Tag Archives: Volunteer

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!

Can Husband and Wife to Serve On Condo Board Together?

M.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a couple owning 2 condo units be on the HOA board at the same time in Florida?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., thank you for your question. As you know I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is Florida community association law so please consider my advice here as friendly and not legal. If you think you need a legal opinion on this matter, I strongly suggest you speak with an attorney in your area knowledgeable of Florida Community Association Law. That being said, your question has two possible answers that I am aware of. Start with your governing documents. My guess is that the documents are either silent on the issue or prohibit two owners from the SAME unit serving on the Board. Since there are two different units involved in your example, I don’t see why there would be a prohibition of the husband and wife serving as long as they were each representing one of the two units they own. While I am not an expert in Florida law on the matter, I have read that the laws in Florida that pertain to condominiums – the Florida Corporation act and the Florida Condominium Act – do not prohibit co-owners who own more than one unit from serving. The Florida Condominium Act does address the issue but also allows for an exception if there are no other unit owners willing to serve. You can read an interesting article on the subject here: http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2016/01/articles/qa/can-husband-and-wife-serve-on-the-board-at-the-same-time/. All the best!

Condo Bullying and Harassment

R.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can unit owners in Florida do when bullied, followed, harassed, watched, threatened, etc. by condo association members and property manager? Especially when a lot of us are elderly and/or disabled physically in some way? Can you at least point me in the right direction?

Mister Condo replies:

R.C., I am sorry you and your neighbors find yourselves bullied, harassed, threatened or otherwise bothered by anyone, let alone the folks who govern and manage your association. True bullying, harassment, and threats are criminal offenses which should be reported to the proper authorities, including your local police department. Short of that, you might want to speak to an attorney who specializes in elder law to see what types of protections you are offered. The Property Manager works for and reports to the Board of the condo. You and your fellow unit owners have elected the Board to serve. If they aren’t doing the job properly, it’s time for a new Board. The condominium’s governance documents spell out the rules, regulations, and enforcement procedures for the condo. I guarantee you that bullying and harassment are not a part of those documents. In my experience, the best remedy for a condo bully is to stand up to him. That may mean removing him or her from his position of authority. It may even mean calling the police or bringing suit against him or her in a court of law. Bullies like victims, not folks who fight back. In Florida, you might want to check out the Department of Elder Affairs website to see if there are local resources to help you as well. You can find the information online at http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/report_abuse.php. Good luck!

Condo Board Member Regularly Abstains from Voting!

T.H. from North Carolina writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have a board of five and it seems that when they vote on any proposals one board member always abstains and nothing get done. Is this legal? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

T.H., thanks for writing. The legality of the vote is defined by two things. What do the governing documents say and what do any local, state, or federal laws say. As you know I am not an attorney and I offer no legal advice here. If you require a true legal opinion, I suggest you contact a local attorney who specializes in community association governance.

From a friendly perspective, I will offer that unless the Board Member who is abstaining from voting has a legitimate reason for doing so (a conflict of interest, for instance), this Board Member’s service to the Board and to the association is dubious at best. I do not believe there is anything illegal about abstaining from a vote. In fact, I believe it is a right and there are certainly times when abstaining makes perfect sense. However, to patently abstain each and every time a vote comes around is simply not a practice that the community needs to support. Since votes of the Board are association records, it would be fair to point this out at the next election cycle and suggest a better candidate for the position. If no one runs against this Board member and he or she is reelected, this abstinence of voting will likely continue and the community will continue to face the challenge of not getting anything done. All the best!

Condo Board Resign Looking to Help Fill Vacated Seat

T.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I resigned from our Board in August and the present board have not filled the empty seat. Our by-laws require us to have 5 members. I was told I can request a “special meeting” to have that seat filled. How do I go about doing this? And am I required to get someone to fill this seat? Or can the present board put one of themselves in that spot which 2 are up for re-election in March or do they need to get someone? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., I am sorry you needed to resign from your Board. Quite frankly, once you resigned from the Board, none of this is your problem anymore. For the remaining Board members, they simply need to review the governance documents and follow the procedure for filling your vacated seat. Typically, the seated Board has the power to appoint a qualified candidate to fill the vacancy. Some condo documents do call for a special election or call for the vacancy to be filled at the next regularly scheduled election. Either way, it is a fairly straightforward process. It would be unlikely that you would be required to get someone to fill your seat but I am sure the remaining Board members would be open to any suggestions you may have to help them find an interested candidate. Good luck to you and your Board!

Condo Board Candidate Withdraws from Race and Assigns Votes to Another Candidate

D.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is in the process of elections. Ballots are out and are due in 11 days. One of the candidates decided she does not want to be on the board. So, she sent out an email informing the association and says she is putting another homeowner in her place. And noted that all her votes will go towards the new person. Is she allowed to do this? Or does she resign if she is elected and then the board decides on a new person? Or do the other 5 candidates automatically get on?

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., I am sorry that I cannot answer these questions immediately as I handle them on a first come, first served basis. Your elections are already over but here’s my advice in case this comes up again. Refer to your specific governing documents to see what it says about elections. Most are quite explicit in the methodology and include the requirements for becoming a candidate and the election process. My guess is that what this nominated candidate has done is not allowed or even addressed in the documents. She is attempting to provide and undue influence on the outcome of the election and while it may not make any difference to the outcome of the election, it is an unfair practice. As a candidate, you have two choices – run or don’t run. You don’t get to tell the electorate where your votes are going. They go to you or they go to an opponent. They are not “yours” to delegate to another candidate as if a vote for you is a proxy for you to do with as you see fit. Depending on how this election went and how satisfied or dissatisfied the association members are, they could either accept the results or challenge them (which could involve a lawsuit and/or another election). If everyone seems happy, my advice is to let things lie and don’t ever allow this person a chance to interfere in the democratic election process again. It is unfair and puts the association in a precarious legal position at the least, and at a possible lawsuit position at the worst. Instead of a win/win, it is a lose/lose proposition. Good luck!

No Volunteers for Board to Take Over Condo from Developer!

R.G. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What happens if too few owners run for a board at its initial creation/takeover from the developer? I have tried searching, briefly, online and in the declarations for an answer to this question, without success. If there is governing law can you give me the citation? I understand that in some states the state will appoint board members. Thank you for your assistance.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., having active association members govern their own association is a critical function of unit ownership inside a condo or HOA. The transition from developer to Board control is a critical stage in the development of any condominium association. I am discouraged to learn that there doesn’t seem to be any volunteers willing to serve. In theory, the developer turns over control to the Board. If the Board doesn’t take over the control because there is no Board, it is quite possible that folks who are owed money be the association could sue the association. Again, because there is no Board to take counter action and defend against that suit, judgment would be found for the plaintiff and the association would then have collection actions taken against it. If the association were found insolvent, a judge could appoint a receiver to handle the collections process. That is really bad news for the owners of record when that happens. The receiver will then set the common fees, issue special assessments, and more. The receiver also has the ability to take collection actions against unit owners who don’t pay up. This means huge legal expenses for both the association and the individual owners. It is a downward spiral you really do not want any part of, in my opinion.

As long as there are enough volunteer leaders to support a Board, the Board should be formed. I have many recommendations for new Boards. First and foremost, don’t go it alone. Second, don’t cheap out. This is no time to “do it yourself” to save money. The Board should hire a community association attorney with experience in developer transition, a property manager to assist with property management issues, and an accountant to keep track of finances and/or audit the developer’s books as the operating fund and Reserve Fund are transitioned from the developer to the association. Look to your local chapter of the Community Associations Institute for additional resources. Here in Connecticut, that is CAI-CT, found on the web at http://www.caict.org. Good luck!

Condo Association Money Spent on Private Property

B.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board spend money on things are not part of our common area? They want to do something on private property. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

B.M., without knowing all of the specifics it is difficult to give you a full answer. The Board is made up of volunteer leaders elected from within your condo association. As such, they are charged with governing your association, which includes how funds are spent from the common fees collected. If the Board has come to the conclusion that this means making an offsite expenditure, then they are likely within their rights to do so. However, all monies need to be accounted for and records need to be made available to all unit owners upon request. If they are spending $100 to be a sponsor in a local Little League or something civic in nature like that, there may be no foul. However, if they are spending thousands of dollars to construct a swimming pool at the property manager’s home, you have every right to be concerned. If you and other unit owners are concerned that your common fees are being misappropriated, it might be time to get some new Board members. They are elected to conduct association business and protect association assets. If they aren’t doing that, it’s time for some new Board members. All the best!

Questionable Actions By Strata (Condo) Board

S.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our strata president had her hardwood flooring upgrade secretly paid for by the ownership of our strata. How can we get her to pay it back? Her friends on council voted to pay because the president threatened to sue the strata.

Mister Condo replies:

S.O., I am sorry to hear that some impropriety may have occurred at your strata association. (First off, for my American readers, “strata” is another word for condo and “council” is another word for Board, commonly used in parts of Canada or Australia.) I am guessing you are from one of those two places. Regardless of where you reside, abuses of power by Board members, including the President, should not be tolerated and usually lead to removal from office and/or legal action. Your strata governing documents likely outline the procedure for taking action against the offender. That being said, there may be some mitigating circumstances to consider before any action is taken. You mention that this president was threatening to sue the strata. Was it because of another incident? Was the hardwood flooring offered as settlement for that suit? Without first-hand knowledge of what actually transpired, it is difficult for me to give you solid advice. If this was a simple case of the Board approving an expenditure that it shouldn’t have, then the Board needs to be held accountable. For most associations, that would lead to a recall of the sitting members and replacement with new members who will do a better job of looking out for the association’s interests. The new Board would likely seek help from the association’s attorney to recover the money that was spent improperly. That may include bringing suit against the President, who would have been voted out of office at that time. For many associations, the cost of pursuing the remedy may outweigh the cost of the damage done. In that case, simply vote out the Board at the next election and replace with better council members. Good luck!

Condo Owner Seeks to Beautify Common Grounds

D.D. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo. In the front of my unit, all you see is the garage and one window, then a small flowerbed and sidewalk leading to my walkway. How can I make the flower bed look good?

Mister Condo replies:

D.D., generally speaking all plantings in the association’s common areas are planted and maintained by the association. There are some association’s that allow unit owners to plant in particular areas near their units with the caveat that the property is still owned by the association and the unit owner needs to follow the association’s prescribed guidelines on what can and can’t be planted there. For instance, you might think a lovely sunflower would look good but the association may think it is too tall or might attract squirrels. The bottom line is that you should ask before you do anything to the planting area. If the association says it is OK for you to plant there, make sure you ask what types of ground cover are allowed. Then, of course, do your best to keep it looking good. I am sure you would do that anyways as it leads you and your visitors right to your front door. Happy Planting!