Can spouses serve on a condo board together in DC?

Recently one of my clients asked if co-owners can simultaneously serve on a condo board in DC? My first thought was, “of course they can’t, that’s ridiculous.” As it turns out, there is no DC law, or case, prohibiting condo board service by co-owners of the same unit. So unless the Bylaws address the situation, it is totally permissible.

Although it seems absurd, my client is not the first to struggle with the question. In fact, at least one jurisdiction has case law on the subject and had to actually change a state law addressing condo board composition.

How other states have addressed the issue

In 2007, a married couple in Florida both decided to run for their condo board. They separately filed their nominations for the election, and upon receiving the paperwork, the Association promptly took action. The current Board adopted a rule that if both were elected, the one with fewer votes would have to step down.

Of course, both won and the wife, who received 20 fewer votes, refused to resign from the condo board. Litigation ensued and a Broward County Judge found that there was no law prohibiting simultaneous service by co-owners. Moreover, the Association’s Bylaws didn’t address the issue, and the Judge set aside the hasty resolution that the Board passed on the eve of the election. Lakewood Village Condominium Association, Inc. v. Beracha, (Case No. COWE 07-006293).

In response, Florida changed the Law. It now provides that co-owners of one unit cannot serve on the condo board at the same time. There is an exception in cases where there is nobody else to fill the seat. A reasoned solution.

Although the Florida Law does not apply in DC, the takeaway is that there is nothing inherent in Condominium laws which address the situation of two people from the same unit serving on a condo board of directors.  Moreover, nearly all of the Bylaws that I have seen are silent on the issue. So, unless the bylaws are amended to address it, co-owners may serve on the same condo board.

Just because you ‘can’ does not mean that you ‘should’

Even though it is technically legal, that does not mean it is a good idea. I understand that sometimes an association is small or owner engagement is low.  In those cases, if co-owners don’t serve together administrative difficulties might result.  For example, there can be vacancies on the Board, making it difficult to establish a quorum. The result might be an Association that cannot properly function.

However, in situations where Board elections are contested, spouses serving together might create political problems, fairness concerns and can make governance unnecessarily contentious.

It is difficult serving on a condo board. It is a thankless volunteer service which more often than not leads to conflict and confrontation. Having competent professional assistance is a must. If your Board is struggling with the Co-owner/Board Issue or you have other governance questions contact me or use my online scheduling tool to set up a free case evaluation.

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