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What Happens when a Board Abuses its Power? Boards Gone Wild

Condo and HOA residents often complain that their board doesn’t do enough, or that the board members aren’t involved as much as residents would like in the administration and maintenance of their community. While a disinterested or apathetic board is certainly a problem, going to the other extreme—becoming an overbearing, Big Brotherish cabal—can be just as bad, or worse.

Board members who overstep their bounds and intrude on the privacy and agency of individual residents are inviting trouble—so it’s important to understand the boundaries of board power, and know when something crosses them.

Knowledge is Power

To carry out their duties, condo and co-op boards need a certain amount of latitude, says Andrew McDonald, an attorney with the law firm of Lomurro Davison Eastman & Munoz PA in Freehold, and balancing what is right and what is expected can sometimes be tricky.

“Rules are needed in order to protect owners’ investments,” says McDonald. “After all, each individual owner agreed to the bylaws and governing documents when they bought their unit. Boards are given broad power to put people on notice, to fine them for the non-payment of common charges, assessments, and the like. At the end of the day, I think these boards are given a wealth of power because they have a responsibility to keep the [community] in good repair so that homeowners don’t lose their investment.”

Given all that, it’s important for board members to understand what being on the board means, and how to avoid overstepping their bounds. Sometimes, a board comprised of seemingly level-headed people can jump the tracks and head off in a direction that is neither productive nor healthy for their association.

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9 Comments

  • I live in a coop building in NJ with a tyrannical board that displays sheer arrogance and total disregard for shareholders' concerns. For example, the Board appointed a shareholder of their choosing, to the vacan seat, stating to those who applied that to be fair, the next highest vote in the recent elections had been appointed. Based on proof of election results, this was contrary to their claim as they did not appoint the shareholder with the next highest vote. When the shareholder disputed their decision of the appointment to the vacant seat, they came back saying their appoitment was flawed and did not impact their decision. The Board further stated that their decision is in accordance with the governing documents. Again, contrary to their claim, the By-laws clearly show the process how to fill a vacant seat -- either thru a special meeting or the shareholder with the next highest vote in a regular election. As a concerned shareholder, the Board's actions are not ony fraudulent but clear violation of the By-Laws. What can a shareholder do to address such fraud, violation of By-Laws, breach of trust and total disregard of shareholders' concerns? Is there a legal body in NJ to address abuses of the Board aside from the internal Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee? The property management company is, of course, in cahoots with the Board. There seems to be no platform or forum for a shareholder to address the legality of the Board's actions.
  • I live in a midrise condo. A board member took it upon herself to park in a handicap parking spot, request the building hose and use the building's water to wash her car. It is not stated in the house rules or bylaws that anyone cannot wash their cars on the premises. What can we do to make sure this does not happen again. The board member is clearly abusing and overstepping their power. Other Unit owners have brought up concerns about the members behavior and lack of consideration, respect for the other shareholders and overstepping her power. What example is she setting for the board if she parks illegally in a handicap parking spot and proceeds to wash her car using the water that all shareholders maintenance dues pay for? What applies to one should apply to all but apparently this board member feels she has special privileges that others don't. How should this be handled?
  • Could any lawyer or contributor for NJ Cooperator give advice to shareholders concerning a coop board who has continually abused its power, contracted a favorite vendor without competitive bidding, negotiated a mortgage, manipulated election results, violated by-laws?
  • Does the Board have the power to restrain members from digitally taping an open membership monthly meeting?
  • i live in a condo as an owner and am a member of the board.An owner of a condo in our building has not paid his maintenance fee for over a year.he has rented his apartment,collects rent and we cannot get in touch with him.In our condo we pay for the parking space we use.His tenant uses one of them and his parking is included with his rental payments to the owner.What are our options?
  • we live in a nj based co op buildingwhere we have been violated and harassed by the buildings hired superintendent including the poisioning of our pet dog.what are our legal rights regarding a court proceedure. we also had our car tampered with and our mail missing.
  • We live in condo in NJ and have another co-op which we rent. After my last renter moved out ~1.5 month ago, I repaired the apartment with professional painter and made sure there is no leaks anywhere. I found prospective tenant which was approved by the Board of Directors. I paid $500 fee for Board's time and move in fees. Just before my tenant was supposed to move in, the office manager in co-op told me that the moisture meter in the hallway ajoining my bathroom has high reading. No visible damage on wallpaper in the co-op hallway is observed, no visible damage, missing tile, grout is observed in my bathroom. Nothing is leaking in the bathroom. The manager is pushing me to demolish my bathroom completely by the contructor who works in the building to investigate (inside the walls) the source of excessive reading which could come from somewhere. This work should cost around $15,000 with no garantee from contractor. Manager doesn't let my renters to move in. I am senior sitizen (66) and my husband is 67. We have limited income, and we do not have this money to make unnecessary destruction of our property without any proof that we are causing this hight moisture reading. We feel that manager of the co-op is acting on unfair basis and abusing her power. Without renters paying the rent, we cannot affort to pay co-op maintanance fees. What can we do and who can help in this cituation?
  • I live in a condo on flora road as a tenant ..The condo management started harassing g us about encroachment on common corridor by keeping a pram outside citing safety n fire hazard..The thing is our corridor is quite broad and in no way the item is blocking anyone way nor is it blocking the path to the staircase while the other neighbour has a show rack, two kids bicycle plaid, the condo committee president had hordes stiff across his passage n the same goes for the other resident who occupies the opposite flat..In this case they have just targeted us regarding encroachment issues..We have provided pictures..to no avail..its misuse of authority clearly in this case and prejudices and biased behavior ..what can be done in this case ..We are seriously considering seeking legal help to sort the issue..kindly advice
  • I live in a three unit condo in a nice New England town. The unit owner downstairs decided to put an AC compressor next to my entry which would reduce the value of my condo. I found out about it when it was being installed and had them move it to an area where ac compressors are installed and no intrusive to anyone. The condo person just approved it without checking with me. The unit downstairs typically parties late into the night slams doors, has parked in my driveway been belligerent and just plays loud music and leaves trash in common areas. It seems there is some strange bond with the condo association and the female partier downstairs. I have complained about the behavior and the trash in common areas but the condo association seems to turn a blind eye. What to do?