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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: What Association Board Members Need to Know

July 27, 2010

Over the past thirty years, many people have moved into homes or condominiums that are part of an association. Typically people choose to be part of an association so that they can be assured of the stability and environment that an association brings. I represent many associations in a wide variety of issues, including drafting covenants and bylaws, handling contracts between associations and vendors, and litigating disputes with individual members, among other things. Oftentimes, disputes between associations and individual members involve personality conflicts as much as real legal issues. This article will provide information to help associations avoid disputes with members, and to be best prepared should a dispute arise.
1. Review and understand association documents: Typically, an association will have a declaration of covenants and bylaws, among other documents. These are the operative documents of any association. These documents should be carefully drafted so that they clearly detail the rules and requirements of the association. Most often, they are initially drafted by an attorney. However, members should review, and if necessary revise, these documents at least yearly, so that any relevant changes can be made and so they are familiar with the rules and regulations should an issue arise.
2. Enforcement role of the Board of Directors: Board members within associations are responsible for enforcing the condominium documents. This is more difficult than it may seem. For example, some associations rigorously enforce association documents to the letter, while other associations are more lax. The safest way from a legal stand point is to enforce the documents as they are written. However, at times, this is not practical. For example, people within associations are neighbors, not business partners. So, if someone is violating a provision of the documents, the first step should be simply talking to them about the issue. Many times, that will resolve the issue. If that fails, then a letter should be written from the Board of Directors to the person violating the provision. Only as a last resort, should an association seek to enforce the provisions through legal means. Unfortunately, sometimes a violating member will leave an association no choice.
3.Board Member and Neighbor:
Board members must be available to listen to the concerns of homeowners and take their issues seriously. This does not mean blindly following a members’ suggestion or demand and it does not have to take a lot of time. But it is important to remember that being a Board member is an obligation that sometimes takes a bigger investment of time than one would like. In addressing a concern, one person never should make decisions. When the Board speaks as one voice, the decisions hold more validity, and shield the individual Board members from blame by the offending neighbor. It is also important to not take these issues personally. While it is the Board’s responsibility to inform members when they are out of compliance, it should be done with respect. At times violating members can be miserable, unfriendly people. When that happens, Board members should never sink to the level of the offending person. Continue to be respectful to that person, and enforce the association rules precisely as they are detailed in the association documents.
4. Conclusion: The role of Board members is essential to the success of a community. It is best when all individuals take a turn participating in the Board, rather than a few people dominating the Board. However, whether one is a new board member or a long term board member, individuals who give their time and energy to this role should be committed to preserving property values and maintaining a high quality of living within the association. They should also be appreciated by members for volunteering their time for the association’s greater good.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay