What makes a good homeowner’s association board? With most boards being made up of volunteers, getting the right group of people together can be difficult.
Q: I read your column each Sunday in our local paper. It is always informative, but unfortunately often too legally sterile to provide useful real-world solutions.
Your recent answer to a reader on her problems with her homeowner association board (and management company) was engaged and responsive. The fact is that many condo or homeowner association board members are older, retired, and volunteers, so they are both risk-averse and unwilling to do more than the minimum required to manage the property. I have yet to meet a condo board member who is willing to confront a physically aggressive owner – especially on a sustained basis.
Also, your suggestion that the association board will have the interest and persistence to foreclose on a recalcitrant unit owner is not realistic. Such proceedings would likely drag on for 6 to 18 months and require tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Perhaps the upper-income properties that you are affiliated with have the wherewithal for such a marathon battle, but rank-and-file associations will not.
A more useful insight would have been to discuss whether the bully merits an adverse disclosure for the neighbors who, ultimately, have no recourse beyond selling their units.
A: Thanks for your response to that column. Let’s start with your first observation: Association board members are typically – and we’re paraphrasing here – old, lazy and ineffective.
While we’re sure there are a lot of homeowner’s associations with older board members, we’ve found that the composition of the board of directors typically varies, and is more likely to match with the age of the homeowners who live in the community or building. A condo property that has a majority of younger owners, for example, is very likely to have a majority of younger board members.
We do agree that in some situations you have older board members that may have more time and may be more willing to sit on a homeowner association board. And, in that case, you’d be right. But, it isn’t a given.
Likewise, we’ve seen plenty of situations over the years where older boards have had a greater willingness to pass rules, fine members and become very active boards of their associations than younger owners. Yes, some boards may be limited by the resources and knowledge they may have, but longer-term residents may have seen how destructive a building bully can be and may be much more willing to protect their investment.
Dealing with a building bully will be a problem for most associations. You are right that larger association that keep a professional management company on retainer will likely have the resources to fine, sue and enforce their rules against a building bully, we don’t think anybody should have to live in that situation.
Our advice was to seek out all options, including working with neighbors, working with the association board and even, if needed, seeking law enforcement help when you are threatened with bodily harm.
Here’s where you got it exactly right: Have all of the neighbors work together to find a solution. That’s smart, especially if the neighbors are able to solve the situation with a good result for all. While selling the unit is an option, that also can be expensive when you consider sales costs, closing and moving expenses.
Thanks for your comments and reading our weekly column.
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