Community associations are microcosms of democracy, run by an elected board of volunteers trusted to make good decisions on behalf of the community as a whole. Boards make the call on every large and small issue for their constituency. So it's not only imperative that these members are carefully vetted and selected, but that during transitions of power from one board to the next, members with more experience help ease in the newcomers to shorten the learning curve and smooth the transition.
Board transitions usually happen after elections at the annual association meeting (often in smaller communities, the same people will be elected or appointed to the board year after year, which in the absence of formal term limits is not necessarily a bad thing). But they can also take place when a board of owners or shareholders in a new development takes the reins from the sponsor or landlord. There are nuances unique to these individual scenarios, but all involve new members acclimating to their roles and relying on the expertise of those who preceded them.
Continuity Is Key
It's pretty rare to see the constitution of a community association board change completely from one election to the next. Unless there's major upheaval – usually as a result of some type of scandal – at least a few board members will be holdovers from the previous administration.
“A staggered board tends to work best,” says Claudine Gruen, Vice President at Garthchester Realty, which has offices in Forest Hills and Scarsdale, New York. “In many buildings, the same board remains year after year, as the members all seek re-election. In my opinion, you want at least a majority of board members to return so that they can catch up new shareholders, as well as any first-time members. Those new members can also review monthly reports and minutes from the previous year in order to better understand what the prior board had done. As management we also provide a tidy synopsis covering what's currently underway, what projects we're involved in, etc.”
While term limits for board members are not universal by any means, they are becoming increasingly common within the governing documents of associations, according to Philip Renzi, Principal with property management firm Renzi Bulger Group in Arlington, Massachusetts. He also recommends staggered terms: “This allows some continuity on the board each year, and allows the board to keep momentum on projects or initiatives. If there are not staggered terms in place, the board should speak to its lawyer about the amendment process and alter their documents to include them.”