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The Best Way to Avoid Conflicts With Condominium Boards

Dreamworker has been successfully retired for many years and likes helping other people to have good retirements also.

It is common for most condominium owners to think that residents have conflicts with their boards of directors.

There are several reasons for this which include but are not limited to

  1. The fact that people who serve as directors generally have no background or training that has prepared them to deal with the types of issues condo boards of directors must deal with
  2. Poor guidance for boards from their property managers
  3. Misunderstandings by owners with regards to their rights and responsibilities
  4. Personality conflicts between board members and residents
  5. Laws that keep residents from exercising their rights
  6. Board members who abuse their authority
Advice that will help condo owners avoid problems with the people who sit on their boards.

Advice that will help condo owners avoid problems with the people who sit on their boards.

Understand Your Board

The basic concept of condominiums is to provide a form of cooperative living for people who do not want to be burdened by the costs and labor involved in taking care of external maintenance.

The concept is good, but those who came up with it apparently did not pay attention to the fact that somebody had to oversee the management of these places and should have been properly trained, licensed and qualified to do so.

If you leave that component out of the mix, you create ongoing problems that create negative consequences for everybody involved in condominiums.

Nobody would put an untrained, uneducated and inexperienced person in charge of a corporation, yet this is what happens with condominiums, all of which are legally classed as not-for-profit corporations!

This being the case, there is no way that people living in condos can expect to have effective boards that are responsive to their needs, do a good job of managing their money and maintain peace in their communities.

All condo communities have documents that tell boards and residents about the rules and regulations that govern them, but these are no good unless boards and residents read and understand them.

This rarely happens because the documents were prepared by lawyers, and most people do not understand legal terminology. Just as important is the fact that most people do not even want to bother trying!

Thus, what you get is a board that makes its own rules and owners that have no clue as to what their rights are!

Given these circumstances, it is very difficult for board members and residents to avoid conflicts unless they make it a point to understand their circumstances and take steps to avoid problems.

Don't Expect Much From Management Companies

Residents rarely understand that management companies are employed by boards to help them take care of legal and more complex financial issues.

Owners tend to think that they can complain to these companies, but since they are employees rather than bosses, doing so is mostly a waste of time.

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People think that management companies are run by highly experienced workers, but for the most part, they are nothing more than well-dressed, loosely trained clerks who sit behind big desks and perform poorly.

Nonetheless, you have no say in which firm is employed, so you can't do much about the mistakes they make other than to pay attention to any financial issues that directly affect you.

For example, one company kept withdrawing assessment money from residents' accounts long after the assessment ended. Those who paid attention were able to get refunds. The others are probably still paying!

Know Your Rights

Boards of directors are more powerful than most people realize because, among other things, they have the right to spend your money, create contracts on your behalf, fine rule breakers, create rules, add amendments to documents, and make alterations to buildings and grounds.

On the other hand, you as an owner in good standing have the right to attend and speak at all open meetings, vote on material alterations, elect people to the board, remove people from the board, inspect official records and vote on amendments.

However, because you live in a community that is designated as a not-for-profit corporation, you are governed by a set of laws that are different from those you would have to follow if you owned a house.

For example, you only own the space in which you live. Therefore, you do not have the right to make structural changes, plant flowers, hang decorations on the outside of your condo, park on the grass or hire your own roofer or lawn care person.

This is one of the most difficult things for people who buy into condos to understand, and many argue with boards about them because they feel such things infringe on their rights.

However, this is not true. While people do own a share of the property, the law clearly states that the association is responsible for overseeing its care.

Any rules put in place by a board must be adhered to, whether owners like them or not.

Thus, to avoid problems, it's important for residents to make sure they understand and follow all rules and obey all laws.

Read and Learn the Documents

Potential buyers are always given the opportunity to read the governing documents of a community before they make their purchase. They then are asked to sign papers stating that they have read and understand them.

However, these papers are usually long, complicated, written in legalize and difficult for most people to understand.

Furthermore, there is usually only a limited amount of time for buyers to read them, they are emotionally stressed, are in the process of making an expensive purchase and are also involved in the business of packing and moving.

Many people also assume that what is in these documents won’t affect them. Most just don’t want to be bothered.

A committee has given them the basic rules and answered any questions they have, so they think this takes care of what they need to know.

These things don’t even come close to being what people should do about their documents if they want to be able to protect themselves when they become residents.

Those who take the time to read the governing documents or have an attorney review and explain them take the first step in protecting themselves in the event a board tries to deny them the few rights they have!

At the very least, even after moving into their new homes, people should make sure to read these papers.

People should never assume that all governing documents say the same things, because they do not. So, even if they are moving from one condo to another, the rules of the game can vary significantly.

For example, one might limit the amount of money a board can spend without a community vote, while another might not set any limits at all!

Speak Up Only When Necessary

Most Boards don’t like it when residents speak up at meetings. They will do everything to shut them up because they do not want people to get in the way of their agendas.

It is common for them to lie, manipulate and misrepresent, but when people speak up, they let other residents know that they are not being given the whole story.

So, while you have the right to speak, you should always bear in mind that you have to live with the people who are in charge.

If you cross them or make them look bad, they will do everything possible to make life miserable for you.

Speak up only as needed.

Speak up only as needed.

Record Meetings

Most cell phones today have the ability to make voice recordings. It is always a good idea to use this function when you go to board meetings because doing this does three things:

  1. It helps you to remember what was said
  2. It lets board members know that what they said will be on record
  3. It allows you to email the recordings to residents who were unable to attend meetings

Most state statutes allow residents to videotape or record board meetings as long as doing so does not get in the way of meetings and as long as the board is advised that recordings are being made.

Recordings are great to have because they can be replayed for directors who have lied to residents about various issues.

For example, one director told people at different meetings that the community had anywhere from 10 to 45 leaking roofs, but the real count was 15. This proved that the director was being less than honest.

Protect Yourself

Defending yourself against boards begins the second you are handed a copy of your condominium's declarations.

It is then that you should decide whether you really want to own a particular condominium or not.

Always bear in mind that no matter how good the situation may seem, it just takes one malicious board member to create problems for you.

Something as small as an extra chair on your patio or a pot of flowers hanging off of your eave can make you a target.

However, if you don't provide a reason, your board cannot touch you!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Sondra Rochelle


Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 25, 2018:

Natalie Frank: I'm so glad you posted this comment, because it points out exactly what I said in this article. You are spot on. Right now, I'm in a vicious fight with my own condo board, and despite hiring a lawyer and having all kinds of documentation, it still is an uphill battle because of the way the laws in my state are written and because so many owners are simply apathetic, lazy and stupid! I'm sorry you had this experience, but can tell you that many others do as well. That is why I advise standing up for your rights, even though it may be difficult. It's a fight or flight situation, unfortunately,

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on July 25, 2018:

I lived in a condo that I rented from the owners. There was a rogue board as well as a rogue management company and the damage they did to me financially and credit wise was frightening. The amount they stole from me alone and the way the did it was truly malicious. The lies were astounding and sometimes they simply did it in order to do harm. As a renter I was treated completely differently than owners and had no recourse other than hiring an expensive attorney without much proof of that I could provide. I decided to leave and write off my losses. Making sure you take action immediately in cases like these is crucial as if you let them get away with something chances are good they will continue to do so. Plus, dishonest boards will have thought out how to create what seems to be evidence in their defense so documenting everything and getting others who may be able to act as witnesess is important.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 02, 2018:

Good points, but there are other factors that enter into making such a move for many people. Money is the biggest one!

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on July 01, 2018:

Moving is a decision. It is in the mind. There are plenty of condos to choose from. You do not even need to live in a condo. You could rent.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 01, 2018:

Good advice, but easier said than done. Older people can't always move because they need to stay close to their doctors or perhaps it's not financially feasible for them to do so.

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on July 01, 2018:

Yes, you are right. Consider moving rather than fighting.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 01, 2018:

We have lived in our condo for 26 years with very few problems, but last year a new board took over and everything changed....badly. That's the problem. A condo can have a good board when you move in, but if the directors change, so can everything else. Check out the videos on this article and then check YouTube to see more. Unfortunately, there are many condos that have malicious, power hungry boards...some of which have caused residents to lose their homes. Search "South Florida Condo Problems"...and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on June 30, 2018:

We lived in a condo in Texas for several years and it was well managed. I suggest, before buying a condo, get to know the existing board members and some of its history. Then you can make a decision of buying or renting. There are many condos around, so you have your pick. What percentage of condos have "rouge boards?"

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