This week's word is split board.
A split board in a condominium or homeowner association exists when there are two (or more) factions of directors with different goals or visions for the community.
This is a very bad situation. It creates dissension in the community and commonly results in unfounded accusations of wrong doing from both sides.
A common example might be a community that has one group of residents that are willing to increase their maintenance fees to maintain and even improve the condition of the property for resale purposes, while another group wants to spend the least possible amount in order to keep their monthly maintenance fees down. If this board had five directors, with three in favor of "investing" and two in favor of "conserving", then it would be a split board.
In this case, the investing party would have a majority, while the conserving party would have a minority. The investing party gets what they want and the conserving party loses consistently because their goals are in direct conflict with the majority.
What should a property manager do when this happens? Grin and bear it. It is going to be a long year. Here are some more useful tips:
- Don't take sides. Include everyone, listen to everyone, but don't waste time sympathizing with the losing party - they are not going to get what they want and that is not your problem.
- Coach the board members to avoid personal attacks. You may want to recommend a "code of conduct" for the board to make sure everyone behaves nicely.
- Focus on maintaining order in the board meetings. Meetings in these situations can quickly spin out of control. Think carefully about how the board and manager should respond to the minority and their constituents (the owners that support the conserving party).
- Over-communicate. Be very clear in your communications about the reasoning behind decisions, e.g. special assessments and be prepared to defend your decisions without becoming defensive.
Empathy is key in the process - particularly for the majority. The majority is in control. They can be bullies about it, or they can rise above the noise and remind everyone of how their decisions are based on their goals for the community. If the community does not support their goals, then changes should occur in the next election.