Effective policies for Managing Emergency Situations in a Condo Association

I recently wrote about how important it is to protect the powers of the Condo Board.  To ensure you run a transparent and open Condo Association, you must protect your Board powers.  But the reality is that life is messy.  Sometimes crazy stuff happens and you don’t have the luxury of the usual slow pace of a Condo Board.  How can you ensure transparency in a Condo Association in these circumstances?  How do you balance the need for speed without turning into a dictatorship?  The key is to make sure you have effective policies for managing emergency situations in a Condo Association.  

Define Emergency

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First and foremost, you need a definition of what an “emergency” is.  It helps to have this agreed upon by all members of the Board and Management ahead of time.  You can also publish this to Owners in the meeting minutes or another document.  My definition of an emergency situation is an incident where something bad is about to happen, or has happened, and will damage the Association and will continue to get worse until remedial action is taken.  The damage might be physical (like a burst pipe), it might be HR related (a key staff member turned in their two weeks notice, and you want to retain them and make a counteroffer), or it might be financial (a check needs to be cancelled).  You’ll have to figure out the nuances among your own Association.

Determine Emergency Governance Approach

The next step is figuring out how you want to handle these emergency situations as far as Board governance.  One option is to carte blanche delegate power to the Management or President.  This has advantages for speed, but also has potential for abuse.  Another option might be creating a protocol where you try to get in touch with a quorum of the Board within a certain period of time before making a decision.  For example, you might instruct Management to try to call or email as many Board members as possible, and however many they can get on a conference phone line within 30 minutes is how many will make the emergency decision.  This costs a little time, but at least creates an opportunity to try to touch base with everyone, which encourages transparency in a Condo Association.  If you can’t find a quorum, then you default to whomever is available and go from there.  These are just two examples; your Association can determine what is the best path for you.  

The key is that no matter what process you pick, you need to have your policies for managing emergency situations in a Condo Association determined proactively.  Make a plan ahead of time that is agreed upon by all Board members, affirmed with a vote and recorded in the minutes.  This creates a process by which everyone understands how emergencies will be resolved.  If there is a deviation from the process, there must be a damn good reason.  If not, you can hold the violating parties accountable and understand if it was an issue of malice or incompetence.

Ratify your Actions

Following an emergency incident where you are exercising this policy, you should go back and ratify the issue formally.  For example, if you had to emergency approve some action with a sub-quorum of the Board, and everyone agreed it was the right call, you then formalize it.  At the next open Board meeting, you vote to approve the action that was taken, and you can include notes in the meeting minutes which detail the emergency that drove the incident and that the Board was approving it after the fact.  Also include in the minutes that the Board supported this action and it followed your pre-existing emergency policy. Documentation like this ensures transparency in a Condo Association.

Ratification and formal meeting notes are the key to keeping things transparent.
Ratification and formal meeting notes are the key to keeping things transparent.

The key to managing emergency situations in a Condo Association is ensuring you’ve got a process in place ahead of time, and then properly document the issue after the fact.  This ensures openness and transparency not only for the Board and Management, but also Owners and Associations.  There will always be emergencies that force you to react quickly.  What makes a good Board is the foresight to plan processes to manage these emergencies before they happen.  


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