Getting elected to the board of one's co-op or condo building is usually a very positive thing: it gives a person the chance to play a part in the preservation of their community, and also gives them the opportunity to leave it in better shape than when they started. But great power comes with great responsibility that must be utilized properly. Board members can suddenly find themselves in tough spots when figuring out how to balance their status and fiduciary duty with relationships that may predate their position of authority.
How should one tackle their authoritative roles with existing friends and neighbors? Whether it’s something as simple as repainting a kitchen to something as serious as falling behind on your fees, there’s a tactful way to approach all these situations so as to maintain stature, maintain friends, and not get in trouble along the way.
Know–and Make Known–Your Role
Board members, although somewhat of an authority figure in their building community, need to find a healthy balance between being an administrator and being a friendly neighbor.
“I think it is important that when a person is elected to the board, they advise the other association members that they only hold one vote—they're one of either five or seven members,” says Donald Onorato, an attorney based in Hackensack. “One board member has no more authority than another. Board members should be aware that they must act together as a board. Any deviation from their duties, or acting outside the scope of their authority can subject them to litigation and claims of breach of fiduciary duty.”
“As an officer, I'm kind of an acting manager, too,” says Don Williams, treasurer-secretary of Mendham Knolls Condominiums in Mendham Township. “As such, I try to make financially-sound decisions because that affects me as a homeowner, too. I've always been conscientious about decisions I make as an officer and as a manager.”