Why it pays to serve on your condo board

Volunteerism spares association expense of court-appointed property manager

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 2, 2013

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Volunteerism spares association expense of court-appointed property manager

Benny Kass
Inman News®

DEAR BENNY: My condominium association always has trouble getting owners to serve on our board of directors. One of the board members has threatened that if people do not volunteer, we all may be charged with a monthly special assessment. Is this legal? --Juan

DEAR JUAN: Absolutely not. I know of no law and have never seen such a requirement in any condominium legal document that will penalize people for not serving as a volunteer board member.

But, this is a serious problem nationwide. Many people buy into a condo so that others can shovel the snow, cut the grass and even pick up their newspaper while they're on vacation.

Serving on a board of directors is a thankless job; the hours are long and there is no pay. But the condo unit you own is your investment, and you want to make sure that all appropriate steps are taken to preserve and enhance that investment.

Many associations are suggesting that board members be paid for their service. I am absolutely opposed to this. Why? Because I don't want someone making decisions for me just because he is getting paid.

What should boards do if no one wants to serve? In the final analysis, the association can petition the local court to appoint a receiver to manage and operate the condo. But this will be an extra expense, and hopefully some owners will recognize that service on the board is in their best interests.

Some boards -- to entice owners to serve -- will agree to send them at association expense to conventions dealing with community associations. For example, the Community Associations Institute, located in Virginia, is a national association dealing exclusively with all kinds of associations: condos, homeowners associations and cooperative housing. CAI holds periodic seminars and an annual conference.

DEAR BENNY: My husband and I live on a fixed income and have accumulated 794,000 time-share points since January 2008. We have tried selling our time share only to be taken twice and left holding the bag. Do you know of any place that is legitimate where we can get rid of our time share without hurting our credit? --Betty

DEAR BETTY: I have been struggling for years to come up with a simple solution for getting out of a time share. The only thing I can do is warn potential buyers that it is difficult, if not impossible, to divorce oneself from a time share.

I do not recommend walking away because it could come back to bite you if the time-share operation decides to file suit against you.

However, as you can see from the next question, Jay was lucky.

DEAR BENNY: I bought a time share on the Outer Banks of North Carolina from a private party at a good price. The complex changed hands and under the new ownership I couldn't show my unit to potential buyers except during my ownership week. So, I stopped paying my dues.

After a bunch of notices and a few years, I received a "lawyer letter" giving me three choices: I could pay up, deed my unit back to the ownership company, or face a lawsuit. I promptly deeded my unit back to the company since I owed them far more than my asking price for the unit. Hey, I really made out. --Jay

DEAR JAY: You are more than lucky. I have heard from many other owners who were actually sued for the moneys owed. Typically, the legal documents you sign say that any litigation can take place in the state where the company is located, which may be far away from where you live.

Should time-share owners stop paying? As a lawyer, I cannot recommend this since that would be recommending violating a legal document that you sign. However, that's one option, which Jay took, and he was successful.

DEAR BENNY: What rights do homeowners have against dead, overhanging branches that threaten adjoining property owners? --Edward

DEAR EDWARD: Tree law is evolving around the country. You can find a more exhaustive discussion in some of my articles (as well as others) by typing "tree law" into your favorite search engine.

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