Attorneys representing co-op, condo, and HOA communities comprise an interesting subset of the legal profession. While ultimately serving as the legal backstop for these communities, that’s not the full measure of what they do; they often act as educators, referees, and therapists as well. In addition to the law, they must also be experts on navigating the complicated interpersonal and administrative landscape that is reality for a lot of multifamily communities, getting disparate groups of people to set aside their own agendas and work together for the common good.
In an effort to learn more about how co-op, condo, and HOA attorneys do their work—and even more importantly, find out how boards can optimize their relationship with their community’s legal counsel—we polled several professionals across several markets, asking them one simple (if not exactly easy) question: What’s one thing you wish more boards knew? Here’s what they had to say:
Sima Kirsch is a community law attorney based in Chicago. “The one thing I want boards to know is that a healthy board is an educated board,” she says. “More than anything else, education is the one factor that can make or break an association’s development. Nothing ever stays the same when it comes to the operation of an association, and an educated board is best able to handle the endless changes. Keeping up with changing times, laws, and trends is crucial, and allows a board to meet these changes head-on.
“Education also encourages open participation, better decision making, and a shared platform of community and understanding. Education helps a board address the varying needs of the association, and to understand and handle changing demographics. It also helps them understand the need for reserve studies, and design ways to meet reserve demands. It enables them to tackle ongoing technology needs, and to modernize their volunteer structure, as committees and volunteers are more important than ever.
“Education helps a board better understand the basic concepts of federal, state, local, and case laws,” Kirsch continues, “and the application of their own operating documents when it comes to general association administration, best practices, fiduciary duty, and the business judgment rule. It teaches them about their investments and how to manage finances, resolve conflict, understand owner rights and their own statutory responsibilities. An educated board knows the differences in the varying insurance requirements, and can determine who and what needs to be covered. All kinds of issues may be lurking around the corner, including FHA claims, claims by employees, owners raising election issues, and vendor contracts, to name a few. Furthermore, education promotes the selection of professionals that meet an association’s particular needs and help it uphold its obligations.”