Good Interactions Between Co-op Boards and Shareholders Cool Runnings

Good Interactions Between Co-op Boards and Shareholders

Although it is frequently assumed that cooperative boards of directors are totally responsible for all building decisions, typically they are assisted by a large group of professional consultants who not only guide them but also sometimes make the day-to-day decisions on their behalf. When a shareholder has an issue or a proposal, it’s wise to try to determine the best course of communication before contacting the board.

Beginning with the most basic day to day issues, such as repairs, the resident manager or handyman would be the primary point of contact. Boards typically do not become involved with the daily maintenance of a building and should be contacted about these matters only as a last resort and after contact with the resident manager and managing agent have been fully exhausted.

If a shareholder is planning to renovate their apartment or install major equipment, the managing agent in concert with the building architect and resident manager will approve the plans in the name of the board. Every building has its own renovation guidelines and typically there is an alteration agreement between the building and shareholder which outlines the building’s requirements and must be approved by the managing agent.

Some of the best ideas for building amenities come from the residents of a building. Want a gym, roof deck or a playroom? Having some concrete idea of how to accomplish the project will help your dreams come to fruition. During my tenure as president of my co-op, one of the board members wanted a gym. Because he was a developer, he presented the board with very specific information about the area in the building, which could be converted to a gym and sources to purchase the equipment. Since no one else on the board had this expertise, it made us very comfortable going forward with the idea.

Boards also look to shareholders for input in major projects. When undertaking a lobby or hallway renovation, some buildings will form a committee to oversee and report back to the board, while other boards will coordinate on their own. Either way, it is essential to give the shareholder the opportunity for input. Ask the designer to submit three designs with a variety of finishes and invite the shareholders to vote for their favorite. Open communication can foster excellent results.

Be sensitive to the form you use to communicate with a board member. Remember this is a voluntary position. Try writing a note or if possible send an email outlining the idea with some plans for carrying it out. It may take some time to get a response because the member will want to consider and discuss the concept with the rest of the board. With some forethought about how to interact with your board, you will find the experience rewarding. Boards truly appreciate input and guidance so provide it to them in a helpful way.

In the same regard, your board’s interaction with the shareholders is equally important. Residents want to know what’s going on in their building and do not want to be surprised with an announcement of maintenance increases, assessments or new projects by simply revealing them at the annual meeting.

There are many tools available to facilitate communication—the most popular are newsletters or more recently building websites. Websites provide an interactive forum for the shareholders and board members to communicate and also can become the go to source for floor plans, publishing the house rules or even maintenance payments. Since not everyone is computer literate, it’s important that information be provided in print as well. Some boards are fortunate enough to have a member volunteer to produce the newsletter, while others will look to the shareholders for volunteers.

The responsibilities of serving on a board are not to be taken lightly. You have a great deal of expertise in your building. Take advantage of any help people can provide. Some buildings find committees very helpful, but others find the running of a committee in addition to the board work more time consuming than it’s worth. Committees are an opportunity to establish support and to groom future board members.

In the end, communication is the key. Remember everyone wants to live in the best building possible.

Lenore Barton is an associate broker with Warburg Realty Partnership Ltd. and a contributor toThe Cooperator.

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