Category Archives: Volunteer

Condo Board Refuses to Hold Annual Meeting!

J.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association elects board members at the annual association meeting. The current board will not schedule the annual election. The current board just keeps making decisions. How can a non-board member force the board to schedule an annual meeting so that new board members can be elected? The By-Laws call for the annual meeting to be held in April and they must give a minimum of 21 days’ notice.

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., if your Board is operating outside of the governing documents (it sure sounds like they are), you can do a few things to correct the situation. First, you can speak with other unit owners and call a Special Meeting of the unit owners following the method to do so outlined in your governing documents. This requires some organizational skills on your part and you do need to follow the proper procedures to do so. Your goal in this meeting would be to recall the current Board (essentially remove them from office) and replace them with better volunteer leaders who will follow the rules of governance for the association. This is serious business and I would even recommend that you speak with an attorney who specializes in community association law to guide you. This will cost money but is worth every penny, in my opinion. Your second option is to sue the Board for not following the governance rules of the association. This option may force the annual meeting but will do little to remove the Board members who are not following the rules. Your third option is to leave this community. That is a drastic measure but if you can’t find better volunteer leaders to run this association, you can either live with the out of rule-breaking Board or sell your unit. Communities get the Boards they deserve. If your fellow unit owners aren’t outraged that this Board isn’t operating by the rules, it is time to leave. It is only a matter of time before more than missed meetings are unearthed. Boards that operate in this renegade fashion are usually breaking multiple rules. This can cost every member of the association dearly in their pocketbook if left unchecked. You have your work carved out for you. Good luck!

Condo Board Divided Not Getting Work Done

R.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My board can’t agree on replacing security cameras. Meanwhile we have no cameras. Our pool is also closed since November for structural repairs. Five members can’t agree on anything or even get a quorum. I want to know what can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., other than running for the Board yourself or electing folks that work better together, there isn’t anything you can do. Board members are volunteer leaders from within your community and are democratically elected by you and the other unit owners in your association. They are charged with conducting the business of the association but they don’t have to get along or agree on anything, kind of like members of Congress! Unlike members of Congress, they aren’t compensated for their work but that doesn’t mean they can ignore the wishes of their constituents! My advice is to look at the Minutes of the Board meetings this past year and find out how the members are voting. If you don’t like what you see, organize more like-minded candidates to run for the Board. Perhaps you should consider running? That way, you’ll have a ringside seat to see what is causing these delays. Otherwise, my guess is you can expect more of the same. Good luck!

No Elections Held for Years at this Condo!

P.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if no new elections have taken place for several years? Can board members just keep voting selves in?

Mister Condo replies:

P.A., unchallenged, a seated Board can do a lot of things, including behave outside the rules of governance for the association. Your documents clearly state how elections to the Board are held. Most require annual meetings of the shareholders (unit owners) at which time two very important things should happen. The adoption of the Annual Budget which sets out the common fee schedule and how the money will be spent throughout the year and the election of Board members are the two things that generally must happen. If there are no unit owners coming to these meetings and no unit owners looking to serve, guess what happens? The seated Board is free to do just about whatever they want because there is no one to stop them from continuing to serve on the Board. As long as the association’s bills are getting paid and no one is pushing back on the common fees it would appear as the other unit owners are content to let things be. This is an incredibly dangerous situation and a condominium association I couldn’t get out of fast enough but it does happen. When you purchase into a condominium association you are actually purchasing into a corporation. If you don’t care what happens to your investment you don’t have to pay attention to how the corporation is run. The same is true in a condominium. If you and your fellow unit owners are ready to challenge the sitting board, I would suggest you all attend the Annual Meeting this year and get ready to run for office. It is an unpaid, volunteer position but it is vital to the healthy running of the association. Even if you are not elected to serve, the fact that unit owners like you are paying attention may be all this Board needs to offer more transparency. Shame on any association member who doesn’t care enough about how the corporation is run to not pay attention to something as important as this. They will have no one to blame but themselves if the association is poorly run or money goes missing. Good luck!

Condo Board Unwilling to Maintain and Upkeep Common Grounds

J.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The association refuses to repair muddy spots in my lawn. They are from the clay dirt and require maintenance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., maintenance and upkeep of common areas are the purview of the Board. I assume the area you are describing as “my lawn” is, in fact, common ground. The Board is not actually under any obligation to do anything although most would want the association landscaping to be in good shape so as to increase curb appeal and unit owner enjoyment of the property. If your Board has no interest in the maintenance or upkeep of the property, it is time for a new Board. Perhaps, you would like to serve? Ask the Board to make the repair, not just to the portion of the common grounds that abut your unit but to all of the common grounds. If they are unwilling, find better candidates to serve on the Board and vote the current Board out at your next election. All the best!

Michigan Condo Owner Seeks to Replace Board Members and Access Association Records

J.T. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This is in the state of Michigan: What percentage of signed owners (in agreement) are needed to release the current board members? And, replace? How does an owner or owners (#) demand to receive current and past (3 years) bills (invoices) for services, including the property management company and accounting?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., since I am neither an expert in Michigan condo law nor an attorney, I posed your question to a group of friends who do practice community association law in your state. This is not to be construed as legal advice. It is just some friendly advice to guide you on your way. You may wish to seek your own legal opinion and/or hire an attorney to guide you on your path. Here is what my friend had to offer:

In Michigan, the ability to remove a director(s) is typically governed by the association bylaws a/k/a the corporate bylaws. Depending on the age of the governing documents, the condominium bylaws and the association bylaws may be merged into one document. Therefore, the first place to look would be in the association bylaws, which usually has a procedure to remove a director. In addition, most condominium associations are nonprofit corporations and the Michigan Nonprofit Corporation Act also has provisions regarding removing a director. See MCL 450.2511 and MCL 450.2514.

In order to demand current and past bills, the individual would need to send a demand for inspection of records letter. The letter can be sent under the 1) Nonprofit Corporation Act, 2) the Michigan Condominium Act and/or 3) the Condominium Bylaws. As an attorney, my firm routinely handles such requests.

That sounds like solid advice to me, J.T.! All the best!

Condo Board D&O Dos and Don’ts

C.V. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can board members be sued along with the management company? Should board members carry extra insurance other than the standard policy already in force by association? Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

C.V., that is a great question! I am not an attorney, so please accept my reply as friendly advice. You may wish to pose the same question to your association attorney for a proper legal answer. In today’s litigious society it is quite possible for Board Members as well as the Property Management company and even the Association as a whole to be sued. The association typically holds insurance policies that cover them for a wide range of possible lawsuits. Directors and Officers (D&O) is one of those policies and it covers Board Members for most typical lawsuits they might face in the performance of their duties. For most Board Members, that is enough coverage for peace of mind while serving as a volunteer member of Board of Directors. However, there have been cases where Board Members have made exceptionally poor decisions that can lead to criminal and/or personal lawsuits that are outside the scope of this coverage.  I am not sure if any additional insurance coverage would have helped them but it may be worth a conversation with your personal agent, especially if you are quite well off and concerned that a personal lawsuit would be a burden worth insuring against. I have personally served on Boards for most of my adult condo life and I have never sought additional coverage. Then again, I have never been sued performing my duties as a Board Member and I can’t imagine any of my actions as a Board Member not being covered by the association’s D & O policy. That being said, I wouldn’t consider serving on a Board where the D & O policy wasn’t in place and kept current. All the best!

Small Condo; Big Governance Problem!

J.P. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a small condo association in Florida. While being a new owner, I have noticed that the whole board and the running of the property is out of control. The President has been in place for several years as I can tell since no one else wanted to be on the board. It is a 55+ community. He also put himself as the property manager. The budget is less than $100K, so no property management company is required. He does not pay any HOA fees as he says that is in lieu of his property manager position. The association never voted for this, he just took this over on his own. He bullies the owners who are old and some do not speak good English. When he gets mad at you, he is very vindictive and knocks on people’s doors late at night. This guy is in his 70’s and a heavy drinker. I voted myself onto the board recently as Treasurer to have a voice and he has yet to hand over the books, check writing, etc. Many people believe he is hiding stuff and he now refuses to answer his door or calls from me. He feels threatened and believes I will expose what he has been doing the past 5 years or so. What do you recommend the best course of action to get control of the situation? I have spoken to the association’s lawyer who says to file a complaint with the state (Florida), I plan to do so in hopes of getting the ball rolling to have him removed. We also have cameras throughout the property which he installed but he is the only one who has control of them as it is set up in his unit. Many people feel uncomfortable as he watches all day and approaches people when they get home. I have to assume that is not legal as when we ask to see a clip he does not allow it. As you can see this place is a mess and would be happy to hear any suggestions you may have before I contact the state. Thank you for your advice.

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., there is very little that I can add before you contact the state, which I hope you have already done. The association attorney can only do as much as the association (the Board) instructs him or her to do. You do need to review your governance documents (or have the attorney review them for you) to see what steps will be necessary to remove the President from office and from the Board. If funds are missing or misappropriated, there may very well be criminal charges as well. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the association should go after the unpaid common fees. Board members are not exempt from common fees and unless there is some kind of formal agreement between the President and the Association for him to serve as a paid Property Manager, he will have to make good on those unpaid fees as well as any late fees. Shame on your fellow unit owners who took no action until now. From what you have said, this behavior has been going on for years. Who knows what financial perils this person has brought upon the association. What about other Board members? Are there none? This situation stinks to high heaven and you are correct to pursue a remedy for you and all of the other unit owners are at serious financial risk as long as this individual has the association checkbook. The time for action is now. Good luck!

Condo Owner Seeks Association Employee Salary Info

D.U. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo owner demand or file freedom of information form to see how much the maintenance people are paid, that work for the management company? Their salaries are set by the condo association in their budget. I know they are paid well and receiving hefty bonus payments twice a year.

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., This is a question I get quite often. You can see some of my previous replies here: http://askmistercondo.com/?s=salaries I can understand your curiosity about how much employees of the association are making, especially since their salaries are paid by you and your fellow unit owner through your common fee contributions. However, I would liken it to the same way your tax dollars pay for municipal employees. Just as municipal employees are employed by the city, association employees are employed by the association and under the purview of the Board. You do have access to the budget, which details certain expenses of the association, including salaries and benefits. Your democratically elected Board of Directors is keeping an eye on the details for you and they do know what the employees are making, including bonuses. They most likely have their reasons for doing so (competitive pay, rewards for work done, etc). You can ask for these records but unless your documents specifically give you the power to review individual salaries, I doubt you will get it. May I ask what you will do with that information? As a unit owner, you have no power to pay employees less or alter their bonuses. If you have an issue with how the Board is handling the salaries and bonuses, you should take it up with them. Ask them how they decide when to offer bonuses. If you are satisfied with their answers, you’re all set. If you don’t like their answers, you are free to vote for other candidates for the Board or run for the Board yourself. I hope that helps.

Condo Board Vacancy Filled; Volunteer Overlooked

C.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a condo Board has a 5-member Board and one resigns, and a new homeowner elects to offer his services for the Board to fill that seat and the remaining 4 Board Members decline to allow that member to become a Board member but would select another homeowner who does not want to be a Board Member and it is personal and they do not allow the one volunteering his services simply because they do not like him, is this collusion, unethical?

Mister Condo replies:

C.W., I would say it is unfortunate but not unethical. Your governing documents spell out how the Board can fill a vacancy. Typically, it is completely up to the Board to make the appointment. Just because there is a willing volunteer from the association looking to be appointed, the Board is not obligated to do so. In a small association like yours, I would simply suggest that the eager volunteer get on the ballot for the next election. At that time, it is up to the unit owners, not just the Board. All the best!

Florida Condo President Facing Multiple Challenges

R.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My 24-unit condo by laws say that an audit must be conducted once a year. Florida statutes say every 3 years. In addition, the property manager pushed through a specific contractor and that was 3 times the price but the other directors back her up. I am the president but I can’t get any info from her because she is aggressive and doesn’t let me say a word without attacking me verbally. I am now taping the meetings. A woman is unofficially taking notes but doesn’t sign them. They are not a good synopsis. What do I do?

Mister Condo replies:

R.H., thank you for your service to your community. I am sorry it isn’t a better experience for you. Let’s try and break down a few of the symptoms and see if we can’t get you on the right path. The audit requirement in your governing documents likely override the state requirement as they call for more frequent auditing. If your bylaws called for audits every 5 years, then the state law would supersede your documents and you would need to audit every three years. The contractor performing the audit is hired by the Board. As long as the rest of the Board is OK with this auditor then there may not be too much you can do about it. Ideally, hiring an auditor is no different than any other vendor. Bids should be collected and a contractor selected. If your Board doesn’t function that way, there may not be too much you can do about this particular vendor. Unofficial notes are not the proper method of taking Minutes of meetings. Are there formal Minutes of your meetings? If not, the association is opening itself up to all kinds of troubles. Minutes are the official and legal records of your meetings. The Board Secretary has the responsibility of keeping these vital records. As President, you are functioning as the executive of the association and it is important that you know what needs to be done. If any vital functions are not being handled correctly, you may need to offer assistance or seek new volunteer leaders from within your community to get the job done. Typically, property managers work closely with their Boards to manage the association. The adversarial relationship you have described to me makes me wonder why the association would renew their agreement with the manager. I would encourage you to take a good look at the management company agreement and get competitive bids for when the renewal comes up. There is no reason for the association to continue using a manager that doesn’t work well with the Board. However, if the rest of the Board is satisfied you may find them reluctant to change management companies. I wish you all the best.