Avoid these 7 common condominium board member mistakes
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It’s true that we probably learn best from our own mistakes. However, as a condominium board member, you would prefer to avoid mistakes entirely that could adversely affect your community. After all, you’ve chosen to volunteer your time and provide leadership to enhance your residents’ lifestyle, protect the condominium corporation’s investments and improve your community. So how can you avoid the kinds of common board member mistakes others have made?
An experienced community manager can provide plenty of insight on what not to do as a board member. These professionals have worked with many different types of condo board members and can clue you in on the condo board member mistakes they have witnessed. In this article, we discuss four of the most common mistakes and offer recommendations to help you avoid making the same ones.
What are the seven common mistakes condominium boards make?
Becoming power hungry
Holding a grudge
Not being open minded
Lack of explanation
Read on as we break down each mistake and provide the solution to avoid it.
1. Becoming power hungry
Some condominium board members seem to thrive on power. As a result, they make decisions independently and disregard the need for board approval. For example, they might negotiate with a vendor, discuss a legal issue with a condo owner or tell landscapers or other staff what to do without consulting with the other board members. Not only does this violate their bylaws, but it can also create liability issues for the entire condo corporation.
Solution: Remember it’s about the common interest of your community
Remember that your role as a board member is to put the common interest of your community ahead of your own interests, and this is best done when your board functions as a unit. Don’t make unilateral decisions that you’re not authorized to make. Instead, discuss important issues with the other board members, and look to your bylaws for guidance on how and when to bring a decision up for a vote.
Many board members initially feel like they need to stay on top of everything. As a result, they either interfere in the duties assigned to their property management company or they delve too deeply into the details of their community’s operations.
Solution: Working in partnership with a trusted property management company
The board’s role is to set the strategic goals and policies of the community. The management company is there to enforce those policies and take care of managing the community’s day-to-day operations. A good management company will also help the board in other ways. They will offer training, identify ways to cut costs, help to craft the annual budget, and offer needed advice.
Boards should make sure that the management company they hire is trustworthy. Then they need to empower them so they can fulfill their role. In a good partnership, boards understand their roles and responsibilities, and property mangers understand theirs, too. Each one lets the other do their job and trusts them to do so.
3. Insufficient training
New board members may be so enthusiastic that they jump in with both feet. That enthusiasm is welcome! However, board members who haven’t spent time reading getting to know the bylaws, learning about their new role, and understanding the history of past decisions can quickly create difficulties.
Solution: Undergo training
Upon first joining the board, new members should make a point of reading through their governing documents. This ensures they fully understand the condo corporation’s current policies and their function as a board member.
If the property management company offers board training (and it should), new members should be required to enroll. The right training will cover topics like running board meetings, preparing budgets, insurance coverage, and understanding the value of reserve studies. Training goes a long way in helping to avoid another one of the common condo board member mistakes.
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4. Getting impatient
Board members who have served for a long time may find that they deal with the same types of problems repeatedly. The condo owner raising the issue may be different, but the situation isn’t. Understandably, it can be frustrating to address the same thing repeatedly. However, taking out your frustration on someone who simply needs your help is not productive.
Solution: Shift your perspective
When faced with a common complaint from a new party, it’s important to keep in mind that to the resident, this issue is legitimate, new, and personal. Shift your perspective slightly so that you can see the situation as an opportunity to help a concerned neighbour rather than as just another variation of the same old problem.
A good condominium management company can also help you address any ongoing situations so that you won’t have to keep revisiting them. If a common issue is consistently brought to the attention of the board by different residents, it might be worth determining if a new rule needs to be written to speak to the issue or if sending community wide communication regarding the issue would do the trick.
5. Holding a grudge
There will inevitably be times when a board member is unhappy with a decision that the condo board makes. Although no one expects that member to jump for joy, being a sore loser is both inappropriate and unproductive. Still, there are board members who will hold a grudge, display outright resentment, or refuse to support a measure that they opposed. At its worst, this behavior can lead to dysfunction within the board.
Solution: Treat your board operations like a business
In business, while you may not agree with a decision that is made you would support it because it’s expected of you as a professional. This is why treating board operations like a business can help avoid long lasting grudges and dysfunction within the board. As a board member, you have a responsibility to support the majority decision, even if you voted “no” on a particular motion. You made your views known during the discussion period, and now it is time to be a team player.
If you find that a decision has created conflict among board members, seek assistance from your condominium management company, if you are working with one.
6. Not being open minded
Contrast to the board member who's eager to change everything is the one who's unwilling to make any changes. This can range from keeping reserve funds in a bank account that doesn’t yield interest to holding onto a property management company that isn’t providing the right level of service.
Solution: Re-evaluating the community’s needs and opportunities each year
The first thing you should assess is whether your management company is giving you enough value. So much of your community’s success depends on the company you work with. A large company will have the depth of resources to keep up with new developments in the industry. They will also provide you with innovative approaches to generating income, saving money, and running your day-to-day operations.
7. Lack of explanation
When a board member votes “no” on a measure without providing an explanation, the other board members may interpret that vote negatively. For example, they may attribute the dissent to inflexibility, defiance, or disrespect.
Solution: Provide a brief explanation
To avoid misperceptions about why you voted “no”, explain your vote. Without taking too much time, elaborate on your concerns and your view of the condo corporation’s future. Your intention should not be to change anyone’s mind; you are simply enabling the other board members to understand your perspective.
Make it a regular part of your meetings to have a discussion period following a “no” vote—even if you only allot a very short amount of time to it—and urge dissenters to use it. Encouraging discussion of diverse viewpoints creates an atmosphere of openness, prevents misunderstandings, and helps you have more effective board meetings.
Lean on your property management company’s experience to help avoid common condominium board member mistakes
Serving as a condo board member can be very rewarding but it also has its challenges. Partnering with a good property management company ensures you don’t have to face those challenges alone. Property management companies bring with them years of experience working with a variety of boards and navigating the various pitfalls boards can face.
Not only can your property manager help you avoid common board mistakes, but they can be instrumental in helping your condo board resolve its conflicts by providing an unbiased, third-party perspective in the event one of these common mistakes starts to cause board dysfunction.
Through the support your property manager provides to the board, you can avoid these common mistakes, putting you in a better position to focus on achieving the objectives you’ve been elected to accomplish.