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Here Are the Top Reasons Why People Run for Co-op and Condo Boards

New York City

Co-op and condo boards, candidates, motivation, property management, monthly charges.
Feb. 9, 2024

Serving on a co-op or condo board is nice work if you can get it. The pay is terrible (that is, nonexistent). The hours can be long. The level of satisfaction among shareholders or unit-owners can range from sky-high to the bottom of the basement. When things go wrong, it's the board's fault; when things go right, people tend not to notice. And if the board has to raise monthly charges or levy an assessment — fuhggedaboudit. So why would anyone of sound mind want to take on such a thankless, unpaid position? Brick Underground has put together a list of what motivates board candidates.

Common areas. There's an old joke in board circles that if you want to get a big turnout at the annual meeting, announce that you're planning to renovate the lobby and hallways. But it's no joke. There’s nothing that gets residents to pay attention like changes to a building’s common areas, says Adelaide Polsinelli, a commercial broker at Compass and former board president of her Greenwich Village co-op.“When you start renovating lobbies and hallways, it's a very divisive project," Polsinelli says. "People will hate you or love you. So if you want to get someone's attention, tell them you want to change the lobby.”

Staff problems. Residents are even more inclined to run when those common areas aren’t being taken care of. Tatiana Peck, the board president of a seven-unit condo in Williamsburg, says cleanliness has been a big factor in motivating her fellow board members to run.Her building previously struggled to find a reliable staffer to take out the trash on time, leading garbage — and rodents — to accumulate. Peck says the situation certainly helped push residents to campaign. “To a certain point," she says, "I think owners felt incensed enough to get on the board and try to change things.”

Unmanageable managers. Residents might not communicate with the board on a regular basis, but they’re likely interacting with the building’s property management company for day-to-day issues, which can be a huge source of ire if the firm isn’t living up to residents’ expectations.“Many people are very unhappy with their management firms,” Polsinelli says. “Someone who's made a big investment in their home wants to be treated a little differently than as if they were a renter.”Peck’s building went through four property management companies before the unit-owners decided to become self-managed last year. She says a lack of transparency with how her management company hired vendors and handled repairs was a huge reason she got involved with the board. “There was a feeling that the best interest of the building and its residents wasn't necessarily at the forefront,” Peck says. “I think that's been a very huge motivator.”

Monthly fee bump. Even a resident who never interacts with the property manager probably pays pretty close attention to monthly fees. When maintenance fees and common charges rise, so does interest in the board, says Mark Feinberg, chief financial officer of Argo Real Estate and president of his Union Square area cooperative.“If there’s a maintenance increase, and people don’t like the way things are being managed…they’re going to get on the board,” Feinberg says. “They’re going to try to prove to everybody that they can manage better than the current board.”

Professional expertise. Some board members decide to run because they have the expertise necessary to handle a specific issue. “I’m one of those characters who fall in the category of professionals that run for the board,” Feinberg says, referring to his financial work for a property management company. “Usually you have lawyers, architects, engineers or somebody who has a professional skill or knows some of the business.”Residents with industry experience can be a huge asset to a building — or a huge liability. Watch out for professionals interested in using their position on the board to advance their own business. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided.

Resident apathy. Last but far from least, some people join boards because no one else in the building wants to shoulder the burden. Will Kwan first ran for a board position at his 193-unit building in Murray Hill in 1997, when he said the board only had seven volunteers for seven open seats.“Fast forward since June of 1997 and I am still currently volunteering my time on the board,”  says Kwan, a managing partner at the board election advisor EZ Election Solutions. “While some years we have contested elections where there are more candidates than seats, mostly, people have not volunteered for the responsibilities of being on a board.”

Such apathy is not necessarily a bad sign. Sometimes it means that residents are satisfied with the way the board is running the building. Yes, such buildings do exist.

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