Community association owners may not fully appreciate how the length of time board members serve on the board and staggered elections can directly impact the community. Making sure the governing documents for the association provide for longer board terms and staggering elections are necessary tools for efficient and effective community associations.
In general, board terms can last for either one, two, or three years. Unless a community association’s governing documents have stipulated differently, the default rule per State law provides that the term for a board member only lasts one year. Practically, one-year terms for board members can negatively impact the community association’s efficiency, cohesiveness, and unity. Having longer terms allows the community association to preserve board continuity and institutional knowledge, which leads to a more efficient and effective board. Often, it can take months or even years for a new board member to get up to speed on their new duties, and to become familiar with the current status of the projects impacting the community’s common elements. This is especially true for communities with ongoing issues that reoccur or remain unresolved for years, further steepening the learning curve for any new board member. If every board member “retires” at the end of their one-year term, it will take the newly elected board members some time to become well-informed and knowledgeable about association business.
Staggering elections means only a certain number of the board members are elected in a given year. For example, if a community association has five board members with three-year terms, staggered elections could mean that two board members are elected one year, two other board members are elected the following year, and one board member is elected in two years. This staggering results in a 2-2-1 election by which the owners will be required to elect some, but not all, board members each year. Or as another example, if a board has three board members and each member has a three-year term, staggering elections can result in a 1-1-1 staggering, so only one board member is elected each year. Staggered elections allow new board members to have the benefit of being able to listen to and learn from more experienced board members. This also provides an opportunity for each new board member to have an “onboarding” period where they can learn the job and rely on the other, more experienced board members for guidance.
Common sense dictates that having two-year or three-year terms for board members, along with staggered elections, is a more efficient way to run a community association when compared to other community associations that only have one-year terms without staggered elections.