Q. I live in a condominium development of more than 200 town houses. Our by-laws 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.
About 100, in person and by proxy, are quite upset because we cannot elect new members to the board or have a say regarding the budget.
What recourse do we have?
A. The most obvious answer that I can give 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 your 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. Other than the phone numbers, this information should be public information, at least as far as other unit owners are concerned.
Circulate a petition for a new special meeting, and I am sure that your by-laws will tell you how many people have to sign such a petition to require the board of directors to schedule that meeting.
Before that 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 to or returning from work, you have to educate your fellow owners about the serious nature of the problems within your association.
Have small tea parties at different town houses between now and the time the meeting is scheduled. You will have to corral your owners to make them understand the seriousness of the problem.
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 by-law provision on proxies. There may be restrictions on the number that can be given any one owner. Also make sure that the notice of the special meeting specifically advises people of the purpose of that special meeting.
I also suggest that you plan to run for the board of directors. Obviously, you are sufficiently concerned about the stability and future of your condominium community, and people like you should not sit on the sidelines. You should get involved, because that is the essence of condominium living.
One final solution might be 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 this is a time-consuming and expensive process, and it is possible that the court would turn down your request.
After all, the court might take the position that if the membership of your condominium is not interested in attending the annual election, or not even giving proxies for that election, why should the court get involved?
Unfortunately, the problems that you are facing are found in community associations throughout the nation. The community has to be run by a strong board of directors, but with the full authority and backing of the membership.
Conversely, the board must recognize that like any other elected officials, it owes its allegiance -- and obtains its authority -- from the community at large.
Benny L. Kass is a Washington lawyer. For a free copy of the booklet "A Guide to Settlement on Your New Home," send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Benny L. Kass, Suite 1100, 1050 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.