How to Deal With a “Crazy” Board of Directors

One of the most popular blog posts we have published to date was our January 10th: “Dealing With ‘the Crazies’ Within a Homeowners Community.”   Though we received ample comments supporting the article, we also received several emails from readers wondering why we didn’t write a similar article about “crazy” or irrational homeowner association boards of directors.  Therefore, as requested…

In our experience, the number of irrational or unreasonable owners greatly outweighs the number of irrational boards.  That said, there are instances where boards or individual board members act outside their authority, act irrationally, or simply ignore legitimate complaints or calls for action by homeowners.

One reader asked what to do when his board and the association’s manager failed to enforce the governing documents fairly and consistently?  What if a board or manager refuse an owner’s request to review HOA documents?  Or denies an owner’s request for a hearing?  In each of the foregoing circumstances, the owner should be able to point to particular provisions of the governing documents which require explicit action and compliance by the board.

If a homeowner believes their board is failing to respond appropriately or acting irrationally, they should:

  1. Articulate the issue(s) as succinctly as possible;
  2. Gather all relevant written documentation;
  3. Review the association’s governing documents (Articles of Incorporation; Declaration, Bylaws, Rules & Regulations) and identify which provisions control over the issue(s); and
  4. Identify all relevant persons who are witnesses, parties or have other persons with knowledge of the facts and circumstances giving rise to the issue.

The owner should then draft a concise written letter or request to the board that embodies the four factors described above.  If the association is professionally managed, then a copy of the letter should be sent to the manager.

The association’s governing documents should have a process already in place to resolve the dispute.  If so, the owner should identify the process and insist on board compliance.  If not, and if the board does not respond adequately to the owner’s letter, then the owner can request a meeting with the board.

If the board continues to dismiss or ignore the owner, and if the professional manager is ineffective in helping to resolve the dispute, then the owner should seek legal counsel.  Keep in mind that many association governing documents require mediation or similar dispute resolution process be conducted prior to a lawsuit being filed.

If an owner does not wish to seek legal assistance, and if they feel the board is failing to follow its governing documents and otherwise acting irresponsibly or irrationally, then the owner may wish to try to unseat the board through a special election and vote of the association.  An association’s governing documents ordinarily outline the process for removing a board member or entire board.

Just as I wrote in my earlier post, the key to reducing and resolving disputes between the “crazies” (whether homeowners or boards) is to rely strictly upon an association’s governing documents.  A modicum of common sense and reasonableness also go a long way to solving the problem.  If all else fails and the board cannot be removed via special election, then mediation or court interaction may be required.  If so, in claims arising from enforcement or other CC&R disputes, many governing documents allow the prevailing party to recover their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

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