An Excerpt from
101 Ways to Improve Your Cooperative
A Law Primer
By: Randall A. Pentiuk, Esq.

CHAPTER FOUR: DEALING WITH MEMBERS

People, pets and parking are the common issues faced by every Board.   Getting a handle on these problems and developing strategies to deal with them will alleviate a lot of headaches among the Board.

41.          Perhaps the best way to deal with members is to have a detailed Rule book in place that spells out what is expected of your membership, their occupants and guests.  A good Rule book, coupled with a good Occupancy Agreement, allows the Board to identify misconduct and the consequences.  It is a vital tool and as such, should be reviewed and revised by the Management Agent and Cooperative Attorney periodically.

42.          The Board of a Cooperative has the right to promulgate reasonable rules by adopting them and then sending them out to all the members.   The Rules are prospective, not   retroactive.  Documentation that each member received them is imperative.  If possible, get the members to sign a statement that is placed in their file.

43.          Insist that a member lodging a complaint against another places it in writing.   Advise the complaining member that if the Board cannot resolve the issue by voluntary compliance, the complainant will have to testify in court.

44.          The offending member should be notified in writing of the Rule violation and, depending on the severity of the misconduct, given a reasonable opportunity to correct the situation.

45.          If the member in violation wants to meet with the Board, that should be accommodated but the Cooperative Attorney should be present and a recording made if it is likely to end up in court.

46.          The Board should be even-handed in enforcing the Rules, to avoid claims of retaliation or discrimination.  Management should apprise the Board of all complaints and their disposition for this reason.

47.          The Rules should be written in a way to give the Board options of dealing with violations, but reserving the right to bypass progressive discipline depending on the nature of the complaint.  Do not adopt language that restricts or limits the options for punishment.

48.          As noted above, if the case is headed to court, involve the Attorney early on and have the complaint investigated.

49.          An effective tool we often use is to obtain a consent judgment or an addendum to the  Occupancy Agreement that effectively places the errant member on probation whereby if there are future complaints, the membership is automatically revoked. 

50.          For cases involving unwelcome guests, we often use warning letters that are copied to the chief of police, threatening prosecution of the unwelcome guest and termination of the membership and eviction of the member.

51.          Screening applicants for membership is a highly effective tool if criminal background checks are obtained for the member as well as all adult occupants.  Keeping out undesirable    people is the first line of defense and should be routinely done.

52.          Indoctrination of new members as to the meaning of living in a cooperative is a necessity.  Review of the Rules is a component that should not be neglected, since most new people will not take the time to read it themselves.  Make this a prerequisite to membership, not an afterthought.