Chances are if you’re a resident in a co-op, condo, or HOA community, you’re familiar with your property’s board of directors (or trustees, or managers, depending on what part of the country you live in). Boards are usually made up of volunteers, or members appointed by the community’s initial developer, depending on the property’s age and type. As one might imagine, the stakes are very high. Not only the money, but quite literally the homes of those who call the property home can and will be affected by the functionality and decision-making capabilities of the board. Everything from a leaking roof to the legality of a unit owner subleasing their home is subject to the scrutiny of the board.
Often referred to as the cornerstone of any residential community, the people who hold the various positions on their board have not only an ethical duty, but a fiduciary one as well, to make sure that the residents they serve can enjoy the both the financial and social benefits of multifamily living. To this end, most boards are made up of a few different and equally important positions with a clear and concise aim to help the board function more smoothly as a whole, and insure that the choices made have the interests of the entire community at heart.
Well-defined roles help a board to delegate tasks, provide checks and balances, get and give constructive internal feedback, and spare any one board member from having to shoulder an unfair number of duties. Although different buildings and associations can and do create different positions with different titles and jurisdictions, the most common are president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. These are the most basic and common positions on a board and more than likely the ones your own board uses.
According to Mindy Stern, a partner in Schwartz, Sladkus, Reich, Greenberg and Atlas LLP, a law firm based in New York City, “Typically, officers are also directors (if it is a cooperative) or managers (if it is a condominium), but this is dictated by what the bylaws of the corporation or condominium permit. And if the co-op or condo is occupied by a significant number of non-owner occupants – especially if those units are still owned by the sponsor—it’s common for officers to be affiliated with the sponsor or the managing agent, rather than resident members of the board. Individual officers report to the board, and bylaws typically govern how they are elected and when and how they can be removed and replaced, but ultimately they answer to the shareholders and unit owners who elect them.”
Each and every officer of the board who gains a seat on the board assumes the weight of the expectations of the not only the rest of the board, but the residents as well. These positions also have responsibilities that are more or less unique to the position undertaken. Commonly, the positions and their respective duties are usually outlined in the bylaws of that particular building or association. Bylaws are rules made up by a company or community to regulate itself as allowed or provided by local, state, and federal authority, and help outline and convey how the board must function, including but not limited to the delegation of powers to officers, how often the board must hold meetings both among its members and the residents at large, and the way in which a board must reach decisions, such as a simple majority vote, a quorum, or with the input of all members of the community.