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02/09/2018 : What Makes For An Ethical Condo Association Election?

By Benny L. Kass

February 09, 2018

Dear Benny: Our condo has an election coming up: eight applicants for four positions. Residents are sent packets with applicants’ résumés and proxy sheet to mail in if they’re not able to attend the meeting to vote in person. Some residents ignore the entire event.

Some applicants are going door to door asking residents to sign a proxy form for them. These applicants will then walk into the meeting with signed proxies – more or less rigging the voting process.

This process just appears to me to be slightly unethical. Please send your opinion. – Bonnie

Bonnie: Join the wonderful world of condominium living. Personally, I don’t like the concept of a “proxy;” if you care enough about your association, come to the meetings. However, as a practical matter, proxies are usually needed to meet quorum requirements.

I do not, however, consider what is occurring in your association unethical. What’s wrong with meeting with fellow owners and trying to get their vote? That’s the way politics work for national, state and local elections, so why is it wrong in your association?

So long as all potential candidates have the same opportunity to solicit votes, that, in my opinion, is democracy.

Dear Benny: When a condominium association needs to make a decision regarding a choice between an assessment vs. increasing condominium fees, which is wiser? Our over-55 community has six sub-associations and unfortunately ours has depleted our reserve funds due to the repair of some extensive structural damage for which the builder is no longer responsible after almost 14 years.

The property management company contends an assessment is less desirable and would result in a negative for the entire development. I feel that a seriously depleted reserve fund is more detrimental and should be addressed with an assessment immediately vs. increasing the monthly fees. – Joan

Joan: You asked a very good question, but unfortunately, there is no easy answer. This cannot be answered in a vacuum; we have to look at all of the facts. And perhaps the most important fact is to analyze the makeup of the owners. Can they afford a large assessment? Will such an assessment trigger more defaults, which would make your financial situation even worse.

What repairs are immediately needed? Has the board considered getting a bank loan, especially now that interest rates are low? Has the board considered a combination of assessment and increased monthly fees?

Bottom line: The board – with the input of owners such as you – should carefully consider all of the facts (and all of the various options) before making a decision. There is no universal answer.

Dear Benny: I have not seen or I have missed info in your column on reverse mortgages. I’m 77 and have my own home. I have four adult children who own their homes and are not interested in mine. I still have a mortgage balance of $113,000. Would you please provide me with some information on reverse mortgages – the pros and cons or who I can get in touch with for info? – Mary

Mary: Perhaps the best place to start learning about reverse mortgages is from AARP. They have lots of helpful material which you can get online ( ).

Pro: Depending on the value of your house and the amount (if any) of your current mortgage, you can get a lump sum right now. Alternatively, you can receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life or until the house is sold. And this is true even if these payments ultimately exceed the value of your house.

Con: You still have to pay the insurance and the real estate tax every year. You still have to maintain the house. And perhaps the most significant negative: You may have no equity left in the house to give to your children or your grandchildren.

I cannot – in this short column – provide more information. In addition to AARP, there are a lot of helpful studies and articles on the web, which you can find just by searching “reverse mortgages.” But beware of scammers. And don’t rely on testimonials from famous people; those are paid commercials that favor the mortgage lender.

Benny L. Kass is a Washington and Maryland lawyer. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. Send questions to [email protected] .