Consider the Circumstances

Published on: April 23, 2001

At a recent meeting I was attending progressed, a board member turned to me and asked, “You’ve been doing this for a while now, what makes a board successful?” I thought for a moment, flipping through the pictures in my mind of good and bad meetings, crises and successes, and then turned to my questioner and replied, “If there was one thing I could point to its a board which knows its community.” Often I have written in this column about various things boards should and shouldn’t do to properly perform their duties and meet their obligations to the unit owners. Each of those matters were, and remain, important. But, in considering that which is most important for a board to be successful, I always return to “knowing one’s community”.

Each issue which presents itself to a board is unique. However, in reaching a decision it is critical to include in the analysis a consideration of how the community will react. It may well be that the community will be unconcerned. For instance, if the board is considering changing insurance company to obtain a better price, so long as the coverage is the same the conclusion would likely be that no one will particularly care. Thus, the board need not factor this into their decision making. However, if to achieve a lower premium the board needs to increase the deductible, then likely the owners will care as it may effect their own, individual coverage. Thus the board needs to research the impact and include within its decision methods of dealing with this impact. If it is significant then the board needs to seriously weigh whether the change is appropriate.

On the other side of the spectrum, the particular matter the board is considering may be of major impact to the community. That impact need not always be economic. Esthetics and rules are also up there on the significant concern scale. In matters such as these boards need to attempt to gage the owners’ points of views and factor them into their decisions. Special meetings to review and discuss matters are an excellent method for a board to gather this information. Ultimately, board may well have to make hard, unpopular choices. In doing so, they must ascertain if the objections are only from a vocal minority or if they represent a broader concern.  In the final analysis, unless the majority are prepared to back the board’s hard choice, it will be overturned. Thus, on difficult issues the board must work to craft a result which is acceptable to the majority. Absent such, only unwarranted decisions will occur.

This is not to say that boards should shrink from controversial choices. It is also not to say that decision making should be abdicated. It is to say, however, that board’s must know their community if they are to make appropriate decisions.