In The News

Run For The Board? Are You Nuts?

by Eric Glazer

Who needs the headache of a big house? Who wants to worry about mowing your own yard, cleaning your own pool, and painting your own fence? Instead of these worries, you chose the "good life." You thought it would be wise to move into one of those fancy condominiums where you need not worry about any of these annoying chores. In a condominium, all the hard work would be done for you and all you have to do is sit back and relax --no worries, no concerns, just peace, quiet and tranquility. However, not long after settling into your new apartment and learning about the condominium's rules and regulations, you wished you had purchased that big house. Sound familiar?

After representing condominium associations for several years now, I have learned that many unit owners had no idea of what they were getting into when choosing to live in a condominium. They had no idea that documents called by-laws, declaration of condominium, and rules and regulations were going to govern each and every aspect of their daily living at their new residence. They actually believed that they would be able to have any pet of their choice, plant any flower they wished, barbecue where and when they desired and even rent out their unit to anyone they wished. They were wrong.

In a condominium form of ownership, each unit owner is a member of the condominium association. The condominium association is controlled by a Board of Directors who are elected by the unit owners and who serve without compensation of any kind. These Board members are the poor unfortunate souls charged with enforcing all of these never ending restrictions. The members of the Board control the Association using the Florida Statutes and the condominium's governing documents as their guide. Most of these governing documents, statutes and rules were created to protect the unit owners and their property values. Afterall, without uniform rules your next door neighbor would be able to paint their front door purple and have ten barking dogs in their home. Rules actually promote uniformity, equality and a more peaceful existence among the unit owners.

It is the difficult responsibility of the Board to enforce these rules. Unfortunately however for the Board, most condominium governing documents are always voluminous. They are often difficult to understand and most often out-dated. Board members are not required to be lawyers, accountants, real estate agents or in any way be familiar with condominium law. However, they are charged with the awesome responsibility of ensuring that all of the rules are enforced and additionally that the unit owners pay their maintenance, ensure that all of the condominium's bills are paid and that the property is maintained, all with no exceptions. Many of the budgets of some larger condominiums exceed $1,000,000 annually and are much larger than many of our local businesses. Notwithstanding this, there is no requirement that Board members even take a simple course on condominium management prior to accepting a position on the Board.

I have been attending far too many Board meetings wherein the members are accused of theft, wrong doing and of even intentionally promoting their own financial interests. Many times there is screaming, yelling, profanity and even violence erupting before, during and after a Board meeting! This behavior solves nothing and only serves to further deteriorate the relationship among the condominium residents.

I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of the Board members I have worked with are hard-working decent people who chose to devote their time and energy to better their condominium community. They have no choice other than to enforce the rules and regulations as contained in the condominium's governing documents. They are required to do so. Before you criticize your current Board or believe that someone else can do a better job, remember that you yourself have probably chosen not to run for the Board because you didn't need the aggravation that each Board member deals with on a daily basis.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to run for the Board, many Boards establish committees to assist them in areas such as landscaping, beautification and architecture. You can serve on these committees and make recommendations to your Board without bearing the responsibility for ultimate decision making. Although you may not win a popularity contest, you may even serve on a committee whose sole purpose is to hear evidence and rule on proposed fines against unit owners who may have broken a condominium rule or regulation.

The bottom line is to somehow become involved. A condominium can be a wonderful place to live. If you don't like the way things are, don't point your finger at the Board members. Take a more positive approach, get involved and participate in shaping your community productively. After a little involvement I am sure you will understand and appreciate the difficult and thankless task Board of Directors face each and every day.

For more information you may contact Glazer & Sachs, P.A. at One Emerald Place 3113 Stirling Road Suite 201 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. Telephone: (954) 983-1112.