Whether you’re an existing board member or a new board member this year, as Community Association Law attorneys, we’d like to offer you some advice as you begin to fulfill your duties in 2023. Here are the 3 top tips for community association board members:
1. Know Your Governing Documents
Whether you're a Condominium Association under Chapter 718 or a Homeowners Association under Chapter 720, your Community Association has a set of governing documents, and the law imposes upon you a duty to know what those documents are as well as their function and purpose.
Both HOAs and condo associations have declarations of covenants and restrictions that impose a set of obligations or stipulations on owners (i.e. use restrictions, ownership restrictions, occupancy restrictions, etc.). Under the law, there is a certain hierarchy in governing documents in which the Declaration is the most important. The other two types of governing documents, the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, determine how your corporation runs i.e. eligibility requirements for the board, elections, annual meetings, etc.
Under law, a new board member of a community association – both in condos and HOAs – have an obligation within 90 days of commencing service on the board to certify in writing that they have read and understand all governing documents and agreed to, to the best of their ability, enforce those governing documents according to their provisions.
As community association law attorneys, we also recommend that you take a board certification course, especially if you have never served as a board member before. Along with a Certificate of Completion, you’ll receive valuable information and tips for being a successful board member. Our Community Association Attorneys at Sachs Sax Caplan frequently teach board member certification courses as well as continuing education courses for Florida Community Association Managers. To learn more and find out when our next class is, call 561-994-4499.
2. Treat Your Community Like a Business
As a board member, you have a fiduciary obligation to other members and owners in your community to serve objectively, responsibly, honestly and efficiently. I believe the best way to do that is to treat your community like a business and run your board as you would a business. Always put the needs of the community before your own and, like any business, the more you let personal grievances or issues interfere with how you how you run a business, the more likelihood the business is going to suffer. You didn't get elected or appointed to the board to be the boss of your community or to be the boss of your neighbors. You may have heard the term “Condo Commando” – don't be that person.
3. Listen to the Professionals
Finally, the last piece of advice I'd like to give new or even existing board members, especially in this day and age, is to rely on the advice and the counsel of the professionals your association hires to manage the affairs of the association and to give you advice. Any engineers, accountants, lawyers, or insurance professionals are being paid by your community to perform a function. And whether they issue a report or give you advice, you really need to listen to them and take what they recommend under consideration when making decisions.
No matter how much experience you may have in a particular field, whether it's insurance or accounting, or even the law, the more you let that experience and knowledge invade your decision making under the law, the easier it may be for a court to determine that you're not protected by the Business Judgment Rule. The Business Judgment Rule affords you protection from personal liability as a board member or officer only if your decisions are made in good faith – as in reasonably and not arbitrarily. Should a lawsuit against the community arise, one of the things the court is going to consider when determining if your decision making was reasonable is whether you let your personal judgment interfere with that decision or whether you relied on the judgment of independent professionals. Having an array of knowledge and experience in a particular field will likely inform your service as a board member, but you shouldn't let it exclusively determine your actions in decision making.
As always, if you have questions or need clarification on any legal issue that may arise, you can always reach out to your association counsel, and they can give you the best advice regarding any decision you may have.
Brian T. Meanley is an Associate Attorney at Sachs Sax Caplan practicing within the Community Associations Practice Group.He has advised hundreds of community associations in all aspects of governance, operation, and administration. Learn more about Brian and how to work with him here.
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.
Sachs Sax Caplan, P.L. is proud to be recognized by The Florida Bar for our commitment to hiring and developing Board Certified Attorneys.