Q&A: Owners’ Reluctance to Serve on the 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 some owners younger than we are should be thinking about serving. The last five or so years not one owner has offered to run for the board; the two younger ones we do have were recruited (coerced) into that role. My questions for you is what exactly happens when the older of us are no longer able to serve, and no one offers to serve on the board? What will happen?Is there somewhere in the Illinois condominium property rules where a situation like that is spelled out? Is a situation like that handled thru 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 possibilities would occur if they don’t start to show an interest in contributing to the future of their association. I would appreciate any information you could give me on this subject.

                 —Veteran Board Member

A. “Apathy is a very real problem faced by many associations throughout Illinois,”says attorney Matthew Goldberg, an attorney with Bancroft, Richman & Goldberg, LLC, which has offices in Chicago and St. Charles, Illinois. “Unfortunately, owners do not always appreciate the time commitment required of volunteer board members. Section 18(a)(13) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act states that the bylaws shall at a bare minimum provide a mechanism for filling vacancies on the board, including by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the remaining board members until the next annual meeting is held unless a petition is delivered to the board, signed by members holding at least 20% of the votes of the association demanding a special election. In that event, the elected individual would complete the unexpired term even if that term extends beyond the next annual election. Your association’s bylaws may provide additional methods above and beyond what Section 18(a)(13) provides.

“Unfortunately, there is no mechanism by which an association can “draft” board members as the position is voluntary. The long-term effect of such apathy is that the building will fall into disrepair quicker, expediting the need for replacement of common elements where routine maintenance may have extended the life of those same common elements thus deferring such costs. Further, if there is no board, who will monitor and collect assessments or pay the bills? Eventually things may get bad enough that Section 14.5 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act covering distressed properties may be triggered. In that event, the City can appoint a receiver to manage the property and even de-convert and sell the property. A unit owner could also petition a court to appoint a receiver to run the association if no one is stepping up to the plate, but unlike volunteer board members a receiver does not owe any fiduciary duty or necessarily have the unit owner’s best interests at heart. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interests to have owners step up to the plate and serve as board members to protect everyone’s investment in their property, not only their own personal interest.”

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