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The Common Sense "Secrets" to Running Good Board Meetings

Written by Lori Miles, CAM on August 10, 2012

New York City

Condo and co-op board meetings should be productive, efficient gatherings where the board conducts business and doesn't meet to socialize. Are you getting the most out of your meetings? If not, consider a few of these things — from how to set an agenda to how you treat fellow board members and your managing agent.

The situation was both simple and complex. Simple, because the elderly woman had a dog — a clear violation of the co-op's rules. Complex, because her son told the co-op board that his mother had gotten the dog on doctor's orders. She was clinically depressed, you see, and the dog cheered her up. He said the board was in the wrong.

As it happened, the board in this case was anything but wrong — and its intervention may have helped save the woman, the dog and the co-op alike.

When you live in a co-op or condominium, the board of directors must regularly deal with owners who have a bone to pick about a neighbor's behavior. Whatever the complaint, the first question you and the co-op / condo board should ask yourselves is whether the issue is one that the board should be involved in at all. If an owner's behavior doesn't violate the governing documents or proprietary lease, then the board generally has no business butting in, no matter how loudly another owner complains. Some issues are merely neighbor-to-neighbor and not the board's concern.

 

July 20, 2009 — Somewhere in Queens where Elmhurst and Middle Village meet, just south of the Long Island Expressway, one average, everyday co-op has made itself appreciate in value in a way that any other co-op or condo can, well, appreciate — and emulate. The Bradford House co-op made a creative capital improvement of the kind that, it turns out, banks encourage and residents love. Not just appreciate or accept logically, like a roof renovation. Love. See the pictures at the end of this article if you don't believe us.

Years of mistrust between the holder of unsold shares and the resident shareholders of a cooperative came to a boil at their recent annual meeting. The holder, who owned a large percentage of the corporation's shares, previously voted for the same resident board members for the past five years. A group of resident shareholders, angered over a series of maintenance increases and assessments, wanted a change but, because of historically low resident turnout, could accomplish that only if they were able to collect a large number of proxies beforehand.

When it comes to selling your co-op or condo apartment, "A low appraisal can blow up a deal," says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich. If a buyer needs 80 percent financing and the appraisal is $50,000 less than the selling price, the buyer will need to come up with extra cash or walk away. But if the seller lowers the price to save the deal, a board concerned with property values in other units could reject it.

In 2005, I became treasurer of my co-op. I had been a lawyer in the field since 1968, president of the board in 1985, and served for two terms at other times. One would think I was prepared for the job. How wrong you would be....

Co-op and condo boards have many "non-professional" professionals — lawyers, engineers, insurance agents, architects, teachers, designers, accountants and others who can tap into their work résumé to help expedite matters at your buildings. Savvy boards have learned to complement their paid professionals by utilizing the talents of a variety of professionals living in your buildings.

An exclusive Habitat co-op/condo board survey shows that co-op and condo boards seem to stick with their property-management firms. Slightly over 60 percent have been with their current firm six years or more; some 16.5 percent have been with the same firm for 11 to 15 years; and some 12.6 percent have had a more-than-21-year relationship.

But despite this longevity, 40.6 percent say the performance of their current managing agent is "subpar" or "needs improving." It's easy to see there's a difference between what boards accept and what boards expect.

Co-op and condo boards "have a couple of options" when it comes to lead-paint testing, says John Marino, owner of the contractor JMPB Enterprises. "Either use an EPA-certified contractor to test for lead or hire an outside firm." An outside firm  "provides more sophisticated testing methods, typically with the same results but for more money."

Designer Joel Ergas, of Forbes-Ergas Design Associates, begs to differ. "I don't think a test by an outside consultant is egregiously expensive," he says. "Our experience is that it's in the $600 to $800 range. Is that a lot of money? If you're a tiny little building, it can be." But it can save money, too. "If you test prior to a general contractor becoming involved, you know exactly what the scope of the job is and [so] the job can be bid accordingly. If the general contractor does it, he's already onsite and he's open to charge whatever he wants to do lead-safe practices. We like to know upfront [if there's lead] so that the job can be bid out accordingly."

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