Q&A: Board Term Limits

Q I am the president of a condominium association. One of our owners has requested  that we amend our bylaws to provide for term limits for board members,  requiring them to stay off the board for a year after serving three terms. Is  this legal?  

 —Staying On  

A “There is nothing illegal about amending a condominium’s bylaws to limit the number of terms a board member may serve,” says attorney Foster Jay Cooperstein of the Law Office of Foster Jay  Cooperstein in Newton Centre, MA. “It is possible, but not likely, that the condominium’s bylaws do not allow term limits. In that situation, that provision of the  bylaws would have to be amended as well.  

 “Most condominium bylaws provide for an odd number of board members with  staggered terms. More often than not a member’s term is for more than one year; three-year terms are somewhat typical.  Assuming a three year term, this proposal would limit a member from serving  more than nine consecutive years. In my experience, few board members serve  that long, either due to the pressure of being on the board or because he or  she sells his or her unit.  

 “Like most things, the idea has good and bad points. On the positive side, term  limits may keep fresh ideas flowing and prevent burnout by individual board  members. Also, they may get someone off the board, at least temporarily, who  isn’t doing a good job, without the nastiness of trying to remove or replace that  person. The negative is the loss of someone who is very knowledgeable about  condominiums and the issues concerning the particular condominium. The person  bumping into the term limitation may have special skills or knowledge, such as  accounting, law or construction, that is invaluable to the condominium.  Typically, a few board members do most of the work. The loss of one of these  persons may have a significant negative effect on the condominium. The board  member forced to leave due to a term limit may be replaced by someone lacking  knowledge or skills in any area needed by the condominium and may not be  familiar with the condominium’s master deed, bylaws and rules and regulations.  

 “Another consideration is the size of the condominium. In a small condominium,  special knowledge or expertise is particularly valuable. Also, no other unit  owner may want to be a board member. This is less of a problem in larger  condominiums, but even in condos with 150 or more units, it can be a problem.  

 “In my opinion, term limits should not be looked at as a substitute for action by  unit owners. I’ve seen instances where a single unit owner, or a few unit owners, unhappy with  some action or lack of action by the board, look for a way to make a change.  Instead of opening a discussion with other unit owners, or organizing unit  owners to elect people with a similar view to the board, they look for an ‘easy way’ to deal with their unhappiness. Term limits work this way. Term limits can act  as a way for a minority of owners to overrule the majority. A way to partly  offset that, if a condo considers enacting term limits, is to apply the  limitation ‘going forward.’ That is, current board members are not subject to the limitation until  re-elected.  

 “The proverbial bottom line is that term limitations are legal. However, just  because they are legal does not mean they are good thing. Term limitations  require careful thought and a balancing of the pros and cons of enacting them.”  



  • Term limits should be the norm to prevent board members serving indefinitely. I suggest 8-year term limits. Being a board member is not a life position nor are long-serving board members indispensable
  • We have a 4 fam condo. One man has had the books for the past four years and will not show me or any one the books. what can I do? Is this legal