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Board Member Term Limits?

Term limits for an HOA board of directors are rare, and they’re becoming even more so. “I can’t recall seeing an association that has term limits in place,” says Matthew A. Drewes, a partner at Thomsen & Nybeck PA in Edina, Minn., who represents associations. “It’s certainly not common.”

Neither can Nathaniel Abbate Jr., a partner at Makower Abbate & Associates PLLC in Farmington Hills, Mich., who represents associations. “We probably represent about 800 associations, and I’ve been at this firm for 10 years,” he says. “I can’t think of one that has term limits, though there’s nothing in Michigan law that I’m aware of that would preclude them.”

That doesn’t mean term limits don’t exist in HOA governing documents. “I’ve seen them,” says Dennis J. Eisinger, a partner at Eisinger, Brown, Lewis & Frankel PA in Hollywood, Fla., who represents more than 500 condo and HOA associations. “They used to be much more common. Now under the condo statute in Florida, they’re effectively outlawed. The statute doesn’t say it in those words. But it says that everyone is eligible to run for the board, so effectively there can be no more term limits. Under the Florida HOA statute, if the documents allow for term limits, there can be term limits. Even there, term limits rarely come into play anymore.”

“I can envision there could be some benefits to term limits,” says Drewes, “but there are also some detriments.”

The biggest pro is that the risk of a tyranny may be lessened. “You may be able to reduce the possibility that there’s what some people might consider a dictatorship, where a long-term member appears to rule with an iron hand,” explains Drewes. “When you always have the same people or a particular person on the board, there can be the impression that things are being run for the benefit of one person or a small group of people as opposed to the good of all. By having, encouraging, or requiring board turnover, you might have more openness and more people involved in the association’s governance.”