One of the hallmarks of our country’s democracy is the peaceful transfer of power that will occur tomorrow. Americans recently endured a polarizing election process. Republicans will now hold the office of the Presidency instead of the Democrats. Nonetheless, the forty-fifth President of the United States is expected to take the oath of office by peaceful transition. This administrative transition occurs no more than every four years on the national level. However, in the New York metropolitan area, such an administrative change happens much more often. This author is reminded of the transitions that occur when a new board is elected to run a cooperative or condominium building.
Contested elections for cooperative or condominium boards can become just as divisive as our country’s elections. Perhaps unit owners feel that the existing board is out of touch with the current needs of the building. Shareholders may disagree as to the prudence of agreeing to sell the building’s air rights or as to the extravagance of a lobby renovation. Boards can also turn over when long-term board members sell and are replaced by much younger board members who may not follow the way in which matters have been handled in the building.
The harmonious tenor of the building may start to unravel once unit owners start to share their concerns about the board online and find that other unit owners agree with them. Then, a successful takeover of the board may result. Even though a new board may be in place, certain steps should be undertaken to ensure a peaceful transition.
Once the new board is elected, a board meeting should take place. Goals should be set. For instance, if the new board was elected as a result of opposition to a policy of the prior board, it should be considered if such a policy can be unraveled. Can a contract be cancelled without legal consequences? If unit owners had concerns about the cleanliness of the building’s common areas and the effectiveness of the superintendant, it could be time to consider hiring a new managing agent who will maintain the building in a superior fashion. It is not unusual for a new board to consider all of the professionals and vendors engaged on their behalf, such as accountants and attorneys. Sometimes a professional is terminated, not for cause, but because the new board merely wants to make a point that it is marching to its own tune.
Outgoing and incoming boards should observe the manner in which the presidential transition seems to have been cooperative. The board members should recognize that they are serving their neighbors, who need to be united, so that the building has a comfortable environment for all. Our firm is available to advise on all board elections and the subsequent transition process. We look forward to being of assistance to our readers.