One universal complaint about Condo Association Boards is that they are slow to act. Even for the most basic of requests, Owners are frequently frustrated by the fact that it takes weeks, or even months, for a Board to get back to an Owner. Accusations of sloth, indifference, or even malice are common. While in some cases these accusations can be true, there are also several structural and legal reasons are why Condo Association Boards act slowly. As an Owner, while these may not necessarily make you feel better about the situation, they will at least give you an understanding of things.
Every Decision Requires a Majority and/or Consensus
The first and perhaps most important reason goes back to the Bylaws. While Management may have certain delegated authorities to resolve minor issues, if something is going to the Board, that decision requires a majority decision to be acted upon. There may be limited exceptions to this rule where a Board member has been delegated authority to act on behalf of others, but in general, EVERYTHING will require a majority decision. That means you need to get three, or five, or whatever the number of people is to agree to the same course of action. Many Boards will also give all Board members a chance to weigh in on an issue before acting, even if it won’t change the outcome. For example, if you have a five-person Board, and there is an Owner question posed via email (i.e., “please waive my late fee”), and the first three Board members say “yes,” many Boards will still give the other two Board members a chance to respond even if it doesn’t change things. This is inclusive, but slows things down.
Condo Boards are Volunteers
In addition to everything requiring a majority, you need to remember that Condo Boards are volunteer organizations. Board members are not paid to perform their duties, and while there are many legitimate horror stories about Board members abusing their positions for personal gains, the reality is most Condo Boards are boring and you just have a group of people trying to do the best they can. Due to the volunteer nature of the position, it can take days, even weeks before Board members respond when “real life” is getting in their way. Board members could be on vacation, sick, busy with work, etc. While to an individual Owner it may seem like the Board is being nonresponsive or lazy, the reality may simply be that the request caught the Board at a time where Board members weren’t available. That said, it is perfectly acceptable – and encouraged – to ask your Board for a status update if you don’t hear anything within a week or two. However, I would advise being polite when you do so.
Certain Board Work Should Be Done in Executive Session, in Person
Most routine Board work can be done via email or electronic message board in between Condo Board meetings. This allows the Board to sort through routine Owner requests and respond in a reasonably rapid manner. However, certain sensitive Board work should be done in an “executive session” setting.
Executive session is an in-person Board meeting that under most (if not all) Condominium Acts does not have recorded minutes. Typically, this time is used to discuss sensitive personnel or legal issues where it is in the Condo Association’s interest to not have a written record of the deliberations. While this can be used nefariously, it most often is protecting the Condo Association from legal liability in the event of a lawsuit that requests the Association’s records as evidence in a civil trial. Remember, the Board has a fiduciary duty to the Condo Association, so the Board is acting in the Association’s best interests when it does this.
The net result, however, is that often a Board must meet in person to act upon an Owner request. Some Boards might even do all business in person as a matter of course. This can slow a request down – if you request something three weeks before a Board meeting, you may not get a response until the Board meets in person. If it’s a contentious issue, they might even postpone a decision for yet another month to further deliberate. A good Board will at least let you know that they are debating it, but a bad one might just be silent.
Condo Boards can be Lazy
While there are many legitimate reasons Condo Association Boards are slow to act, the reality is that some are simply lazy. If an issue is not time sensitive or is “hard,” a Board may succumb to its worst impulses and simply choose to not deal with the issue. The best action you can take on this is to be a polite pest – keep emailing in a respectful and measured way. If needed, show up to the next Board meeting and kill them with kindness (while gently shaming them). I gave additional tips here on how you can help Boards make decisions by providing them the right information. You can also work with Management and help them help the Board get to a decision.
The biggest things to keep in mind is to remain polite and be patient. If you have a bad Board, while they may be in no rush to help you, they may decide to be vindictive and spiteful if you are rude. This isn’t fair, but it is life in a Condo Association. If you have a bad Board, I suggest you send your fellow Owners through a tune-up and get some better representation on your Board.