go?", "are they being spent in the right manner?". Generally there is only one way to ensure this is treated correctly which is that unit owners themselves have to take some ownership / oversight for tracking all costs with the management company by asking for monthly cash flow statements, overseeing the hiring of reputable contractors and taking a hands on approach in dealing with any building issues. If buying a unit I usually try to reach out to one of the buildings unit owners to see if the association likes to take a proactive approach in tracking costs / mamaging repairs or the buildings appearance. If the answer is yes the outlook would look good.

Hope this helps.

Posted on: 2010/4/4 15:19
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Re: Condo reserves
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GreenStamps wrote:
The building seems to have gone condo in the early 1990's so I'd think reserve would be higher unless the building is being ripped off by poor management as you Minnie, describe.


That's a tough judgment call to make without having more information. The $190/month maintenance you describe sounds a bit low to me, even for a no-frills building. What is the size of the unit in relation to others in the building (it's percentage share of the common elements)? You can't just multiply $190 by eight and assume that's the monthly amount taken in, unless all eight units are exactly identical in square footage. The age of the building also plays a big factor. You wouldn't believe the amount of repairs/maintenance that goes into one building. If it's not the roof, then it's the stoop. Or the plumbing. It's rare for an older building to go more than a year or two without some expensive repair, and "historic" buildings in JC will just suck you dry financially. Stuff just doesn't seem to get done cheaply around here. Even the best-run buildings have hired a bad contractor or two in the past that required a costly fix to a poorly done job.

Finally, in a small building such as the one you described, it isn't unusual for the owners to have reached a consensus to keep maintenance low and make special assessments as needed for the big jobs. But that comes with the understanding that each owner should be responsible enough to have ready access to a few thousand dollars, because emergencies can and do happen. While $8,000 does sound a bit low, it doesn't sound like the building is on the brink of financial ruin either. Again, you need to thoroughly ask questions of the building's history of repairs and expenditures and ask for a copy of its operating budget. If you already have a real-estate attorney, I strongly advise you to check with him/her what they think of the building's finances. This may not be the building for you if you're already feeling this uncomfortable. Any first-time homeowner can tell you that the costs of upkeep on a home was more than they bargained for when they went in. Part of owning a home is being able to cope with unpredictable expenses.

Posted on: 2010/4/4 15:11
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Re: Condo reserves
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Minnie wrote:
Boilers and hot water heaters service a particular unit and at $190. is most likely each unit owners responsibility. Same for apartment entry doors and windows.

A new roof will last a long time if done correctly. Same for brick re-pointing.

A problem our condo had in the past was the overspending of funds and it was done by our property manager at that time. We were almost flat broke. Hard to believe because I had hired an attorney and asked that he look into the finances before closing... but I failed to follow up with him and learned the hard way... which was after I closed.

I started reading the master deed, bylaws, rules & regulations and then started asking questions and requested the balance sheets and bank statements. What I found was that association money was being spent on items that were not even the associations responsibility. Not to mention over paid contractors that did poor work with no warranty. We were getting ripped off.

At that time there was no board of directors, and so I formed a board, requested credits for the jobs that were the responsibility of a unit owner and shopped around for better rates on insurance, exterminating, cleaning and a new property manager. Within a short period of time we were doing okay.


The building seems to have gone condo in the early 1990's so I'd think reserve would be higher unless the building is being ripped off by poor management as you Minnie, describe.

Posted on: 2010/4/4 13:00
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Re: Condo reserves
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Boilers and hot water heaters service a particular unit and at $190. is most likely each unit owners responsibility. Same for apartment entry doors and windows.

A new roof will last a long time if done correctly. Same for brick re-pointing.

A problem our condo had in the past was the overspending of funds and it was done by our property manager at that time. We were almost flat broke. Hard to believe because I had hired an attorney and asked that he look into the finances before closing... but I failed to follow up with him and learned the hard way... which was after I closed.

I started reading the master deed, bylaws, rules & regulations and then started asking questions and requested the balance sheets and bank statements. What I found was that association money was being spent on items that were not even the associations responsibility. Not to mention over paid contractors that did poor work with no warranty. We were getting ripped off.

At that time there was no board of directors, and so I formed a board, requested credits for the jobs that were the responsibility of a unit owner and shopped around for better rates on insurance, exterminating, cleaning and a new property manager. Within a short period of time we were doing okay.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 16:51
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Re: Condo reserves
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It sounds like at the $190 the boilers and heaters are each units own responsibility. If it is not, then yes that maintenance is way under funded. The only real things is the roof replacement, the common areas and very little more than that. It isn't that uncommon in smaller condo buildings recently converted. The roof is around $10,000 or so, can get a bit higher for a longer lasting one or higher priced contractor to do it.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 15:23
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Re: Condo reserves
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GreenStamps wrote:
The maintenance is low $190 a month, but that adds up. $1520 a month for 8 units - $18,240 a year. Where does all that money go? I know there are some collective cost of the building for common spaces and probably management fees, etc but $10,000 worth? it seems like an awful lot spent, does this make sense? I've never owed a condo and don't know. I'm sure there are lots of dumb little things I am unaware of.


Maintenance and reserves seem very low if a major system fails (roof, boiler, hot water etc) you could be hit with a very high special assessment.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 14:51
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Re: Condo reserves
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ResidentJC wrote:
Hate to tell this, well your attorney told you the wrong thing then. One will find there is most of the time more on the mortgages than ever will be the insured amount on a building for condos. On houses that is the case not on condos. In my building the amount is around $50,000 per unit but the values are over $200K each, and everyone of them almost has some mortgage on it.


Well, you guys must all have incredibly lenient lenders - and I don't want to comment on the situation in your building since I don't know the specifics. I trust you folks are doing what's in your best interests. I'm speaking from what I know: Every sale or refinancing we've ever had in my building, the lender has always required the building carry a certain amount of insurance (I'm the one that always has to fax over these documents to the banks and attorneys). That amount has been fairly consistent over different banks, so there must be some industry-wide formula they work with. We asked our attorney about this, since we were looking to cut costs and insurance was one of the things we looked at. Sure, we can always go with less insurance, he said, but he warned that down the road, whenever someone wanted to sell, potential buyers were likely to encounter difficulties obtaining a mortgage. And banks have gotten even more nit-picky the last couple of years on mortgages for condos. In our building, we've gone along with it, since nobody wants to scupper a sale over insurance. One buyer's mortgage lender went so far as to say if the building was under-insured, then she would have to purchase additional mortgage insurance on her own.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 14:20
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Re: Condo reserves
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Hate to tell this, well your attorney told you the wrong thing then. One will find there is most of the time more on the mortgages than ever will be the insured amount on a building for condos. On houses that is the case not on condos. In my building the amount is around $50,000 per unit but the values are over $200K each, and everyone of them almost has some mortgage on it.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 13:56
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Re: Condo reserves
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ResidentJC wrote:
When it comes to insurance on any building, the amount should only be for the rebuilding cost, not the market value of the properties. Commonly insurance agents love to over sell the insurance for a property. In the case of a condo building, the amount isn't nearly as much as when it comes to a 1 family home. The contents of a condo are not the condo associations responsibility. A 8 unit condo building, say 4 floors tall might have a 1.5-2 million market value, but rebuilding costs probably are around 500-600K only since it sound like a brick building. A wood framed would be less, maybe 1/2 that. So when you find out how much insurance is stating for the building keep that in mind, is the condo association over paying. Each unit owner is responsible for the contents not the condo association. I had looked into a job called a public adjustor and that job involves knowing that reality so to catch all those being way overly insured. The insurance company might love to have a $1 million policy on it, yet full well knowing they aren't going to pay the $1 million out but maybe only the 500-600K to rebuild the building.


While this sounds logical, the amount of insurance a condo building is required to carry, unfortunately, is dictated by the mortgage banks. Whenever a unit has sold in my building, the buyer's lender has always asked the condo association for a certificate of insurance showing the building is insured for X amount before the closing can take place. According to our attorney, the lender wants to make sure that the insurance is sufficient to cover the loan amount (along with all the other outstanding loan amounts of the other unit owners) in case a building is ever declared a total loss. Actual rebuilding cost has little to do with the insured amount - it's all about protecting the banks, and they couldn't care less if you have a roof over your head if your house were to burn to the ground.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 13:41
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Re: Condo reserves
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When it comes to insurance on any building, the amount should only be for the rebuilding cost, not the market value of the properties. Commonly insurance agents love to over sell the insurance for a property. In the case of a condo building, the amount isn't nearly as much as when it comes to a 1 family home. The contents of a condo are not the condo associations responsibility. A 8 unit condo building, say 4 floors tall might have a 1.5-2 million market value, but rebuilding costs probably are around 500-600K only since it sound like a brick building. A wood framed would be less, maybe 1/2 that. So when you find out how much insurance is stating for the building keep that in mind, is the condo association over paying. Each unit owner is responsible for the contents not the condo association. I had looked into a job called a public adjustor and that job involves knowing that reality so to catch all those being way overly insured. The insurance company might love to have a $1 million policy on it, yet full well knowing they aren't going to pay the $1 million out but maybe only the 500-600K to rebuild the building.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 13:19
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Re: Condo reserves
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The monthly maintenance fees are to cover the Operating expenses (insurance, domestic water & sprinkler, common electric, management fees, bank fees, exterminating, snow removal, trash removal, cleaning & supplies. Other annual expenses may include paying for a locksmith, electrician or plumber.

Some money should also be set aside as part of a Budget to cover major work for a new roof, brick re-pointing, brownstone repairs, waterproofing, common plumbing, carpeting, paint and other repairs. This will add up over time so that there are available funds when the time comes. If the funds are not enough to cover, then a special assessment is applied to cover the balance of the project.

$190. a month seems reasonable unless your building has amenities such as a 24 hour doorman, elevators, parking, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, gym, etc.

The tendency to spend is greater when there is more money in the reserves.

If you're concerned about spending, ask to see the operating reports and budget to get an idea where the money is being spent.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 13:00
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Re: Condo reserves
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So that means with a new condo building there are no reserves at all. You are starting from the ground up. By buying into an already established condo depending on the number of years in exsistence those accumulated reserves in the pot become found money.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 9:26
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Re: Condo reserves
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Like others said, insurance and water/sewer are the largest part of the monthly maintenance not to mention common area electric, and cleaning, snow removal, etc. Does the building have an elevator and sprinkler system?

The reserve seems very low - how old of a building is it and how long has the association been established? They should be able to tell you how much they're setting aside for reserves each month/year.

If it's a condo association as opposed to a co-op, the association doesn't pay taxes - the individual unit owners pay the tax for their unit.

Posted on: 2010/4/3 2:22
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Re: Condo reserves
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All great info, thanks for the feedback!

Posted on: 2010/4/2 21:32
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Re: Condo reserves
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JadedJC wrote:
Insurance is definitely the biggest cost, and in a building with 8 units, I'm guessing the premium is easily $9,000/year - more if flood insurance is required. Aside from that, water/sewer will also be a big chunk of the costs. Does the building provide heat for all the units or are they individually metered for heat? At $190/month, I suspect heat's not included. Little things that you take for granted as a renter add up - for example a super to take care of the garbage/recylcing and clean the common areas. The tax filing really only comes into play if the condo association generates any income that's taxable (i.e. the bulding has a storefront that it rents out).

Ask the condo association before you commit 1/What major repairs have been made in the past 5 years that required special assessments and what was the amount of the special assessments? 2/ Are there any upcoming repairs or improvements planned over the next 1-3 years, what are the estimated costs and are special assessments planned? Asking these questions will give you a better idea of the building's history of expenditures. Checking for permits doesn't really yield much information as permits aren't required for all repairs. Most roof jobs, even though a permit is technically required, are done on the sly. So much work is done under the radar of the Buildings Deparment nowadays - and with good reason given how dysfunctional and unpleasant that office is. Good luck!


^Couldn't agree more JadedJC makes some strong points. Ask what has been done recently what is planned. How old is the roof, the boiler, etc...

Maintenance that low is great.

Posted on: 2010/4/2 20:44
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Re: Condo reserves
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Insurance is definitely the biggest cost, and in a building with 8 units, I'm guessing the premium is easily $9,000/year - more if flood insurance is required. Aside from that, water/sewer will also be a big chunk of the costs. Does the building provide heat for all the units or are they individually metered for heat? At $190/month, I suspect heat's not included. Little things that you take for granted as a renter add up - for example a super to take care of the garbage/recylcing and clean the common areas. The tax filing really only comes into play if the condo association generates any income that's taxable (i.e. the bulding has a storefront that it rents out).

Ask the condo association before you commit 1/What major repairs have been made in the past 5 years that required special assessments and what was the amount of the special assessments? 2/ Are there any upcoming repairs or improvements planned over the next 1-3 years, what are the estimated costs and are special assessments planned? Asking these questions will give you a better idea of the building's history of expenditures. Checking for permits doesn't really yield much information as permits aren't required for all repairs. Most roof jobs, even though a permit is technically required, are done on the sly. So much work is done under the radar of the Buildings Deparment nowadays - and with good reason given how dysfunctional and unpleasant that office is. Good luck!

Posted on: 2010/4/2 20:09
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Re: Condo reserves
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GreenStamps wrote:
ahh insurance, didn't think of that one. What tax does the association pay? is it a collective property tax on top of your individual tax?


Someone else could probably answer that better,
but at the very least, if it's done right, there is a corporation.
So your check would be made out to
"555 Main Street Condo Ass. Inc" or something similar.
Every corporation has to file a return, so even if profits are zero, you still have to hire someone to file.

Posted on: 2010/4/2 20:07
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Re: Condo reserves
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ahh insurance, didn't think of that one. What tax does the association pay? is it a collective property tax on top of your individual tax?

Posted on: 2010/4/2 20:00
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Re: Condo reserves
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GreenStamps wrote:
The maintenance is low $190 a month, but that adds up. $1520 a month for 8 units - $18,240 a year. Where does all that money go? I know there are some collective cost of the building for common spaces and probably management fees, etc but $10,000 worth? it seems like an awful lot spent, does this make sense? I've never owed a condo and don't know. I'm sure there are lots of dumb little things I am unaware of.


Insurance is the biggest. Accountant (for association tax filing),
electric, trash, snow shoveling, water. It all adds up.

If you have management company, they charge around 200 a month, give or take.

Posted on: 2010/4/2 19:55
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Re: Condo reserves
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The maintenance is low $190 a month, but that adds up. $1520 a month for 8 units - $18,240 a year. Where does all that money go? I know there are some collective cost of the building for common spaces and probably management fees, etc but $10,000 worth? it seems like an awful lot spent, does this make sense? I've never owed a condo and don't know. I'm sure there are lots of dumb little things I am unaware of.

Posted on: 2010/4/2 19:32
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Re: Condo reserves
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Lots of small condos keep low reserves as to keep the monthly costs lower. They usually do an assessment if they need a large repair.

Posted on: 2010/4/2 19:09
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Condo reserves
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Hi all,

I?m thinking of buying a downtown condo in a 8 unit brick building that only has about $8000 in its reserves. I checked with the building department and no permits have shown up for any major work like a new roof, etc. Is this reserve strangely low? Normal? High? Any thoughts anybody?

Posted on: 2010/4/2 18:39
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