I refer to the “big three” of condo associations often: Owners, Board, and Management. As a point of intent, this blog is expressly targeted at providing advice to each of these groups and how they deal with each other. But who are they, and what do they do? Here’s a quick breakdown of the players in a condo association.
These are the individuals who own a condo and make up the Association. The Association provides an umbrella of management for them. Under the Association bylaws and the various laws in your state, Owners have a set share of ownership and codified rights. The specifics vary, but in general they must adhere to the Condo’s rules, pay a monthly “assessment” (i.e., condo fees), and are entitled to certain things in return – generally speaking, a safe, secure, and financially stable Condo. Owners are expected, but not mandated, to stay informed in the goings-on of the Association by attending Association meetings and reading meeting minutes. Owners may live in the building, or they may be investors who rent their unit out. Tenants who rent are NOT owners. They do not have the same rights, but they are bound by the Condo’s rules.
The Board is elected by the owners. The exception to this is when a new Association is being created, there are various rules that allow the developer to control the Association’s board seats for a certain period of time – but we’ll ignore that for now. The job of the Board is to govern and set policy for the Association as a whole. The length of a Board member’s term and specifics powers they hold vary depending on the bylaws, but the big jobs include authorizing major expenditures; passing an annual budget; hiring/firing building management; resolving Owner issues that Management cannot; and passing, modifying, and enforcing the Condo’s rules. The Board’s job is to review proposals and other activities and make informed decisions about the best path forward for the Association. They are not, however, expected to be experts on all of the issues – i.e., say, structural engineering – the Board will hire consultants to provide the informed opinions and present options. Many Board members may have specialties from their “regular lives” (i.e., accounting or legal training) which come in useful during their terms. Board members are protected from being sued individually except under very rare circumstances; however the Association as a whole can be sued. Board members may be investor owners who don’t live in the building. The Board may also set up committees of owners to support their work in certain areas, such as finance or architectural control committees.
Building management is hired, reviewed, and if needed, fired, by the Board. Their job is to maintain the day-to-day operations of the Association and to enact the decisions of the Board. Management includes building managers, front desk staff (if you have a front desk), maintenance staff (if not outsourced), building engineer, etc. The size of the staff varies depending on your building, but there is usually at least one primary building manager who is responsible for interacting with vendors, gathering reports and information for the Board, and serving as the first line of interaction with Owners. Management usually can authorize expenses up to a certain threshold so the Board does not have to micromanage every expense that comes up. In many ways, Management has the biggest impact on Owners and the Board since they are responsible for so much. Good management makes all the difference.
To sum it all up…
At the end of the day, the goal is to give Owners the best quality of life possible – that’s what everyone wants! The Board is the vehicle for achieving this. As an elected body, they are to represent the Owners that put them in office. And, much like in real democracy, this is where things can fall off the tracks. Ensuring that everyone is working towards the common goal of a safe and secure building is the responsibility of all of the players in a condo association.