Many if not most boards get along famously. There are boards that have had the same members for decades and run their communities without a hitch.
We frequently get calls from readers who are troubled when they find that their board members seem to be operating under a different set of rules than the rest of the community. For example, they get preferential treatment for parking spots, ignore pet rules, fast-track their own alteration projects, fail to pay their assessments on time, and disrupt board and unit owner meetings. Rogue board members negatively affect building morale, erode residents' confidence in their board, and can even have serious legal ramifications as well.
Above the Rules?
A primary symptom of board members straying from the reservation is the all-too-human tendency to regard themselves as being above the rules. “We see board members who think, because they’re on the board, the rules don’t apply to them,” says Adam Stolberg, president and CEO of Advantage Management, a management and consulting firm that manages more than 80 associations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. “Yet we also see residents who aren’t happy with the board and their actions. So we tell them, that’s why there’s an election mechanism every year; if you’re not happy, then run for the board, get involved and make a difference.”
This plays out especially when there are rules and regulations that individual board members don’t agree with personally. For example, it may be a violation of rules to put plants on a fire escape, and the board member might enjoy keeping potted flowers out there. “Pet restrictions, rental restrictions… maybe the majority of the board is attempting to pass an amendment to the declaration to prohibit or limit renters, and one of the board members is an investor-owner instead of an owner-occupant,” Stolberg says. “So it can be hard to separate that, when a board member is trying to do what is best for the majority of the association, yet it may directly conflict with their individual investment in the building. We see a lot of that.”
“There are some board members who expect extra privileges, but there is no class ownership in condo law,” says Angela Falzone, a property consultant with Association Advocates Inc. in Chicago. “It’s blatant; it’s right there in the laws, all the way across the country.”