“My Uncle Does That” . . . When is it OK for Condominiums and Homeowners Associations Not to Use a Pro?

I am often asked by HOA & condo Boards a question that looks something like these:

  1. Is it OK for the Association to use community volunteers instead of a professional? or
  2. My Uncle Sal does that, can’t we use him? / I’m sure he’ll give us a discount!

Naturally, in typical lawyer fashion, I tell them that it depends.  There are scenarios where the Board will always want a professional service provider and others where it is perfectly acceptable for volunteers from the community to provide services.

The bottom line for the Board is always whether it has met its duty of care.  The Board must make decisions in good faith, with the care an ordinary prudent person in a similar position would exercise under similar circumstances, and with the reasonable belief that the decision is in the best interest of the community.

If the work to be done has a low risk of injury to the volunteers themselves (so no cutting down trees or electrical work), doesn’t require a license or specialized skills, and the effects of poor quality work do not pose a risk of harm to others, then the Board may want to consider community volunteers or Uncle Sal.  Cost is usually the determining factor.  On the one hand, Uncle Sal is pretty cheap and community volunteers are usually free.  On the other hand, neither Uncle Sal nor community volunteers are likely to be insured or licensed and there is typically no guarantee of quality work since the Associations gets what it pays for.  Even though using a reputable professional may look like the pricier option, the professional may actually be a bargain compared to the world of trouble a volunteer could create.

In addition, with friends and relatives performing paid work for the community, any time there is a possible conflict of interest, the conflict should be disclosed to and approved by a majority of non-interested Board members.

Because the Board must pick what is best for the community (and not what is best for an individual Board member or relative) it must be able to show that selecting Uncle Sal, volunteers, or a reputable professional to perform work for the community is in the community’s best interest.  As long as it is, then the Association is accorded great protection.  If not, then the door is open for claims of all types and sizes.

If you have any questions about Community Associations, the attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black in both Charlotte and Greensboro can help.

Author: Harmony Taylor
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from Black, Slaughter, Black.

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