J.M. from Massachusetts writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a dysfunctional condo board of trustees where I live. It is a fourteen-unit condo and the self-managed board has been in place since condo was built in 1973. There was an attempt in 2009/2010 to hire a management company but the company dropped us after a year due to one board member who was rude, ignorant and treated the management company as if we were their only client. Issues at hand are:
- Certain trustees do not want to fine their friends.
- In the past year, the board has taken the lead from one board member who is now gone to not get involved with unit owner issues. The unit owners need to “work it out themselves”.
- Some of the trustees cannot follow the rules themselves. They give the rest of the condo the idea that anyone can do whatever they want but harass others who do follow the rules but don’t conform to their way of thinking.
- Discriminatory towards those on social assistance or lower class. I was a board member at the time and the renter was breaking the rules but they enforced the rules to get rid of the renter because they “didn’t belong” or “didn’t fit in” with our community. This forced the unit owner to sell his unit.
- We had a 15 minute parking spot that was removed because one unit owner continue to allow her son to park there for over the 15 minutes and when fined, the unit owner would complain and have the fee waived because of friends on the board.
- Discriminatory against women especially with those that could and would argue back. One male board member, who made himself the lead, thought it was appropriate to degrade the single women on the board by ignoring their request/issues but made sure that get his issues resolved before he sold his unit.
- The condo documents are over 30 years old and have never been updated since the condos were built. Trustees do not see the benefit.
- There is a bully mentality on this board. Pretty sad since one person is a senior citizen in her 80’s and the other is a school teacher.
- We do not follow Roberts rules or assign jobs like president, secretary, etc. The only one on the board that took any type of training was myself through CAI, which I am grateful for.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. I have consulted with a lawyer, which could cost a lot of money. Not sure where I can turn to. Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Mister Condo replies:
J.M., I am sorry for your troubles. I am not an attorney and I cannot offer legal advice here but I think you have already nailed the answer with your comment about speaking with an attorney. Lawsuits are often the only way to reign in an out of control Board such as the one you have described. Some things they have done are illegal. Certainly the discrimination you have described is downright criminal and could end up costing the community huge sums of money if a discrimination lawsuit is brought against the Board. Individual Board members may also be at risk if it can be demonstrated that their actions were outside of their authority as Board members.
The Board is free to create rules and enforce rules and even waive fines or choose not to enforce certain rules. As a unit owner, you have elected these folks to their positions. You and your fellow unit owners can also unseat them from power by voting them out of office although in such a small community it would appear your talent pool for trustees is somewhat limited. If I understood you correctly, you are talking about folks that have served for 42 years on the Board! If they haven’t learned proper governance techniques in that amount of time, I think it is fair to say they never will. Vote them out and put some fresh talent to work for the association. 42 years is more than enough! Good luck!