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Non-Resident Board Members Managing Absentee Decision Makers

An individual’s interest in their community association is rarely just financial; in most cases, a building or HOA is also that individual’s home—and as such they’re motivated to contribute to its quality of life, neighborhood congeniality, and aesthetics, just to name a few of the things 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 that association. 

This is not always the case, however. Occasionally, people who don’t actually reside in an association pursue board membership—usually due to some combination of free time and personal and/or financial interests in the community. While there’s nothing inherently problematic with having non-residents on a co-op or condo board, it does present certain considerations. We reached out to some management experts to delve into what may motivate these non-resident members, whether or not their presence on the board increases the likelihood of 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 doesn’t live in an association year-round runs for a board position, a voting resident should evaluate them with much the same criteria as they would a full-time neighbor: what is motivating this individual to seek a board position, and will they put the interests of the greater association above their own?

“Over the years, we have represented some boards with non-resident members,” says James A. Slowikowski, a partner with Dickler, Kahn, Slowikowski, & Zavell, Ltd. in 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 tend to 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 substance of the decisions so much as when those decisions are made.”

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