Q: I live in a condominium development consisting of more than 200 town houses. Our bylaws state that we must have a majority of the homeowners of the condominium association, either in person or by proxy, to have a quorum. A majority of the homeowners did not attend the recent annual meeting either in person or by proxy. The board of directors said we could not elect new board members or have an official meeting because we did not have a quorum. We returned for a second meeting and again could not meet the quorum requirements.
The few of us (about 100 in person and by proxy) are quite upset because we cannot elect new members to the board or have a say where our budget is concerned. What resources do we have?
A: The most obvious answer that I can give you is to sell your unit. You are facing the beginning of what appears to be significant problems in the condominium community, and if a majority of the unit owners are not interested in casting their votes either in person or by proxy, the democracy of the community will fall to the will of the minority.
Obviously, however, you do not want to sell, but would like to get more deeply involved in the day-to-day activities of the association. I suggest that you start a major political campaign within your community, quite similar to the political campaigns of candidates for public office.
Ask the management company for the names, addresses and phone numbers of all unit owners. This should be public information. Circulate a petition for a new special meeting, and I am sure that your bylaws will tell you how many people have to sign such a petition to require the board of directors to hold that meeting.
Before the meeting, it will be your responsibility to line up as many proxies as possible. Even if you have to stand on the street corner when people are on their way or returning from work, you have to educate your fellow owners about the serious nature of the problems within your association.
The purpose of the special meeting should be to elect directors so that the condominium will be run by the will of the majority.
One caveat: Read the bylaw provision on proxies. There may be restrictions on the number that can be given any one owner.
I suggest that you plan to run for the board of directors. Obviously, you are concerned enough about the stability and future of your condominium community, and people like you should not sit by on the sidelines. You should get involved, because that is the essence of condominium living.
One final solution is to go to court and have the court appoint a receiver to run and manage the condominium until the board has an opportunity to establish a new election. I am not advocating this, however, because it is time-consuming and expensive, and it is possible that a court would turn down your request.
After all, it might take the position that if the membership of your condominium is not interested in attending the annual election or even giving proxies for the weekend, why should the court get involved?
Unfortunately, the problems that we begin to face with condominium living have just begun to surface. The condominium is a community. It has to be run by a strong board of directors, with full authority from the membership. However, the board of must recognize that, like any other elected officials, it owes its allegiance and gets its authority from the community at large.
Benny L. Kass is a Washington attorney. Write him in care of the real estate section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW Washington 20071.