Helpful COVID-19 resources for you

Annual Meetings – A Breakdown in Real Time

meeting photoIf you are a coop or condo owner you may have received a notice to attend your ’s annual shareholder (for coops) or unit owner (for condominiums) annual meeting. These meetings tend to proliferate in May and June.

Building bylaws follow guidelines that were developed under the Business Corporation Law (BCL) for coops, and The New York Condo Act for condominiums.

One of these rules is that a building or community’s bylaws will dictate specifically what month or day the annual meeting will be held. The rule was developed with building residents’ schedules in mind. A notification sent too far in advance means people may forget about the meeting, one sent without reasonable notice means that people already have prior commitments. As the meeting takes place the same month and possibly the same day of the week every year, building residents should be aware of its existence.

What follows is both a breakdown of the annual meeting process and what can happen in real time as I witnessed at my own condo’s annual meeting.

lecture photo
Photo by OIST (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology)

To clarify, the annual shareholder or unit holder meeting is different than a coop or condominium’s monthly board meetings. At the annual meeting all owners are invited to attend whereas the monthly board meeting is closed to all but the board officers (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer), managing agent, and sometimes those who are hired to provide building maintenance and repairs such as architects and engineers.

At a board meeting the officers address issues affecting the building and its residents. These include renovations, maintenance assessment and taxes, and approval of any purchases or sales.

The purpose of the annual meeting is to inform resident shareholders and unit holders of the board’s business. A building’s financial state, planned projects, capital improvements, changes in management or staff are addressed. Residents can ask questions of their board and management team about the building and how it’s being managed.

Official business such as new board member elections, governing document alterations or voting on flip taxes requires a quorum in order for these actions to take place. A quorum is the minimum number of voting members that must be in attendance at an organization’s meeting for that meeting to be regularly constituted.

A quorum can vote either in person or by proxy. A proxy is a person who is authorized to vote shares for shareholders or on behalf of unit holders who are not present. Proxy authorization is submitted prior to the annual meeting. Although I planned to attend the annual meeting, I turned my proxy authorization form in, in the event that for any unforeseen reason I was unable to go.

Gina Fazzalaro, is the managing director of Akam Living Services, Inc. Akam provides property management and brokerage services for both residential and commercial buildings including the one where I reside; a Murray Hill condominium.

Ms. Fazzalaro said she facilitates approximately thirty annual meetings a year. Her role is to guide the meeting process and ensure that the agenda runs efficiently. The benefits of owners attending the annual meeting are many. Ms. Fazzalaro says, “It’s informative and a way to protect your investment. You can learn what’s going on financially and also with respect to the building’s construction, repairs and capital improvement.”

When I asked if renters were allowed to attend the annual meeting Ms. Fazzalaro explained that renters were usually not allowed to attend, as the meetings are for owners and the nature of a renter’s tenancy is transient. However, there are case-by-case scenarios, where a sub-letter may have resided in a shareholder or unit owner’s for several years and may act as his or her landlord’s proxy.

audience question photo
Photo by FranksValli

I asked my building neighbor Kelly Farrell, a real estate attorney, why she attended the annual meeting. Ms. Farrell said, “I haven’t been in a few years and it’s time. There’s a lot going on in the building. I want to get a sense of the building’s tempo, ask questions and see what are my neighbors concerns.”

Ms. Farrell observed that many luxury properties with multiple amenities are being built in Murray Hill and wondered what could our building, a 1963 white brick doorman building do to keep up in terms of value.

As annual meetings adhere to the Business Corporation Law (BCL) and The New York Condo Act guidelines, I made sure to take a look at the documents that were on my seat so I would know what to expect. There was an agenda, financial statements, and a unit owner’s ballot for the Election of Manager’s.

The agenda consisted of nine items: 1. Roll Call. 2. Proof of Notice of meeting. 3. Reading of the minutes of the preceding meeting. 3. Appointment of Inspectors of Election. 4. Election of Members of Condominium Board. 6. Review of 2018 Audited Financials. 7. Reports of Officers of Condominium. 8. Unfinished business. 9. New business.

At the designated starting time Ms. Fazzalaro welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order. Agenda items moved smoothly until number 3 – the election. There wasn’t a quorum, which for my building meant more than 50% of unit owners in person or by proxy would have had to attend.

It got a bit tense as without a quorum the meeting would be considered “unofficial.” Our resident building manager volunteered to knock on residents’ doors, as we only needed four more units to make the official count. Ms. Fazzalaro calmly assured us that we could come back to the election in case owners later showed up. She noted ironically that the better a building is run, the less people show up for the annual meeting. To keep the meeting on track we skipped ahead to the Review of Audited Financials given by the building’s accounting firm.

After the accountant’s review, the board officers gave their reports about the state of the building such as the impending elevator upgrade, building façade maintenance, terrace railing replacements and roof repairs. Reported resident issues ranged from enforcing rights against illegal airbnbs, trash recycling, and whether we should make the building smoke free.

As the evening progressed there still weren’t enough owners present to have a quorum which meant that an election couldn’t be held and that the current officers would hold their positions until the next annual unit owner’s meeting the following year.

Ms. Farrell, the attorney recommended that we still meet the new candidates even if they were unable to run for office. They each introduced themselves, eager to share their time and talents. One of the board members suggested that the candidates form a task force committee as a way to become more involved with the board and building operations.

The items of unfinished and new business blended as owners raised concerns and asked questions.

bicycle room photo
Photo by tandemracer

Our building used to have two bike rooms, until recently when one of the bike rooms was taken back by the building sponsor. A resident requested the sponsor’s contact information to see if we could get our second bike room back or perhaps rent the room from the sponsor.

Another resident asked if anything could be done with the preponderance of packages that pile up each day in our lobby.

A discussion ensued about making the building smoke free. Although several residents complained of inhaling second hand smoke, the board consensus was that it was a difficult issue to control and one that would take time to address.

Echoing Ms. Farrell’s concerns about our building having more amenities, a resident asked if there was ever the possibility of our building creating a roof deck. The stock answer to that for the past several years has been the roof needs to be repaired. There is also an access issue– as the roof is only reachable by stairs.

As multiple residents expressed their desire for a roof deck as a foreseeable amenity, and since repairs are underway, the board seemed to show less resistance in its possible existence as there had been previously.

Whether you’re a coop shareholder or a condominium unit holder, attending your building’s annual meeting is vital in discovering what issues are affecting your building and neighbors. Ideally, I would have liked to cast my vote, but in the case of the “unofficial” meeting I attended, I became more knowledgeable about my building’s finances, learned about upcoming improvement projects, and was better able to understand the board’s function. As my neighbors raised many of the questions I had, I felt reassured that their and my concerns were being addressed. I also came away feeling that by knowing more about what’s going on with my building, I am better protecting my biggest financial asset, which is my home.

Be Heard at Go Home NY

Be heard! Leave your apartment, condo, and coop building reviews at Go Home NY! Know a building's managers are awful? Have the inside line on a perfect building? Anything in between? Express your voice and be heard. Leave a review at Go Home NY.

Be Heard at Go Home NY

Be heard! Leave your apartment, condo, and coop building reviews at Go Home NY! Know a building's managers are awful? Have the inside line on a perfect building? Anything in between? Express your voice and be heard. Leave a review at Go Home NY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *