What Are the Duties of Condominium Boards? HOA Homeowners Association
Condominium boards have complete management responsibility for their community. Even if they outsource some duties to a professional management company, boards still retain these responsibilities. Since individual homeowners, who may not be well-versed in real estate management and legal issues, serve on these boards, all members should understand their duties and responsibilities. Condominium boards should also retain experienced legal counsel and/or accountants to be information resources and advisers.
Condominium Association Bylaws
Board members must become intimately familiar with their condominium association bylaws. Management of all condominiums is governed by the association bylaws. Board members must understand all items addressed in the bylaws, often called the “condo docs.” Further, boards must learn all state statutes that relate to bylaw subjects and strictly follow the letter of state laws to avoid legal problems.
Common Areas and Building Exteriors
The condominium association board must maintain–and keep in good repair–all common areas and building exteriors. Common areas are those used by all unit owners who have deeded title to small percentages of these areas. These areas include building lobbies, open land or parks, tennis courts, pools and other amenities available to all residents. Whether a high-rise style, townhouses or cluster housing, building exteriors require maintenance and repair, particularly the siding and roofs.
Condominium Association Budget
Creating and managing the association budget is a critical duty for condominium boards. The most common reason for condominium problems is mismanagement or misuse of the budget. Association boards without an experienced accountant as a member should consider getting advice from an outside CPA to ensure that their budget is reasonable and complete. Condominium budgets should be built like those of nonprofit corporations. By estimating expenses, including insurance, landscaping, trash removal and similar operating costs for the coming year, the association board determines the amount of monthly individual homeowner assessments, commonly called “condo fees.”
Maintenance and Repair Reserves
Along with operating expenses, the association must carefully consider the funds needed as “reserves” for maintenance and repair. As part of the budgetary process, establishing realistic reserves is often overlooked by association boards, sometimes with dire consequences. For example, picture a 48-unit high-rise condominium, with each unit having a suspended wooden deck for relaxing and entertaining. Decks need periodic staining and water protection applications. Further, on older condominium projects, deck replacement would be needed at some point. Neglecting to build reserves into the annual budget for deck maintenance and replacement could result in “special homeowner assessments” of thousands of dollars. Condominium boards must diligently add these to annual budgets to build up cash to make these repairs.
Monthly homeowner assessments–condo fees–must be collected by condominium boards. While most condominium bylaws permit boards to place liens on individual units for unpaid condo fees, liens do not equal money. Unit owners may not refinance or sell their homes for many years, leaving the condominium association short of funds to meet budget and reserve demands. Boards have a duty to establish an effective collection policy, much like a bank, to ensure consistent monthly cash flow into the association account to meet operating expenses.
Condominium associations must fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to manage the project in a businesslike and conservative manner. Depending on the size of the condominium project, association boards may manage many dollars and complex business issues. Fiduciary duty is typically measured by evaluating the actions of individuals or groups that “reasonably prudent” persons would take. For example, neglecting to collect condo fees, putting sufficient reserves in the budget or not completing necessary repairs is a breach of fiduciary responsibility. Condominium boards usually have individual and collective fiduciary responsibility and could be subject to serious lawsuits from unit owners for failing to act prudently.