Condominium buildings and planned unit developments are typically run by a homeowners’ association (HOA), which in turn is run by an owner-elected Board of Directors. The members who serve on the board are responsible for making a lot of critical decisions about the association’s finances, a well as the overall state of the building. They work and negotiate with property management to ensure the property is well-maintained and issues are dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner, and they also act as buffers between units owners and property management.
Board members have the power to assess monthly dues from each homeowner to contribute to the budget and to impose special assessments for things that were not included in the original budget, such as paying for damaged landscaping caused by a car accident on site. These members also have authority over the adoption of rules and regulations, such as the permission to have pets on site, barbecues on balconies, subletting units, and so forth.
Considering the amount of power that such members have, it’s important that those are elected for the positions act in good faith of the HOA as a whole. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for certain board members to be dishonest, negligent, careless, and even intentionally make specific decisions to benefit or profit themselves at the expense of the HOA and all owners who are a part of it.
If your HOA has a board member who is making potentially harmful decisions and is behaving unacceptably, what can you do about it?
Go to the Board Meetings
If you have any concerns about particular board members or about how the board as a whole is managing the HOA, attend the board meetings. Many HOAs allow unit owners to attend meetings and contribute to the discussions. If your HOA allows owners to attend, make an effort to go to one of these meetings to voice your concerns.
Just be sure to be respectful and civil when discussing certain matters, as conversations that escalate into arguments will do little good and will alienate you from the board. In addition, make sure you only present factual information that can be proven, and don’t make any false accusations.
Once you’ve voiced your concerns, suggest some ways in which you believe could effectively resolve these issues. It would help even more if you can get a few other homeowners to attend the meeting and voice the same concerns, or bring something liked a petition with signatures from various owners who share the same concerns that you do. Hopefully, the board member in question will acknowledge your comments and make the necessary changes.
Wait For the Annual General Meeting
If going to a board meeting does little to make changes, or if the meetings do not allow unit owners, you can wait until the Annual General Meeting that’s typically held once or twice a year. These meetings typically have a much bigger owner turnout, which can provide you with many more bodies to back you up and present the concerns as a group.
Understand Your Rights to Remove a Board Member
If your attendance at any one of the above meetings doesn’t do anything, look into your legal rights as a unit owner within your HOA to have a board member removed. Look into the laws in the state and your HOA governing documents to find out if you have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to removing a board member.
In California, any board member can typically be removed at any time by the board as a whole. However, when it comes to unit owners having a member removed (which can also be done at any time), the majority of all owners who are entitled to vote for directors must do so. But the majority can’t remove a director if the shares voting against such a removal would have been enough to elect that board member using collective voting, unless the whole board is removed.
There are certain scenarios that require the automatic removal of a board member. If they are charged or convicted of a felony, or if they are delinquent on their HOA dues by over 90 days, automatic removal may be warranted.
Go through the governing documents of your HOA to get more information about the specific way that members can be discharged from the board. You can get a copy of these documents from your HOA.
Enlist the Help of Property Management
The laws surrounding HOAs and the rights that unit owners have when it comes to lawfully removing board members sound complicated, and they can be. If you require further clarification, you can also ways go to your property management team and get their advice on how you can proceed with the removal of a board member.
The property managers might also be able to step in to try and rectify the situation without resorting the removal of the member. A property manager might be able to alleviate the problem. If that doesn’t work, the yo may be able to get the individual out the same way they got on the board in the first place – by voting at the annual election.
Try to Vote the Board Member Out
You can call a special meeting or wait until the annual general meeting to attempt to vote the board member out. Once again, the procedure for removing a board member might vary by specific governing documents for each HOA. Removing a board member usually requires that all HOA members vote. In order to get a valid vote, certain requirements must be met, including meeting quorum and following specific proxy voting requirements.
Reduce the Board Member’s Position of Power
Perhaps the actions of the board member don’t warrant a complete removal, but rather a reduction in power. If that’s the case, you might want to consider trying to reduce any negative effect that the member has on the board and the HOA by reducing their position. For instance, the president might be put down to secretary.
The Bottom Line
Even though removing a board member isn’t exactly easy and straight forward, it might be well worth the effort if the person in question is jeopardizing the development, its finances, and how it’s being operated. When in doubt, consult with your property managers or a seasoned real estate lawyer to help you get the ball rolling in a compliant manner.