It took one horrific incident to reveal the risks association board members face. What are your liabilities when serving on a condo or co-op board?
In the aftermath, the questions were many. Who knew what and when? Did the board act in an appropriate manner? Does the board hold responsibility for the tragedy?
For individuals sitting on a condo or co-op board, the pressure to understand their own personal liability has increased exponentially in the wake of the collapse. While a condo collapse may not be a likely event, the liability does not end there. The legal ramifications of holding a board position are wide in scope and range.
Just some of the issues about which board members could be held responsible include:
- Pools and recreational areas: everything from not properly chlorinating the pool to fencing and slip-and-fall hazards could fall on the shoulders of the board.
- Building maintenance: neglecting to spend money on maintenance, putting off maintenance, or ignoring issues can put board members in legal trouble.
- Malfeasance: any act, either intentional or accidental, that harms another person physically or reputationally, or any alleged misdeed can become costly litigation.
- Inadequate insurance: without annual insurance reviews, boards often carry too low a limit for the properties they manage.
Serving on a condo or co-op board can be a great way to support the community where you live. However, before accepting such a position, you should understand that your actions as board member could leave you personally liable for injury and damages based on your actions – or lack thereof – that residents claim put them in harm’s way.
Applying Due Diligence
Fortunately, many of the board-related personal liabilities board members are exposed to can be mitigated by following appropriate due diligence measures. Understand who you are serving – you serve the overall Association interests, but also those of the residents. That means all facets of running a safe property could become a personal liability if neglect is proven.
The organization’s financial health is also a board member’s responsibility. Reducing the risk of liability means ensuring that all financial dealings are transparent, and that residents have access to financial reports and meeting notes.
Treat your board responsibilities with care. Before joining the board, understand who the other members are. Review also the performance of the board’s management, as well as its fiscal health. What red flags are concerning to you? What practices are they following? Do you have any concerns regarding the processes for maintenance, meetings, or other board-related activities? Look for evidence of neglect from past board actions. What part of that liability would you share by joining the board?
Review the board’s directors and officers insurance policy for limits and exclusions. Does the policy cover all officers? What other insurance would you need to protect you from personal liability?
To answer your questions regarding your risk associated with serving on a board, talk with NFP. We can help you understand the potential gaps in coverage of the board’s policy, and what insurance you will need to protect your personal assets from any board-related exposures.
Though rewarding, taking on the responsibility associated with serving on a board means taking on risks. By putting the right due diligence in place, and the right personal liability insurance, you can be protected as you work hard to improve your community.
For more information, please contact Brett Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org article