Q&A: Owners' Lack of Interest in Serving on a Board

Q&A: Owners' Lack of Interest in Serving on a Board

Q. I live in a 96-unit condominium building and have served on the board of our association for 16 years. There are nine of us on the board, seven of whom (including myself) are at the age where we'd like some of the younger owners to consider serving. In the last five or so,  not one owner has offered to run for the board; the two younger ones we do have were recruited (i.e., coerced) into the role. My questions for you are; What exactly happens when the older of us are no longer able to serve, and no one else offers to serve on the board? Is there somewhere in the rules where a situation like that is spelled out? Is a situation like that handled through the courts?

If things are going well, owners seem to think their board will just continue to be there to get things done. I would like to have written, confirmed information to present to them to let them know what could possibly occur if they don’t start to show an interest in contributing to the future of their association. 

                       —Veteran Board Member

A. “Unfortunately, the level of apathy that you describe among the unit owners in your community is all too common,” says Roberto C. Blanch, a shareholder with the law firm Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, P.A., which has offices in Coral Gables, Plantation, and West Palm Beach. “Owners become complacent when a community’s board of directors is doing its job effectively, and volunteering for board service is often perceived to be a daunting and thankless commitment for many individuals who lead busy lives and do not wish to take on new responsibilities. 

“There is no magic bullet solution for the problem of apathy among a community’s owners. The most effective remedies typically stem from implementing and maintaining long-term strategies to encourage board service. Your current board should consider the following measures:

“Focus on board meeting participation and attendance. The association members who are most likely to become board members are those who take part in the regularly scheduled meetings and wish to have their voices heard. Schedule all of the meetings for the most convenient dates and times for all of the members to attend, and always make effective use of both written and electronic communications to alert the owners. 

“Establish and utilize committees. Seeking a board seat may be perceived as too big of a step for many owners, but serving on an association’s budget, social, fining, architectural review or other committee is less intimidating – and often serves as a natural incubator and stepping stone for future board members.

“Consider using officers who are not board members. Many associations do not require for all of the officers of an association to be members of the board of directors. As an example, owners with bookkeeping experience may be open to serving as association treasurers without serving as a member of the board. 

“Always plan for board succession. Starting with new owners when they first move in to a community and continuing through all subsequent years, associations should utilize educational resources from the Community Associations Institute (www.caionline.org) and other qualified sources to indoctrinate their members on the importance of board service. 

“Consider the size of your board. Nine is in the very high range, five is probably the most typical size, and I have seen some very effective boards comprised of only three members. Obviously, the smaller the board, the easier it is to fill with willing and able directors.  

“In addition to these strategies, you should also remind the owners in your community that the looming prospect of not having a viable board of directors could ultimately cost the association significant funds that would need to be recouped by increased fees and assessments. The ultimate doomsday scenario for community associations that are unable to establish a board of directors is for a judicially appointed independent third-party receiver to assume control. The receiver and all of the other professionals whom they would hire to handle the functions which the association directors would typically perform receive compensation from association funds, which would probably necessitate a special assessment and/or increased monthly fees.”

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