Although some cooperatives can amend their bylaws by written consent, not many condos can. While a co-op will often need a supermajority of sixty-six-and-two-thirds percent to amend the bylaws, in a condo, that figure can go as high as eighty to eighty-five percent.
Despite the big headache involved in revising bylaws, a condo may want to do so to clear up confusing or contradictory amendments, to streamline the management of the building, or to protect the board and the building’s assets in case of problems that arise.
Ambiguous bylaws are also a problem because it's not clear who is responsible for things like mold, leaks, and other such problems — and this leaves the board potentially liable. If there's a leak, for example, and condo owners aren’t required to have homeowner’s insurance, the board may be sued.
Another major reason why condo boards may want to revise their bylaws is to increase the amount of money they can spend without unit-owner approval. Most co-ops do not have a limitation on the board to spend money. In condos, typically there is a very low threshold beyond which the board needs to get unit-owner approval. If the board needs to vote on getting a new boiler or doing façade work, it may feel like its hands are tied.
Selling the Revision
The first thing a board should do once it's in agreement about the need to make any type of change is to get feedback from the unit-owners. Communication at the earliest possible stage is absolutely crucial. People want to be consulted. So condo boards need to pitch their ideas effectively, and be ready to do some serious campaigning.
Adapted from "Revising Bylaws — Condo Style" by Ruth Ford (Habitat, March 2005)
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