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Condo Associations Struggling to Find Directors

Siegfried Rivera
April 29, 2024

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The firm’s latest Miami Herald column titled “Do We Have Any Volunteers? Condo Associations Struggling to Find Directors,”  was authored by Gabriella M. Ruiz. The article focuses on how rising association budgets and special assessments can be a recipe for hostility and dissent that becomes too much to bear for even the most ardent and effective condominium association board members. Her article reads:

. . . Unfortunately, many communities are exacerbating this problem by enabling a level of disharmony to become so pervasive that it drives away their most effective leaders. For associations that are having trouble finding willing and able volunteers, owners should carefully reflect on the reasons why.

At some communities, members of their board of directors are being forced to devote exorbitant amounts of time per week to association matters. They are being tasked to vet vendors, coordinate the completion of inspections and reserve studies, and oversee dramatically rising annual budgets while also controlling the daily operations of the association. Some of these activities would be better suited for professional property managers, whom associations should utilize as effectively as possible.

For some communities, the regularly scheduled board meetings have evolved to such a level of hostility between the board and unit owners that they have become intolerable for the directors. Owners should not expect to have many volunteers for openly hostile situations, so they should do their part to avoid creating them.

Unfortunately, some communities are home to owners who thrive on creating disruption and fostering hostile meetings by yelling and becoming belligerent. They obstinately refuse to understand and accept increases for such necessities as insurance, and they regularly disregard association rules and regulations. The distractions and commotions created by such association members can drive away effective directors.

The issues affecting board service can also stem from within the board itself. While most boards are democratic bodies governed by majority-vote rule, some communities allow its president to make many decisions, thereby enabling this single board member to have his or her way in practically all matters. Over time, these communities lose sight of the fact that the president may be neglecting fellow directors by diminishing their views and responsibilities, resulting in fewer owners volunteering to serve.

The solutions for all these forces acting against board service will vary for communities based on their specific situations. For some, they may simply be better served by amending their governing documents with the help of qualified legal counsel to require fewer directors. Boards consisting of only five members, typically a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and another director, are the most common, but small communities that have trouble filling that many seats may want to consider the possibility of requiring only three. Similarly, communities with seven- and nine-member boards that are having difficulties filling them should consider eliminating two seats.

Associations should also consider expanding their communications and outreach efforts, as well as creating new opportunities for members to become involved. Apathy toward board service can stem from a general lack of participation and awareness in association matters. Many communities now have or will soon be implementing state-mandated websites for the owners, and they should consider making ample use of those sites to maximize their communications and maintain full transparency. Enabling owners to volunteer to help with such communications and/or serve on committees can also help to develop future board members.

For communities, the solutions to their troubles filling board seats will need to begin with the members and come from within. Like-minded members should band together and voice their concerns, and they will need to work in opposition to any forces that may be leading to a hostile and negative environment for board members and meeting participants. New leadership for the community could be in order, so owners will need to identify and support their selected candidates. . .

Gabriella concludes her article by noting that condominium associations are controlled by their member owners, and it is up to them to make the choices that help to foster willing, able and effective directors.  She advises that given difficult financial and administrative challenges that lie in store for many enclaves, owners should reflect on the issues impacting board service within their community and work to rectify them.

Our firm salutes Gabriella for sharing her insights into these timely issues impacting board service in condominium communities with the readers of the Miami Herald. Click here to read the complete article in the newspaper’s website.