Page 10 - New England Condominium February 2019
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10 NEW ENGLAND CONDOMINIUM   - FEBRUARY 2019   NEWENGLANDCONDO.COM  V  olunteerism  is  arguably  the  bed-  rock of co-op and condominium   communities. One buys into one   or the other with the expectation of par-  ticipating in the governance and operation   of the property. Volunteering for board or   committee service, though, is often a mat-  ter of time – something many of us don’t   have much of these days,  especially the   ‘extra’ kind. As a result in many communi-  ties, it’s the older and often retired residents   who have the hours to offer for board and   committee service. The result is that often   boards  are  dominated  by  older,  longer-  term residents, which in itself isn’t neces-  sarily a bad thing – it’s just a fact.  It should also be noted that the compo-  sition of a board is usually representative of   the residents of the building or association,   and different types of communities tend   to draw different demographics. So in a   smaller community, perhaps a 10-unit co-  op in a walk-up building with only studio   apartments in a newly-fashionable neigh-  borhood, everyone living there may be   under 40 – thus, that board will likely be   composed of younger people. Conversely,   in an over-55 community, the board will   mostly be composed of older people. But   these specific situations may not be typical   of most communities.  Legislative Fix?  Can a co-op corporation or condomini-  um association do something specific with   its bylaws or rules to require that board   seats be distributed between various age   groups? “Absolutely not,” says Mark Hakim,   a co-op and condo attorney with Schwartz   Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, LLP, a law   firm located in New York City. “You cannot   create age limitations of any kind relative to   the board. It’s illegal. And that’s under both   federal and state laws and statutes.”  Frank A. Lombardi, a partner at Good-  man, Shapiro & Lombardi, a law firm with   offices in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,   concurs. “Age requirements are illegal,” he   says. “Don’t get within a half mile of them.”   Doing so is asking for a potential lawsuit,   because age is a protected class under dis-  crimination law.  Sima L. Kirsch, a community law attor-  ney located in Chicago, takes a slightly dif-  ferent view of the possibility of introducing   age as a factor in board composition. “With   the changing demographics of our citizen-  ry,” Kirsch says, “diversity in leadership en-  ables a greater understanding and ability to   plan for an association’s current and rapidly   changing future needs. Staggering a board   by age, although a unique take on the situ-  ation, may allow much needed collective   perspective. Whether to implement such a   rule needs to be made on a case-by-case ba-  sis based on the operating documents and   composition of the association members   and needs.   “Is this rule discriminatory?” Kirsch   continues. “Will it survive court scrutiny?   It may very well. The association is a private   corporation, and the purpose of the rule is   not age-based or based on any other type of   housing restriction, or discrimination cate-  gory. Rather, it is connected to a purpose of   the condominium, which is to protect the   equity and health and safety of the mem-  bers it serves for now and in the future. An   amendment is the most secure method to   adopt such a change. There are no cases on   point as yet, so we can only wait and see.”   Encouraging Diversity  Hakim suggests there are steps that can   be taken to encourage diversity in all direc-  tions. “A corporation or association could   amend its bylaws to require a certain level   of attendance at meetings,” he says. “Failure   to attend would be deemed an automatic   resignation. A younger resident with a   business lifestyle may elect not to obligate   him or herself, or resign. The converse   might be to amend how meetings are held,   allowing use of Skype, or teleconferenc-  ing via smartphone. That might encourage   those who are more technologically savvy   but not physically available. You have both   sides of the coin. One side pushes to those   with more time, the other by adding differ-  ent means of attendance. That opens doors   to younger, more time-strapped people.”  Another avenue to more diversity, sug-  gests Hakim, is the use of term limits and   staggered seats. “Term limits are a great   idea to force new blood onto a board. Com-  placency is still a problem, though. You   don’t want vacant seats, which could result   if no new potential members step forward.”   Scott Piekarsky, a co-op and condomin-  ium attorney and principal at the Wyckoff,   New Jersey firm of Piekarsky & Associates,   concurs. “Some communities are turning   to term limits to promote diversity and   get more board turnover,” he says. “Older,   long-serving board members tend to want   to stay on forever.”  “The best-run associations,” says Lom-  bardi, “are those that are dedicated to in-  creasing  the value  of the  property.”  He   doesn’t  see  any  correlation  between  that   goal and the relative age of board members.   “Every person approaches the job of being   a board member with their own needs,   ideas and wishes. It’s a matter of dedication,   not age.”  At Loggerheads  In many communities, a lopsided age   balance on the board can lead to confron-  tation. “In diverse communities – particu-  larly the newer ones – I’ve seen the differ-  ences of opinion that can result from age   differences on a board,” says Piekarsky. “If   they don’t have full facilities, like a play-  ground or a basketball court for the kids,   there can be vocal, growing families who   want these amenities, but the older resi-  dents don’t want it – and the tug of war   begins.” He cites one community in which   the older empty nesters began moving out   because the younger tenants became so vo-  cal, and the resulting changes made them   uncomfortable in the community.  Interestingly, Piekarsky notes, this age   friction doesn’t limit itself to multi-gener-  ational communities. He says that in some   over-55 communities the 50-year-olds are   fighting with the 80-year-olds.   BOARD RELATIONSHIPS  ISTOCKPHOTO.COM  Board Demographics  Old Guard Versus New Blood  BY A J SIDRANSKY  continued on page 20 

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