No matter what the profession or position, it’s difficult to work where you live. For condo and HOA board members, that can certainly be the case. These volunteers must make decisions that impact not only the bottom line, but their friends and neighbors as well. That reality makes matters of ethics and etiquette even more important for board members as they strive to be fair and smart representatives of their community at large.
Part of the Greater Good
First and foremost, according to the experts, it is important to remember one key point: whether in a co-op or condo, a board member is a representative of the people. Too often, “Shareholders or unit owners will run for the board with a specific agenda—something personal,” says Rosemary Paparo, director of management for Buchbinder & Warren, a property management firm based in Manhattan. “They’ll think, ‘I want to do this with my apartment, or ‘I have this issue.’ And it’s not even a broad issue, but something in which they alone are interested. They can’t do that.”
Board members are elected to serve the entire association and make decisions based on what’s best for the community. The decisions they make should function for the greater good, and not succumb to the “tyranny of the majority,” as one manager interviewed put it.
Board members also have to remember their fiduciary responsibility to the building. “They have to ask, ‘What’s in the best interest of the co-op or condo? Will the decision I’m making hold up five or 10 years down the road?’” Paparo says. For example, “raising a fee might not help my building right now, but will it prevent shortfalls later? Will it help the association in the longer term?”
Going hand-in-hand with the idea of working for the greater good comes the basic rule that board members cannot fly solo, meaning they should only act with the authority of the entire board behind them and in the best interest of their residential constituents. Individual board members must remember that their decision isn’t the end-all.