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5 things to do before your annual meeting and election

Holding an annual meeting for your New York City co-op or condo building may seem like a routine function, but it is a crucial part of managing a building.

Your annual meeting is a great opportunity to inform owners or shareholders about what’s going on in your building—be it a major renovation or just some new paint in the hallways—as well as elect members to the board.

While annual meetings and elections can sometimes get heated, boards that prepare well in advance should be able to keep things running smoothly, says Mark Foley, co-founder and president of The Folson Group, a co-op and condo building management firm.

“It’s kind of like the State of the Union: you want to explain the state of the building and what’s going on,” Foley says. “You also want to anticipate any problems and questions so that you have an answer.”

The best way to prepare for an annual meeting is to communicate with residents throughout the year, so the board has a strong understanding of what residents want to hear about, Foley says.

There are a handful of other steps you can take to make sure your meeting runs as smoothly as possible. You should make sure you understand what shareholders or owners will want to talk about, have the relevant experts in attendance, secure a space big enough for your building and notify residents of the meeting ahead of time.

Most importantly, you should understand your bylaws, as they govern how annual meetings and elections will take place.

Read on for five tips on how to prepare for an annual meeting.

1. Engage your shareholders

The key to a healthy annual meeting is communication, Foley says. The board should be communicating with building residents so no one is blindsided during the annual meeting.

“You would like to have communicated during the year so there aren’t any major surprises in the meeting.” Foley says. “You want to be very honest, transparent, and forthcoming.”

The board should also have a strong sense of what kind of questions residents are going to ask—and they should have answers, says Corinne Arnold, a managing partner at EZ Election Solutions, which manages condo and co-op elections.

“You don’t want to go into an annual meeting ill-prepared and not speaking to things that are relevant to everyone in the building,” Arnold says. “If you’re talking about paint color in the hallways, but you just had a $10,000 assessment per apartment, you’re probably off the mark.”

2. Understand your bylaws and state law

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of knowing your building’s bylaws ahead of your annual meeting and election. The bylaws will govern how early you have to notify residents of the meeting, the order of what’s discussed, the amount of residents required to be present to even have an election, and how votes are counted.

New York state’s business corporation laws also have some restrictions on how co-ops operate. Co-ops are required to hold annual meetings under state law, says Margery Weinstein, a partner at the law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas.

Some provisions of the business corporation laws will apply to condos as well, says Steve Wagner, a partner at Adam Leitman Bailey. Make sure to take a look at the relevant state law before your meeting.

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