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Should a new Community Association Board of Directors clean house in the summer?
by: Rob Samouce
In late winter or early spring each year, Condominium and Homeowner Associations elect their new Directors to sit on the Association Board in connection with their annual meeting. Although some associations will have contested elections, the majority will not have the need for an election as only enough members will run as their are open seats. A few will have no new members run so the same Directors will sit year after year.

Hotly contested races may be exciting, but sometimes the result is a divided community and unnecessary upheavals enacted by the New Board. One such upheaval may be a new board wanting to clean house to prove to the members that they can run things better and at less cost than the "Old Board". They may replace the management, maintenance personnel or other service providers. They will usually make these replacements during the summer when many of the members have gone back North to minimize any political fallout. This type of New Board wants its own people in control rather than those they consider to be the Old Board's people; an us versus them mentality. Besides the commotion and ill feelings that can be created by such drastic changes, such changes can really cost the members a great deal of money. Lost with the changes can be vast experience and knowledge of the Association's individual problems and needs. Duplication of services and getting up to speed by the new service providers can be expensive.

This is not to say that many times ill performing Association service providers need to be, and should be replaced, but sometimes it seems a New Board of Directors wants new people who report to it just for the sake of change and to establish some sort of new loyalties.

Why do Directors with this New Board mentality make such costly decisions? Maybe it’s the background many of the Directors come from. Many of the Directors serving on Community Association Boards in Naples are either still working executives in, or recently retired from, medium to large corporations. In many such corporations it is the norm for such executives to have “their own people” whom they can view as loyal and trustworthy. Such personal loyalty and trust may be good for getting things done in the domain of the for profit corporate world. However such practices often do not translate well in running Not-for-Profit, comparatively low budget, Community Associations. It is the Director turnover that can be high and therefore the only place to find continuity and loyalty to the community, which can be critical, may be with the association’s service providers themselves.

There is a time and place for a New Board to replace a service provider who has not been servicing the Association as contracted for. It should first be determined whether or not the services are actually being provided. With ever changing faces on the Board, you cannot assume there is a mutual understanding between the Board and the service provider as to what services are to be provided. If, after review of the services being provided or should be provided with the service provider, the New Board determines that the Association is not getting what it contracted for by the provider, then the Board should decide whether the provider should get another chance now that there is a clear understanding of duties, or whether its time to look for new a new provider. Many times it’s better and less costly to try to work with what you know rather than to test an unknown.

If it is time to change providers, make sure you review the contract with the provider you are going to terminate to make sure you terminate in the proper manner and avoid extra costs and possible lawsuits from disgruntled ex-providers. Your attorney should assist you in the contract termination process as well as review and advise in the contract you will enter into with the new provider you choose.
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including condominium, cooperative and homeowners' associations, real estate transactions, closings and related mortgage law, general business law, estate planning, construction defect litigation and general civil litigation. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.