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Anyone Here Serve on a Co-op Board?
Old 05-22-2014, 08:42 AM   #1
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Anyone Here Serve on a Co-op Board?

I have lived in a co-op apartment on Long Island for the last 25 years. Other than attending the annual meetings, I had no real involvement with the operation and management of the co-op which consists of 4 buildings and about 225 apartments with nearly all of them owner-occupied. The co-op came into existence back around 1981 or 1982 so it quite stable and well run as well as fiscally sound.

But back in 2005, I became more involved with the co-op during a hotly contended Board election (I was not a candidate), helping to run the Board election which was a major fiasco. The following year, after I submitted a lengthy report with suggestions to improve the process, I was made the Elections Commissioner which put me in charge of reviewing the proxies and determining a quorum and, if we had a contested election (only in some years) overseeing the Board election itself. As I mentioned in another thread, my PC skills were very useful in speeding up the aforementioned processes and put me on very good terms with both the Board and our managing agent, both of which have been very responsive to me whenever I had suggestions on improving the election process as well as anything else.

In the last few years, there have been some openings on the Board due to death (sadly) and resignations, both midyear when an interim replacement is appointed by the Board, and at the end of the term when our annual meeting takes place. Some people have suggested I be a candidate for the Board, and I am flattered.

However, even though I am now an early retiree , and I have the time to put into this work (gasp!), I am not sure I want the grief being a Board member would entail. As I mentioned before, I have the Board's ear when it comes to making suggestions due to all the goodwill I have built up in my tenure of being Elections Commissioner. And the Board and our managing agent have put into place many of my suggestions including some big financial ones. So, if I can pretty much get what I want from the Board without having to put up with the grief of being on the Board, then why be on the Board? Also, my apartment happens to be above the room the Board uses for their meeetings, so I can often hear some yelling and shouting which goes on, not that the 7 Board members necessarily dislike each other. When I hear that commotion going on, it makes me feel glad I am in MY apartment and not that room beneath my apartment LOL!

Still, I have not ruled out serving on the Board at some point. It is not a sure thing all of my issues will be resolved the way I want them to be going forward. What I would like to hear from any of you who have served on a co-op Board is what I might expect if I were to serve on a co-op Board down the road.

Thank you.
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:56 AM   #2
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I am currently on the Board where I reside (a Condo in Florida), and previously was on the Boards where I both resided and work*d (both Condos in the NorthEast). It is a thankless job for sure, but is necessary in order to make the Condo operate. All of these 3 Boards have/had cooperative and reasonable Board members, and I cannot recall any screaming sessions that I occasionally hear about. When everything goes well, the monthly meetings are fine, and the resulting decisions make the Association run nicely. When there is a legal matter or a 'project' going on, you ask yourself why you volunteered for this position.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:15 AM   #3
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I've served on a few condo/home owner boards and they vary quite a bit from a lot of work to almost none. So "it depends" :-)

It's much like serving on a small town council. There's a small amount of simple grunt work to keep things working - like hiring a new landscape company every few years (they all seem to go bad after a couple of years :-( ). And beyond that you can pick your duties.

As Richard4444 mentions beware of ongoing "projects", especially litigation. That can become a black home for your time.

Having a "management company" is useful. You pay them to do things like send out bills and (especially) be the bad guy when people don't pay their bills on time or paint something the wrong color. They earn their keep. Some people object to the cost. Ask those folks to serve and put in the time and you almost always get turned down. These people are mostly just super cheap and don't want to pay their dues no matter how well the board is run.

That being said, management companies aren't all good, so also beware. On one board I served on they were doing favors for board members and we soon realized they were offering favors in return for keeping their contract (not an outright bribe, but it was getting uncomfortably close). So we let them go when the contract was up.

Some people join boards to socialize. This can lead to long meetings(!) and possibly too much friendliness. It depends on what you are looking for. I serve on boards because it needs doing and I like to make sure all they are well rather then being surprised when they are not. One board had a president who served so she could have parties. Which some people liked, but wasn't really my cup of tea. It did motivate her to serve, so that wasn't really too bad.

Serving on a board can be rewarding. And if it's not you can always not run for reelection. Or just resign if it's really bad.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:18 AM   #4
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I have the Board's ear when it comes to making suggestions due to all the goodwill I have built up in my tenure of being Elections Commissioner. And the Board and our managing agent have put into place many of my suggestions including some big financial ones. So, if I can pretty much get what I want from the Board without having to put up with the grief of being on the Board, then why be on the Board?
That sounds pretty good to me. I've never served on a board, but in other ways, if I can get most of what I want in a support position, w/o needing to throw myself into the center of the storm, I'm happy. You sound similar to me in that way.

I'd say give it a try, but then if any of the shouting matches cause you to become alienated from one side or another, you might lose some of the control you now have.

I can't really advise you, just some food for thought. You might find advantages to being on the board as well, hard to say.

-ERD50
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:21 AM   #5
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All three Boards I mentioned above have/had management companies. I wouldn't ever recommending that an association do it themselves (which some do). Also, when a disgruntled neighbor calls, I say "call the mgmt company" or "hey, why don't you attend the next Board meeting?" mpierce is correct - the litigation over silly things does become overwhelming but it doesnt' happen often and a different Board member can represent the Board.
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Old 05-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #6
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I have never lived in a coop or a condo.

Whether this turns out to be a lot of work, or just a little, it's still work! To me, a home is a place to live and I try to keep it from being my employer. In other words, I don't see what if anything you would be getting out of it, other than what Sally Field experienced and so perfectly expressed:

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Old 05-22-2014, 02:17 PM   #7
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In other words, I don't see what if anything you would be getting out of it, other than what Sally Field experienced and so perfectly expressed:
Other owners usually 'don't like Board members.' Condo fees go up, an assessment has to be made, there may be an issue in court. Other owners generally do not appreciate or thank the Board for going out and reviewing 3 bids for contracts, hiring experts to overlook certain projects, or the time and agony Board members put in going through depositions and court itself.
If there are not enough members to fill a Board, as per the Condo Docs and state law, the Court appoints people like accountants and attorneys to fill the positions at much $$$$. So, it is best to have the Board positions filled by responsible owners who can get along with others and make reasonable decisions.
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Old 05-22-2014, 04:29 PM   #8
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After a working 37 years, 30 in local government, the LAST thing I want to involve myself in is local politics! My neighbors think I'd be a great add to the neighborhood association board (it's hard to keep filled) but have given up asking. Just listening to the neighborhood squabbles as a third party makes my eyeballs roll.

So no, I haven't had any experience and don't care for any! OTOH it sounds like while your association may be something you are familiar with, you may find it, ummm, like a good challenge? Good luck!
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:17 PM   #9
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I serve on the co-op board of my building in NYC. The building is relatively small, only about 36 units. Board work does not take a great deal of time. Most of the business and discussion among board members is done via email. We meet in person only 3-4 times per year depending on how many new owners or sublets we have to review.

I say give it a try. If it is too much of a bother for you you can always decline the position after your term is up.
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Old 05-22-2014, 05:26 PM   #10
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I say give it a try. If it is too much of a bother for you you can always decline the position after your term is up.
And you can always resign within your term
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Old 05-22-2014, 07:06 PM   #11
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I have spent my time in the barrel. No desire to go back.

In Florida, (365 units) found the experience frustrating, as other board memebers were there to validate the owners wishes... (Rental community) Finally resigned as the board outvoted me, by agreeing to change the original, written in stone part of the prospectus that guaranteed transfer of original agreement (which allowed the transfer of "rental price freeze" to new owners.)... as a reult of this change, the owner was allowed to raise prices on every transfer of ownership. The net-net result of this is that when I sell, the new owner will have to pay $550/mo., instead of taking over my payments which are currently $357 according to the original agreement.
This all happened fifteen years ago, and was a major issue in hundreds of Florida rental communities at the time. Many of the wiser communities fought the change, and accodingly, still have the tranferrable frozen rental. The home values in these communities are double those of the communities that allowed the increase.
The most personable and friendly board members are not alway the brightest. In most Senior communities, it has been my experience that resident don't care to be involved.

More recently, our current CCRC home owners association changed from being builder designed and supported, to an autonomous association. The new president asked if I would look over the agreement and suggest changes
that would move the benefits from the builder, to the members. Not being a lawyer, this becme a prodigious project... revision of the 18page document meant wording changes on virtually every subject. It took me at least 20 to 30 hours to research and rewrite.

The upshot... after redoing the entire document, we hired a lawyer @$30,000 to review and register the association with the State of Illinois and our local town council.

... when the final document was posted, I compared it to my own "suggested" revision... and was surprised to see that only 6 words were changed.

I've done my time... never again. As age creeps up, I frankly don't give a damn and if my dues go up by a few hundred dollars a year... no complaints. Been there, done that.

Like most political type positions, the small amount of appreciation is far outweighed by the hurt suffered from the ignorance of those who will find fault, but never volunteer, and almost never attend planning meetings.

Being a board member is not always the best way to make friends.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:44 AM   #12
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Thank you for your replies.

As tempting as it is to try to get on the Board at some point, especially via appointment so I can avoid campaigning and a contested election, I will stay put. I am not so sure that trying it out for a short time then resigning is equivalent to not trying it out at all. It would depend on how my tenure on the Board went. Right now, at least, there are no big projects on the table , unlike two biggies we had in 2005-2006 (exterior renovations) and 2008 (interior renovations) which caused a lot of stress for the Board and management company. The Board president takes the brunt of the grief at our annual meeting which took place a few days ago. He, along with another Board member, happened to suddenly resign which created two unexpected vacancies along with a third one known before the meeting. Two people, one who once served on the Board along with someone else who had run unsuccessfully for the Board a few times, both got in without a contested election (making my job easy!).
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Old 05-25-2014, 02:16 PM   #13
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As tempting as it is to try to get on the Board at some point, especially via appointment so I can avoid campaigning and a contested election
Interesting, on every board I've be on it's always been a matter of begging people to serve...

Which, I suppose, explains how I end up there.
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Old 05-25-2014, 03:16 PM   #14
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I live in a co-op on the west coast. I turned down a Board position because of upcoming medical treatments but like you I have served on a couple committees. When we purchased the co-op employed staff and had done so for some 50-odd years. Because the Board got so involved in day-to-day personnel issues they decided to hire a property management company. What a delightful difference for all!

We too had Board elections that got contentious and on other occasions they had to plea for qualified members. This year the Board appointed a nominations committee of former Board Presidents. They presented their candidates to the Board who selected one for the ballot, and then there was provision for a write-in. The process worked beautifully. Everyone I spoke to agreed that the nominee was well qualified, he was elected unanimously.

I think you should agree to serve on the Board. It is important to have thoughtful members who put the community needs ahead of personal issues. Not everyone will agree with the Board's decisions but that is life. If they think the Board is way off base they can muster a re-call.
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