Volunteer Condo Leader Issues in Volunteer State!

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C.P. from Tennessee writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We retired and moved to a condo to simplify our life. We love our condo, but are becoming frustrated with things being done by the Board. They insist on having 4 HOA meetings a year, and do not inform us of anything to be on the agenda or voted on. It’s as though the only people who get to vote are those who go to all the meetings. I believe in fairness and the right to vote for everyone. Now they have even said they get to choose one of our 3 directors themselves. Also, they do a budget but don’t send us a proxy with it to vote on it. Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., greetings to you and all our friends in the “Volunteer State”. Thank you for writing and welcome to the world of condo living. Like many retirees, you were probably drawn to the condo lifestyle for ease of living and simple maintenance and upkeep tasks delegated to paid staff. The billboards sure make it look wonderful, don’t they? What they don’t show is the potentially challenging part of the equation which is governance. A group of elected volunteers is tasked with interpreting the association’s by-laws as well as state law on community association governance. While the end result is often good, there are times when situations like yours occur.

I am not an attorney so please accept this following advice as friendly and not legal. All states have laws that govern the establishment of condominiums and other community association properties. Within these laws are the outlined rights of unit owners, including such rights as voting powers and budget ratifications. Closer to home, your own condo documents (that big packet of papers you were provided when you purchased) will detail how the community is to be governed and what rights are included with unit ownership. I would be very surprised if the process of elections and annual budget ratification details are not included. FYI, in the event of a resignation or vacancy, the Board very likely does have the power to fill the vacancy of the Board by making an appointment. However, they are not likely empowered to pass a budget without a vote of the unit owners and the notice of that vote should need to be provided in advance of the meeting and allow for proxy voting.

Additionally, you have a local resource in Tennessee that you should seek out for advice and guidance. The Community Associations Institute (CAI) has a state chapter with an excellent website. You should visit them at http://www.caitenn.org/ to see what education and resources they have for you locally. If things get really difficult, they even have a list of attorneys who specialize in community association law. You can see that list at http://www.caitenn.org/directory.php?type=4&par1=3&par2=ATTORNEYS. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you but it’s nice to know they are professionals available if you need them. All the best!

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