Are Election Procedures a Turn-Off?
“Serving on a condo board is voluntary…” and getting owners to participate is often a challenge, states attorneyFrank Flynn of the Boston law firm of Downing & Flynn. He reports that in Massachusetts, the election process is not something that is legislated by the state; rather, “elections are set forth in the condo docs (rules and regulations).”
As a guideline, these rules should address the qualifications of candidates; nominating procedures; campaign procedures; qualifications for voting; the voting time period; the authenticity, validity and effect of proxies; and the methods of selecting election inspectors to handle the ballots. Much of this will be contained in the association’s bylaws.
“And most of them,” he continues, “require a quorum of over 50 percent of the beneficial interest at an annual business meeting.” Explaining “beneficial interest,” Flynn says that the quorum is not a simple majority of the number of unit owners, but is similar to a “weighted” vote. Each unit owner’spercentage of the commonly-owned property is based on the value of that owner’s unit, since units within the same community can vary in square footage and market value. Votes, therefore, “just like fees (and taxes), are paid according to this beneficial interest,” notes Flynn.
At most communities, the management company takes care of annual meeting details, such as communications, notifications and ballots, he states, although, “I will run (the election) for an association if they do not have a management company… An attorney might count the votes, or maybe a trustee who is not on the ballot may be designated.”
All unit owners are notified before the annual meeting and election, he states (see sidebar). On the meeting date, “After you reach a quorum, you can hold the election, but simply reaching that quorum can be a major challenge. At one of our (client) associations, we had to postpone the meeting twice before we got an election completed.”
Jared McNabb, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, director of acquisitions with Crowninshield Management Corporation, AMO, in Peabody, Massachusetts, agrees that election procedures in Massachusetts are “relatively boilerplate, and are usually included in the condo docs” which are often based on a standard model. His company handles elections for client communities but he admits that “the biggest problem that I face is certainly apathy… at many annual meetings, I’m not getting a quorum… and the same cast of characters is who shows up. My advice is always, that each homeowner should serve on the board for at least one term… hopefully you get a couple who stick,” and continue to participate.