Condo, Strata and HOA News

Tag Archives: elections

When Considering a Condominium Purchase, Check How Long the President Has Ruled the Roost

If you are looking for a condominium that you’ll feel comfortable with, check how long the current board has been in power. If the board doesn’t turn over, it’s the same names year after year, then add additional caution when purchasing in the condominium or HOA.

I’ve read, and had some personal experience, about too many “lifer presidents” (an example here) that over time begin to treat the board as their exclusive play grounds. Where most elected bodies recognize the threat to good governance elected lifers create – even the President of the United States has term limits – no such measures exist for community associations.

The risk is, and it seems to come to fruition, that over a period of time the basic principles of the board get eroded.

Take for example the board of President Lorraine Walsh, who has held her title for over 20 years at the Deveonwood, Hercules California, condominium. According to one resident the board hasn’t held an election since 2005. Further, though there is a vacancy on the current board and an owner volunteered to fill it till next election – the current board voted down the appointment 4 to 0.

Other shenanigans appear to be happening there as well: holding in camera executive sessions in the middle of public meetings. That’s clearly a method to shut down the meetings.

Often long serving boards tend to use fining as a heavy handed method to enforce compliance, or threaten owners financially if they raise trouble. For the Deveonwood, first time violations carry $350 fines and have been handed out for improper window coverings and poor garden pot locations.

Sometimes I wonder if the property management firms hired by these long term boards are somewhat responsible for the condominium’s or HOA’s decline. If there really hasn’t been an election since 2005 the property management company should resign or make public notice that the board is failing to abide by all rule and regulations. The problem is management companies can fear failing to comply with the board will result in a non-renewed contract. It’s hard to protest the board that pays you. For the Deveonwood, one owner appears to have asked for the record of past elections to confirm when and how the last elections were held, and the management company denied to fill the request.

Condominiums are great places to live, but like any organization they benefit deeply from a regular turnover of the board, and a rotation of the roles. There is nothing scared or amazingly difficult about being on a board, and normally a management company will ensure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed. I have yet to see a new board, with none of the old guard remaining, mess up a community.

Regulations That Inhibit Board Participation

It’s hard enough to get owners (and sometimes, if the bylaws allow, tenants) to run for condominium boards. Most condominium bylaws allow a lot of flexibility, including going as far as self-nominations from the floor right before the election of the board (something I encourage).

In Alberta, the rules for appointing a board are loosely defined by the Condominium Property Act, and are similarly loose throughout Canada.

To my surprise, this is not the case in Florida.

The Florida Statute FS 718.112 (2) (d) and the Florida Administrative Code 61B-23.0021 express some very specific requirements for board election notifications:

  1. First Notice of Election should be sent out a minimum of 60 days before the election and should include the date, time and place of the election, number of positions available and instructions for intent to run and information letter.
  2. A candidate should submit his or her Intent To Run a minimum of 40 days before the election and make sure to get a receipt or send by certified mail to be placed on the ballot.
  3. Candidates may submit an Information Lette(sometimes called a resume) a minimum of 35 days before the election on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper (so, not electronically!). The association may not edit, alter, or modify the content, nor is it responsible for the content.
  4. Second Notice of Election should be sent out a minimum of 14 days and no more than 34 days before the election and should include an outer envelope – for validation, inner (ballot) envelope – to make it a secret ballot, ballot and voting instructions.

I find that such strenuous requirements for getting on a ballot (argh in the first place!) and then the distribution of the ballot would only have one effect – chilling participation and limiting new people to participate.