Most people who sit on co-op or condo boards in New York City tend to skew towards older age ranges. The main reason is that sitting on a board can feel like a part-time job, one that’s unpaid, highly time-consuming, and often thankless. As such, it usually falls to retirees to fill these roles. But that’s now going through a change. Each year, more and more people of a younger age bracket are stepping forward to take on the responsibilities of being a board member. For some, the motivation might be the desire for new amenities that reflect their lifestyle. For others, it could be a desire to fix bad management or budgeting decisions by the board.
Whatever the reasons, becoming a board member is a worthy consideration if you see the need for some changes in how your building operates. Of course, it also comes with some downsides that will have to be factored in when making your decision. Below, we’ve covered all the pros and cons of becoming a board member that you need to know about.
As a board member, you’ll have a say in almost everything that comes up for discussion. For instance, you can call for a vote to amend the existing house rules, bring attention to some needed repairs, or suggest changes to the building’s budgeting model. You’ll also be able to raise issues of your own that you feel are being neglected or in need of change.
Those who live in smaller buildings of less than 50 people will have an even greater reason to ensure their building is well managed. Poor budgeting decisions by a board in a small building can lead to large assessments falling on each unit owner, something that owners in larger buildings are less affected by.
This is New York, and strange things happen here all the time. It’s not unusual for a board member to make one resident’s life a living hell because of some perceived slight. This is especially true for co-ops, which hold much power over what shareholders can and can’t do. For example, if a board member has decided they don’t like you, they can reject your application to make renovations to your unit. Board members who ‘go rouge’ like this are sadly common and can hurt everyone else in the building.
By joining the board, you can better protect yourself against hostile members that have an outsized influence on their decisions. Board members also tend to be more responsive to the needs of their members as they must deal with you regularly.
It takes a special set of skills to be a competent board member. There’ll be regular meetings to attend, reports to read, and projects to oversee and direct. All of this can be helpful training for anyone with an eye on a management position in their chosen line of work. For those working in the fields of engineering. Law, or finance, can be beneficial while also bringing your expertise to the table. Anyone interested in politics or community activism can also benefit as there’ll be plenty of opportunities to practice public speaking and canvassing during election cycles.
By far, the biggest downside to becoming a board member is that it will consume a lot of your free time. How much time exactly is difficult to say. Large projects will invariably mean more work, especially if you’re the President or Treasurer. Once you’ve been assigned a task, the other board members will typically back off and leave you to do it. This does have the advantage of giving you a lot of autonomy but also leaves you with a lot of work to handle. It will be a challenge if you’re also juggling the needs of your career and family at the same time.
It can never be understated just how much of a responsibility it is to become a board member. Anyone considering it should take plenty of time to study the building’s bylaws. These documents govern how a building is operated. For co-op buildings, probably the most important document to know is the proprietary lease. This governs the landlord-tenant relationship that exists between the co-op and the shareholders. If you’re not familiar with these documents, you could make a bad decision with disastrous legal consequences.
New board members are also advised to listen and learn for their first few meetings. Older members do not necessarily have a monopoly on good ideas, but they better understand the procedure. Learn how the process works before pitching ideas. Fortunately, there are courses and seminars available to train new board members. These are entirely optional but can be very helpful for learning about legal and financial issues.
As a board member, you’ll be expected to know the house rules and follow them to the letter. This means no more late-night parties, unauthorized subletting, or other rule-bending that could put you in a bad light. You need to be ready for this and accept that you’re now expected to be a role model for other residents.
Heavy lies the throne, as they say, but at least it’s a throne you’ll be sharing. Joining your building’s board is a big responsibility. But if you really feel like you can make a difference, then go for it. Inquire about when the next election will be held and start reading up on what the role entails.