P.I. from Pennsylvania writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Two unmarried people own one condo unit. One serves on the Board. The other wants to also run. Can both parties of one unit both be on the Board? The docs don’t address this. It would be the same if a married couple wanted to both serve on the board at the same time. Is this legal?
Mister Condo replies:
P.I., greetings to you in Pennsylvania. Thank you for writing. I am not an expert in Pennsylvania community association law, so please accept this advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, kindly consult with a qualified attorney in your area.
Living in the same unit and co-owning the same unit are two different things. If both “owners” are on the title of the property and your by-laws do not address the issue of how many owners from one unit can serve on the Board they may be free to do so. In fact, if your association already allows multiple owners from the same unit to serve on the Board (your husband and wife example, for instance) then there may already be a precedent in place and denying these co-owners the same rights as a married couple may be grounds for them to claim discrimination if they are restricted from doing so. Of course, state law may prohibit such action but I am not aware of any state law that does.
My concern with multiple owners from the same unit serving on the Board is a lack of representation for the rest of the unit owners. This can lead to charges of collusion from other unit owners. The idea behind unit owner representation and governance is that the folks democratically elected by their fellow unit owners are governing the association. If there were 7 positions on your Board, ideally, each director would be from a separate unit. Otherwise, 3 couples and one other could effectively be handling the governance for the entire community. That’s fine when there are no issues but the first time something like an assessment comes up there will be charges that too few unit owners are being represented by the Board. Since your documents are silent on the issue, I would suggest adding a clause that states only one owner per unit is eligible to serve on the Board at any given time. Then, your governance policies would align with your voting privileges, which I am certain grants only one vote per unit, regardless of how many people own the unit. All the best!