It is not easy being a trustee. There are meetings to attend, documents to review, decisions to make, and neighbors to mollify. There are also a number of rules and regulations that must be followed in order to ensure that the individual and collective actions of a board meet all legal and ethical requirements.
In New England, state-specific laws interlock with a community’s governing documents to spell out what boards can —and can’t—do. In Massachusetts, “The basic information comes from the Massachusetts statute—although the statute is an enabling statute, meaning that for the most part, it introduces topics and provides condo associations with broad authority, the expectation being that the details get filled in by the association’s condominium documents,” explains attorney Gary Daddario of Winer & Bennett, LLP, a law firm with offices in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire. Each association’s documents provide “more specific explanations and limitations of [statute] powers for the boards, specifically the declaration of trust,” he adds.
Section 11 of the Massachusetts General Law Chapter 183A details the five things that condo boards must do with their bylaws: maintain, repair and replace common areas and facilities; collect the fees for common expenses; hire personnel; establish a method of adopting and of amending the administrative rules and regulations; and establish restrictions and requirements respecting the use and maintenance of the units and the use of common areas and facilities, says attorney Mark Rosen, Of Counsel at Schofield Law Group in Boston, and a former partner at Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC.
The governing documents that establish co-op and condo communities also provide a fairly clear framework describing most of the duties and expectations assigned to board members. “In both co-ops and condos, [those powers are detailed in] the bylaws and the Business Corporation Law (BCL),” says attorney Steve Troup, partner at law firm Tarter Krinsky & Drogin, which has offices in New York City and New Jersey. “In addition, it’s possible that a condo’s declaration of condominium may prescribe certain actions, but typically the declaration defers to the bylaws.”
The definitions of trustees’ roles tend to be “very general in nature,” says attorney Alessandra Stivelman of Eisinger, Brown, Lewis, Frankel & Chaiet, P.A., based in Hollywood, Florida. “For example, it may say ‘treasurer will handle finances,’ but those powers can be expanded as time goes on. There may also be restrictions in the document, such as the president cannot also be the secretary.”