5 reasons why owners and shareholders run for a seat on the board

  • Noticeable problems tend to get their attention—like unclean common areas, or monthly fee hikes
  • Some residents run because they have expertise in a field related to real estate or business
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
February 6, 2024 - 4:30PM
NYC Blue and white brick apartment buildings in the East Village of Manhattan in New York City

Some board members want to run for their post. Others have a board position thrust upon them.


Whether you have eight or 800 neighbors, you’re probably familiar with the board of directors of your condo or co-op building. But you might not know why they decided to run for their board seat in the first place.

At first glance, a board position might not seem like the most appealing job. These unpaid volunteers usually spend around 10 hours per month to run a building, and aren’t always popular among residents. Some buildings—particularly well-run properties—struggle to recruit new board members when others retire.

At other buildings, residents decided to run for personal reasons. An owner about to embark on a big renovation might join the board to get it approved faster, though you are expected to recuse yourself from those decisions. Or a shareholder might decide to run just to protect their investment.

But more often than not, it’s building problems that get residents out on the campaign trail. Read on for the top challenges that get owners and shareholders to run for the board.

Common areas, common troubles

There’s nothing that gets residents to pay attention like changes to a building’s common areas, says Adelaide Polsinelli, a commercial broker at Compass and former board president of her Greenwich Village co-op.

“When you start renovating lobbies and hallways, it's a very divisive project. People will hate you or love you,” Polsinelli says. “So if you want to get someone's attention, tell them you want to change the lobby.”

Residents are even more inclined to run when those common areas aren’t being taken care of. Tatiana Peck, the board president of a seven-unit condo in Williamsburg, says cleanliness has been a big factor in motivating her fellow board members to run.

Her building previously struggled to find a property manager to take out the trash on time, leading garbage—and rodents—to accumulate. Peck says going self-managed has helped her building solve these issues, but in the interim, they certainly helped push residents to campaign. 

“To a certain point, I think owners felt incensed enough to get on the board and try to change things,” Peck says.

Managing your property manager

Residents might not communicate with the board on a regular basis. But they’re likely interacting with your building’s property management company for day-to-day issues, which can be a huge source of ire if the firm isn’t living up to residents’ expectations.

“Many people are very unhappy with their management firms,” Polsinelli says. “Someone who's made a big investment in their home wants to be treated a little differently than as if they were a renter.”

Peck’s building went through four property management companies before the building decided to become self-managed last year. She says a lack of transparency with how her management company hired vendors and handled repairs was a huge reason she got involved with the board.

“There was a feeling that the best interest of the building and its residence wasn't necessarily at the forefront,” Peck says. “I think that's been a very huge motivator.”

More money, more problems

Even a resident who never interacts with their property manager probably pays pretty close attention to monthly fees. When maintenance fees and common charges rise, so does interest in the board, says Mark Feinberg, chief financial officer of Argo Real Estate and president of his Union Square area cooperative.

“If there’s a maintenance increase, and people don’t like the way things are being managed…they’re going to get on the board,” Feinberg says. “They’re going to try to prove to everybody that they can manage better than the current board.”

Expert advice

Some board members decide to run because they have the expertise necessary to handle a specific issue. That was the case both for Polsinelli and Feinberg.

“I’m one of those characters who fall in the category of professionals that run for the board,” Feinberg says. “Usually you have lawyers, architects, engineers or somebody who has a professional skill or knows some of the business.”

Residents with industry experience can be a huge asset to a building, especially if it’s facing a complicated issue such as new legislation, major repairs, or a refinancing. Of course, you also have to watch out for so-called professionals interested in using their position on the board to advance their own business. 

The only one to step up

Last but not least, some residents run because they are the only ones willing to do so. 

Will Kwan first ran for a board position at his 193-unit building in Murray Hill in 1997, when he said the board only had seven volunteers for seven open seats. Nearly three decades later, he’s still on the board.

“Fast forward since June of 1997 and I am still currently volunteering my time on the board,” Kwan, a managing partner at the board election advisor EZ Election Solutions, says. “While some years we have contested elections where there are more candidates than seats, mostly, people have not volunteered for the responsibilities of being on a board.”

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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