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Can a Felon Be the President of My Condo Board?

Category: Finance,Real Estate

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Some states, like Florida, bar people who have been convicted of felonies from serving on association boards. But New York is not among them.

CreditCreditNadia Pillon
Ronda Kaysen

Q: A candidate for the president of the board of my Park Slope, Brooklyn, condo has a past felony conviction. I believe that some states do not allow people convicted of felonies to run for seats on condo boards. What are the rules in New York? Can this person legally run for a seat on the board?

A: Some states, like Florida, bar people who have been convicted of felonies from serving on association boards. But New York is not among them, according to Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the New York City office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell and Russell.

Your condo bylaws may address the issue when describing board member qualifications. But even if the bylaws are silent on the matter, the board should notify all unit owners before the election if the candidate was convicted of a serious crime, like a felony sex offense, sharing only facts available in the public record. Otherwise, the board could be held liable if the person later goes on to commit a crime in the building.

Your question is also an ethical one: Should someone’s past crimes disqualify them from serving on a board? To reach that answer, consider the nature of the crime and the character of the candidate. A decades-old drug possession plea deal, for example, may say nothing about whether someone would be a competent board president. But if the candidate was convicted of embezzlement or money laundering, he or she is probably not the best person to hold the purse strings.

“Rarely does anybody say, ‘O.K., fine, they got in trouble, but what have they done since then?’” said Michael Sweig, an advocate for the rights of felons. A past conviction shows that the candidate broke a law at some point, but says little beyond that. It does not necessarily say anything about work ethic or job performance. A 2017 Northwestern University study found that people with criminal records were less likely to quit a job and stayed in their positions longer than those with no record.

Ask all the candidates about their goals and how they would serve the building. Weigh that information along with their credentials and past experiences. Ultimately, the unit owners will decide when they cast their vote whether a past conviction is enough to disqualify a candidate.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page RE2 of the New York edition with the headline: Can a Felon Be the President Of My Condominium Board?. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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