High & Mighty When Boards Go Overboard

There’s nothing worse than being a unit owner in a building and seeing someone disregard a rule and seemingly getting away with it—particularly if that person is a member of your homeowners association board. Sadly, this scenario isn't wildly uncommon. Some building and HOA board members believe that they are “above the law” so to speak, and seem to be operating under a different set of rules than the rest of the building. This could be anything from giving themselves preferential treatment for parking spots, flouting pet rules, fast-tracking their own alteration projects or voting on financial matters when they themselves are in arrears.

Denise Lindsey-Becker, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, vice president of business development at Signature Property Group in Englewood Cliffs, has seen her share of board members try to get away with things, but believes that most of the time such breaches are unintentional.

“I have seen cases of board members not following their own bylaws, but usually they are not aware of it until it’s brought to their attention,” says Lindsey-Becker. “If they are not aware of a certain bylaw that they are in violation of, we’ll bring it to their attention and more times than not, they’ll correct themselves. It usually has to do with landscaping, or parking, or a satellite dish. Maybe they’ll have different plants that don’t follow the landscaping guide—it's not usually anything too egregious.”

“I think every manager has probably experienced a situation where the board has not followed the bylaws. Most times it is not a premeditated decision to not follow the bylaws but more of a misunderstanding,” says Paul Santoriello, PCAM, CMCA, AMS, the president of Taylor Management Company in Whippany. “For example, let’s say somebody were to resign from the board. Oftentimes, the board would then name somebody to replace the resigning board member. But the governing documents might say something to the effect of ‘if there’s greater than x amount of time left in the term then there should be an election.’ Governing documents vary from association to association, and can be a bit vague—associations sometimes have a tough time interpreting them.”

Rogue board members are awful for community morale, have a corrosive effect on residents’ confidence in their board, and can cause a myriad of legal problems. In addition, in Florida there’s a law that if a board member is 90 days past due on his or her assessments, they are no longer eligible to serve on a board. Many New York metro area real estate professionals would like to see a similar law enacted in the Garden State.

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Comments

  • At our last board meeting there was an election. The Bylaw require a secret ballot. When I called the management company to inform them that the back of the ballot they sent requires the name and address of the voter. I was told that unless the form on the back of the ballot included at the very least the unit number of the voter, it would not be a valid ballot. I pointed out that this would be a direct violation of the Bylaws. There was no acknowledgment of that fact. I voted and brought proxies on the signed "secret ballot" so we could at least participate in the election. The management company encourages the board with these maneuvers. Help. Our management company believes that the board is his customer and that the customer is always right. The owner of the management company has been very clear on that point. Solutions?