Expert Advice by Bruce Cholst, Anderson Kill, attorneys specializing in co-op & condo law.
As property managers and board members plan for their associations’ annual meetings they should keep one cardinal rule in mind: atmospherics matter. The choice of timing and venue, the provision of amenities or failure to do so, and the manner in which information is presented all profoundly affect the tone of the gathering, and the tone set by the annual meeting could make or break a board’s tenure.
For example, to maximize turnout and avoid accusations of bad faith the meeting should be scheduled after work hours on a weeknight at a place near the building.
Selection of a venue is equally crucial for establishing the tone. Proximity to the building will encourage attendance and preclude complaints about the board’s lack of good faith in scheduling of the meeting.
Comfort counts too. A crowded room without appropriate heat, ventilation, air conditioning, or adequate seating arrangements is guaranteed to inhibit dialogue and increase tension. Acoustics also matter. If the meeting is being held in a large room, microphones are a must, and the board or managing agent should test them in advance to make sure they are functional. Another way to reduce tension is to provide food while waiting for attendees to be signed in.
The board’s choice of who presents its information to owners also affects the meeting's tone. Presentations by board members instead of the building’s various professionals result in a less formal atmosphere. On the other hand, professional presentations lend a more ritual milieu to the meeting, which may be appropriate to a particular building. Presentations by local police and fire department representatives or politicians concerning community issues can also lend substance.
Lengthy and numerous presentations tend to cut into the time available for owner Q&A/gripe sessions, thereby risking discontent. Finally, distribution of financial statements at least several days prior to the meeting is imperative to avoid speculation that bad numbers or improprieties are being concealed.
Bruce Cholst & The Anderson Kill Experts have been counsel to the co-op-condo and Homeowner Association Boards in the NYC Metro community for over 40 years. Their NYC office is located at 12521 Avenue of the Americas NY, NY 10020. They can be reached at 212.278.1000. www.andersonkill.com