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Understanding Condominium Bylaws and Declaration

Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A

REM #LAW 738

By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Summary: A member of a condominium board seeks Sam and Ilyce's advice on how to educate his fellow board members. Sam and Ilyce explain that the bylaws and declaration hold the key to understanding the board's roles, responsibilities and procedures.

Q: My condominium association is often confused about voting rights. When does the Board of Directors vote on an issue?
(article continues below useful links)

When do you need two-thirds or unanimous approval of the unit owners? I have a clear understanding of the bylaws, but is there an article on the subject, so I don't have to play lawyer at every meeting?

A: If you have a clear understanding of the bylaws you’re far ahead of most people in condominium associations. But there is one other document you need to look at – the condominium declaration.

While the bylaws will tell you the process of electing members to the board of directors and the duties and responsibilities of the officers of the association, the declaration will tell you what issues require the unanimous vote by the unit owners of the condominium association and which require a lesser number to pass.

In some states, the law that regulates condominium associations may have additional information that will be useful in determining what the voting requirements will be on a particular issue. In order to sell the condominium building as a whole, for example, your state’s statute may require a unanimous vote or a supermajority to approve the sale.

As far as the way the board of directors supervises and authorizes its voting, things vary from association to association. Some associations will have a vote on just about every issue and then give the president of the association the charge to move forward on that issue.

In other associations, generally the larger ones, the president of the association has, and takes, a larger role in managing the affairs of the association. With all of the issues facing a large association, the president uses the powers given to him or her by the declaration and bylaws to manage the association.

That’s in stark contrast to smaller associations where there are less issues and the board of directors and the president work hand in hand to manage the affairs of the association.

You can pay a visit to your local library, and read up on the process of governing a condominium association. But in reality, your declaration and bylaws should be enough.

These documents will tell you when you need to get the vote by all of the unit owners and will indicate what percentage of the votes are required for each particular topic. The documents may go as far as to say that a simple majority will be required on all votes by the unit owners unless a supermajority is required, and should also tell you what is the definition of “supermajority” for your association.

Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website




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