Every co-op and condo community has a board of directors in charge of governing the community’s finances, physical maintenance and other day-to-day business. Part of the board’s responsibility also is to keep the community fiscally sound, though not all boards do a good job of this task. Given all that, it's easy to see why it’s important for residents to choose their community’s board members carefully.
How it's Done
Boards are generally elected by building residents, but the process by which they are elected varies from building to building because the election itself is usually mandated through the community’s bylaws. Residents elected to the board of directors bring a variety of skills to the office, but not all directors are equally knowledgeable in the various aspects of their job. The process of running elections for new board members is one task that the board can bungle, sometimes with disastrous results.
Residents of a community who believe an election was conducted improperly can challenge the results. The matter can wind up in court, costing the dissenting residents and the community a lot of money in legal fees. In the process, neighbor can be pitted against neighbor and hard feelings can unwittingly be engendered—sometimes, over a seemingly simple misunderstanding of how to properly conduct a community’s election.
Nobody wants to be viewed as a possible cheat by his or her neighbor because election rules weren’t specific enough in governing a board’s election, or because board members themselves weren’t aware of how to correctly run the process. That’s why it’s essential to understand the correct procedures in an election so that it runs smoothly and fairly. A properly-run election helps to avoid the appearance of impropriety and lessens the risk that the election will be challenged.
Democracy at Work
Most co-op buildings or communities have election rules detailed in their bylaws. Many call for yearly elections of board members—usually during the annual resident or shareholder meeting.