Many clients are facing difficult decisions related to COVID-19. Should we open the pool? Should we waive late fees? Should we tell that owner she needs to repaint her house? Service as a director on a community association Board is never easy, but the pandemic has created stark and binary decisions that are not easy for anyone to make. These decisions are complicated by today’s political and social climate.
Community associations are nonprofit corporations, funded by their member assessments. They generally do not have large slush funds for lean times, and the decision to relax in collection efforts can have negative, real world impacts when the community can’t pay for its insurance. Association Board members have a fiduciary duty to enforce the covenants. Sensitive enforcement, recognizing that literally millions of people are out of work right now, can result in unkempt homes that will anger other owners. Opening the pool (or not opening the pool) are both defensible decisions, and regardless of the decision, some owners will be furious with the Board. You are between a rock and a hard place.
When a Board is faced with a difficult decision, its job is to make that decision. Sitting on your hands and worrying about how people will react is an abdication of a Board member’s duty to act on behalf of the corporation. Board members have access to the information and advice necessary to make an informed and prudent decision; this information is often not available to the membership at large. The business judgment rule offers protections for individual Board members who make decisions in the exercise of their reasonable business judgment, but they must actually make a decision! If you are not willing to make a hard decision while serving your community on your association Board, consider whether your talents and time are better spent in other service. You do your community a disservice when you fail to fulfill your duty to act on the association’s behalf.
Board service is hard. Your time and talents are appreciated and valued. Now put them to work, or let someone else step in!