While some community associations are lucky enough to have lawyers serve as members of their board, the majority of boards don’t have an in-house legal expert. They often reach out to their attorney to answer questions, vet documents, and send the occasional stern letter to a contractor or recalcitrant resident.
The problem is that sometimes, boards will reach out too often, calling attorneys about things they should already know. However, lawyers know boards aren't comprised of a bunch of psychics—there can only be one Miss Cleo, after all. So, to answer boards' frequently asked questions, and to save both boards' and attorneys' phone call time, we polled some area lawyers to come up with a list of the “Top 5 Things Attorneys Wish Boards Knew.”
Who You Gonna Call?
Often times, boards make the mistake of taking legal matters or other administrative tasks into their own hands in an effort to save funds. However, this is a misstep that can lead to financial woes much greater than the cost of professional counsel. Experts say they wish boards would not be penny-wise and pound-foolish and contact their attorneys for advice in handling problems before a manageable situation spirals out of control.
Case in point, says one attorney, “In a community association [we represent], there was water damage to a unit several years ago which resulted in mold. Even though the unit owners complained several times, nothing was done—the attorney wasn’t called, the insurance company wasn’t called. Eventually, the unit owner sued for his losses, including health issues.”
Because the board sat on the case for so long, the insurance company has now refused to pay for the condo association’s legal defense, resulting in a large unwanted exposure. “Had we been notified of this at the beginning, we probably would’ve recommended quick mold remediation and getting a release [from the unit owner, stating the problem was fixed] which would have put end to the claim,” the attorney says.