Back to Basics: Rules for Joining Your Condo Board

Back to Basics: Rules for Joining Your Condo Board

It won’t be long now until the first big batch of Alberta Condominium Property Act changes goes into effect, and we’re on the edge of our seats. July 1 can’t come soon enough! With many of these amendments working to embrace a more transparent and communicative approach to condo rules and regulations here in Alberta, we thought we’d take a step back from the intricacies of condo management and take the opportunity today to provide some clarity of our own on a topic that seems simple on its surface, but that many people often find themselves in the dark about. We’re speaking, of course, about the policies and procedures around joining your community’s condo board.

Let’s Start at the Beginning: Who Can Join Your Condo Board?

This might seem like an easy question, but we’d bet a pretty penny that most condo owners out there wouldn’t be able to lay out the rules around who’s allowed to join their condo association’s board and who isn’t if push came to shove. Sitting on your building’s condo board can be a rewarding and empowering experience, but there’s also a lot of responsibility that comes along with the job. To that end, there are some considerations to take into account – some governed by provincial law, but many specific to each condo community’s set of unique bylaws:

  • Who can be a board member? Generally, members are expected to be unit owners within that board’s specific condo community, but this is not always the case. Board members can also be tenants or relatives of an owner, depending on what the association’s bylaws allow. Members can also be external parties such as lawyers, accountants, or condo managers, serving in order to provide expert advice from their own particular field. As long as at least 2/3 of board members are either unit owners or mortgagees, the building’s bylaws are free to determine the rest.
  • How many people can be on the board? This determination is usually laid out within a condo community’s bylaws. These rules will usually establish the minimum and a maximum number of board members permitted to keep the association moving forward and functioning efficiently.
  • How are board members chosen? Generally speaking, board members are elected, but the bylaws might allow for other means of selection, including appointments and nominations.
  • How long can a board member serve? Once more, this is a detail that will depend entirely on your condo’s bylaws, which will usually layout not only how long a term of service might run for, but also whether members are allowed to serve consecutive terms or not.
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This list covers off most of the details regarding board service and eligibility, but there’s one question that continually comes up regarding board membership that we thought we’d take some time to address in a bit more detail.

Can Snowbirds Come Home to Roost on My Condo Board?

Snowbirds and condos go together like peas and carrots – and it really does make a lot of sense, when you stop to think about it. The majority of snowbirds are retired empty-nesters whose kids have flown the coop – so, they’ve decided to downsize from that big house in the suburbs to a trendy, well-appointed condo and use all that extra money to skip out of town when the weather takes a turn for the blizzardy.

Snowbirds also tend to have an abundance of time on their hands (being retired will do that!), and as a result are often eager to invest their hours in voluntary, purpose-filled pursuits – like sitting on their building’s condo board, for example.

Here’s where things can get a bit sticky. Snowbirds are often great board members and enthusiastic contributors when they’re around – but is it really fair that they maintain a seat on a year-round board when they’re only in town for maybe five months out of 12? Shouldn’t those seats go to unit owners who are able to commit to being around for all 365 days of the year? Can snowbirds even properly or honestly contribute to a condo board, only being “part-time” community members?

Regardless of what your thoughts or feelings on the subject might be, snowbirds are just as eligible to serve on your community’s board as the next condo owner. There is no provincial law that mandates full-time residency as a requirement for board service, and any sort of community-specific bylaw that tries to enforce such a mandate would ultimately most likely be considered unreasonable by Alberta’s courts. Serve away, you glorious silver-haired snowbirds, you!

Removing a Bad Board Member

We’ll be honest – regardless of how difficult, frustrating, or abrasive a member might be, it’s not easy to get somebody removed from your condo community’s board. In fact, there are only three real reasons that board termination can be pursued as laid out by the current Alberta Condominium Property Act:

  • Negligence,
  • Breach of confidentiality, and
  • Proof of financial investment/interest in decisions being made without proper disclosure.
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If one of these lines has undoubtedly been crossed, you can proceed with terminative action – in fact, we would encourage you to do so! Unfortunately, though, you’ll notice that “being a big stupid jerk” isn’t one of the stipulations on that list, meaning that a simple clash of personalities or a majority vote is not sufficient to remove someone from your building’s board.

In these instances, we always advise boards to do their best to reconcile their internal differences. Take some time to hear your problem board member out. Chances are, they’re trying to do what they think is best for the condo community, but just aren’t great at expressing themselves or don’t have all the facts. Work to remind the board of the importance of respectful communication at the top of each meeting if you find a member is lacking in common courtesy and consideration. Engage in respectful means of conflict resolution if things get heated. It can be tough, but with a resolute and determined attitude, your association can fight to prevail over a bad board member and bring everybody together again under the common purpose of building the best condo community possible.

That’s about all we’ve got to say on the rules about joining your condo board! We hope we’ve helped to shed some light on the subject – and, in the vein of the upcoming Alberta Condominium Property Act amendments, hope that we’ve helped to provide some transparency around the matter. That said, if you have further questions about board service and eligibility, feel free to reach out to us at Catalyst Condo Management – we’re always happy to any and all questions you might have about condo living!

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