Non-Resident Board Members Managing Absentee Decision-Makers

An individual’s interest in their community association is rarely solely financial. In most cases, a building or HOA is also that individual’s home. And as such, they’re motivated to contribute positively to its quality of life, neighborhood congeniality, and aesthetics – just to name a few factors that make a place somewhere people love to live. For that reason, most of the people who volunteer to serve on their association board are full-time residents of said association. 

This is not always the case, however. Occasionally those who do not reside in an association pursue board membership – usually due to some combination of free time and personal and/or financial interests. While there’s nothing inherently problematic with having non-residents on a co-op or condo board, it does present certain considerations. Here, association experts delve into what may motivate these non-resident members; whether or not they pose a conflict with the members who do call the community home; and how potentially differing interests can coexist harmoniously and productively.

Motivating Factors

When a person who does not live in an association year-round runs for a board position, voters should evaluate that candidate with much the same criteria they would a full-time resident: what is motivating this individual to seek a board position, and will that person put the interests of the greater association above his or her own?

“Over the years, we have represented some boards with non-resident members,” says James A. Slowikowski, a partner at law firm Dickler, Kahn, Slowikowski & Zavell, Ltd., which has offices in Chicago and Arlington Heights, Illinois. “Sometimes the member lives locally, but is not a resident in the association. In other instances, the members are snowbirds, and as such they are ‘absent’ for several months at a time, but otherwise live at the property. 

“I think there is only a slight difference between those two types of non-resident board members,” he continues. “The snowbirds generally think like resident board members. The main difference I often see is that the snowbirds often will want to put off projects or certain business until the spring, when they will be back on site – and that’s usually in proportion to the number of snowbirds serving on the board. When one or more are away, board business tends to be conducted only as needed. On the other hand, some things may be addressed sooner than they normally would, such as working on the annual budget before those snowbirds depart for the winter. So the timing of when things get done is what is most affected – not the substantive decisions, so much as when those decisions are made.”

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