The Best Way to Avoid Conflicts with Condominium Boards
It is more common than most condominium owners think for residents to have conflicts with their boards of directors.
There are several reasons for this which include but are not limited to
- 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,
- poor guidance for boards from their property managers,
- misunderstandings by owners with regards to their rights and responsibilities,
- personality conflicts between board members and residents,
- laws that keep residents from exercising their rights and
- board members who abuse their authority.
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 which 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 thee 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.
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.
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
- helps you to remember what was said,
- lets board members know that what they said will be on record and
- 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.
Defending yourself against boards begins the second you are handed a copy of your condominiums 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!
If you live in a condo, do you think these tips will help you?
Questions & Answers
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