No matter if they're overseeing a towering high-rise or a sprawling suburban association, co-op and condo boards usually have their fair share of problems to be solved and emergencies to be defused. Talk to enough people who have dealt with these situations and they can tell you that it’s no picnic—at times quarrels between neighbors can get ugly, and elected administrators act selfishly instead of for the greater good.
So how should a board conduct itself? Perhaps a better question to ask is how a board should not conduct itself. With these anti-pointers, conflicts and long, drawn-out battles can be avoided to create a more enjoyable, functional living atmosphere for all.
According to management pros, the most common board mistakes usually start with the easiest things to handle. Common errors include failing to bill residents properly, making mistakes on billing records, underbilling residents and making petty clerical errors that can cost either the building or the residents dearly, both in money and in acrimony.
“It’s painful to go back a year or two later and tell a resident they owe $15,000 because of under-billing,” says Dennis Greenstein, an attorney and partner with the law firm of Seyfarth & Shaw in Manhattan. The way to avoid that kind of misery is to get organized and stay that way—and when errors inevitably occur, prompt admission and swift resolution are crucial.
Making rules and regulations known and available to all shareholders is also important. Little things like what kind of pets are allowed in the building and where they can roam around should be clearly stated in the bylaws, and clearly communicated to the residents. “It’s just a basic concept that all boards should follow,” says Greenstein.