Board Misconduct Understanding the Difference Between Illegal and Improper

Everyone – including the boards and managers of community associations – inevitably makes mistakes, or is guilty of using poor judgment. And while it’s very unlikely that every member of a community will commit outright illegal acts, it’s also not that uncommon. 

There’s a wide moral chasm between erring in good faith and actively trying to swindle one’s co-op or condo community. However, things can get murky. Sometimes a board will make decisions that skirt the law (or governing documents) without breaking it, or that comply with the letter of the law but not the spirit. In those situations, it can be tough for residents to understand the difference between board actions that, while not illegal, may be improper and possibly warrant intervention. 

It’s important for boards, managers and residents alike to understand that violations can happen on a spectrum, and to have a plan in place to evaluate incidents and respond accordingly. That response could range from speaking up at a meeting and putting community administrators on notice that they’ve strayed from their duties, to unseating a board or individual board member and taking full-on legal action. 

But how to know what qualifies as illegal versus what’s just poor practice? A building or association’s attorney can help to identify bylaw violations; advise the board on the potential legal (or even criminal) liability they may be courting by engaging in problematic behaviors; and help board and residents alike understand where their own behavior falls on that aforementioned spectrum. 

Drawn to Scale

First and foremost, boards and management must be on the same page when it comes to how they interpret and adhere to their community’s bylaws and other governing documents. 

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