Q&A: Imposing Term Limits

Q I am the president of a condominium association in Trenton. One of the board  members suggested we put a term limit on board members. Currently we do not  have such a provision in our bylaws. How would be go about making an amendment?  Is a term limit something you would recommend?  

 —Serving Time  

A “I strongly recommend that the members of a Board of Trustees of a condominium  have time limits placed on their terms in office,” says attorney Anne P. Ward of the law firm of Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, & Plaza, P.C in Newark. “The purpose of a limited term of office is two-fold. First, it allows a member sufficient time while in office to learn the skills  necessary to discharge his or her responsibilities in an effective and  competent manner. On the other hand, term limits ensure that only those board  members who are competent and responsive to the condominium’s needs are re-elected to the board. Term limits permit members of an association to either reject or re-elect board  members based on their performance while in office. Thus, unit owners can identify effective leaders and promote continuity through  the institution of term limits.  

 “Moreover, I strongly recommend that board members’ terms be staggered so that only one or two members of a board are running for  re-election in any given year. The bylaws should provide for continuity. This is accomplished by establishing multi-year and staggered terms for the  Board of Trustees. In this way, despite the creation of a vacancy by resignation or otherwise, the  association will always have experienced persons serving on its governing  board. Most importantly, it must be recognized that the worst scheme of all is one  which provides for the annual election of all board members. This approach usually promotes an undue emphasis on association politics at the  expense of good management of the association by the board and often results in  an annual wholesale infusion of new board members, professionals and management  personnel just about the time that the collective experience of their  predecessors was beginning to benefit the association.  

 “In my experience, it is critical to a board’s ability to effectively function that it always has some experienced members.  The participation of seasoned members ensures consistency in the condominium’s management. Board members who are familiar with the various issues which have  been facing a board and who understand a condominium’s projects, priorities, and previous commitments contribute to stable  management. Staggering memberships lightens a new member’s burden during his transition to a leadership role since he can rely on the  experience of other members.  

 “A new member’s learning curve, so to speak, on condominium issues does not disrupt or  unnecessarily delay the condominium’s undertakings if seasoned veterans are available to operate the condominium.  For all the foregoing reasons, most condominium governing documents provide for  staggered elections on an annual basis and do limit a board member’s duration of service to one or two years.  

 “The conduct of the business of the association is governed by the condominium’s governing documents, the master deed and the bylaws. The bylaws of a condominium govern its administration and operation, the  procedural rights and obligations of its members, and the duties and powers of  its Board of Trustees and officers. According to the New Jersey Condominium Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8B-13, a condominium’s bylaws must address “…the powers, duties and manner of selection, removal and compensation, if any, of  officers and board members”.  

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