Just One Big, Happy Family...? Remedies for Dysfunctional Boards

Finding the right balance of involvement between HOAs and condo boards and residents can be like maintaining a healthy relationship with a significant other—you want to be compassionate, responsive and attentive, but not too needy, nosy or aggressive.

With our busy and hectic schedules, association boards might run the risk of being apathetic and disinterested in the status and well-being of the building, leading to unbalanced reserve budgets or broken lights in common areas.

While this lethargy can be an annoyance to those who would like a more dynamic and proactive voice regarding the comfort of their home, the opposite side of the spectrum can also be cause for serious concern. An association board of trustees that oversteps its boundaries, intrudes on the privacy of individual residents and pushes the legal envelope can cause internal sickness, leading to tension, arguments and the end of what should be a long relationship life span.

Power to the People?

The extent of power boards of trustees have over the communities they govern does not have to be a mystery, Stephen Marcus, a partner with the law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer and Brooks, P.C., in Braintree, Massachusetts, explains. “Board powers are spelled out in the condominium documents—usually the trust or bylaws in Massachusetts and to some extent by state law.”

While basic position requirements are laid out in the association’s documents, Jane Bolin, founding partner of PeytonBolin PL, a national community association law firm with offices in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, New York City and New Jersey, finds that a lot of board members do not fully grasp the responsibility their positions require. “I think most boards don’t understand that they’re actually running a not-for-profit corporation, so they treat it likes it’s a volunteer position that doesn’t have these fiduciary duty ties to it.”

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