Can a community association board or managing agent benefit from a lawyer?
Community association boards and managing agents have many legal responsibilities and must manage the relationship between the volunteer board members or agents and the wider community members.
The answer is yes. Homeowner, condominium and cooperative boards and managing agents are often property owners living within the community association who are volunteering their time to help manage the association for the betterment of their neighbors. But the board’s job is more than hiring someone to plow the driveways. While those kinds of physical services are certainly important to homeowner safety, community associations involve compliance with governing documents like declarations, by-laws, regulations and rules as well as being subject to local, state and federal laws.
Association boards are in a tough position in some ways. While they likely collect dues from members and purchase insurance, arrange for maintenance and repairs and hire service providers (or whatever responsibilities their governing documents and the law require of them), they also can find themselves in an adversarial position with homeowners within the association. For example, the board may decide to sue a homeowner member for delinquent dues or for other violations of the association rules or the board members may face angry or demanding members who disagree with how the board is conducting business.
All of this when the board members or managing agents are usually volunteers and the disputes are with their neighbors.
One important way to help to keep things running smoothly is for the board or managing agent to develop a relationship with an experienced community association lawyer. Association counsel may handle or provide advice about topics like:
- Interpreting, enforcing or amending governing documents
- Bringing or defending lawsuits such as for discrimination, personal injury or collections
- Establishing and collecting assessments
- Increasing and collecting dues
- Association money management and financial planning
- Liens, licenses and easements
- Calling and conducting annual and special meetings
- Insurance issues
- Repairs and maintenance
- Contracts and disputes with service providers and vendors
- Drafting legal notices, ballots, proxies and other
- And others
Establishing an ongoing professional relationship with legal counsel will allow the attorney to spot issues early on that board members may not have, preventing problems from ballooning and saving the association money. A lawyer can answer a question as a board deliberates to set them on the right track vis-a-vis the law and the governing documents. When necessary, an attorney can negotiate on behalf of a board or represent it in bringing or defending a lawsuit.
The lawyers of Shapiro Gettinger Waldinger & Monteleone, LLP, in Mount Kisco, New York, represent community association boards and managing agents throughout the Lower Hudson Valley and Westchester County.