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6 things to expect from your HOA

Knowing what your board can and can’t do can help you as a community resident and potential board member.

By Kristy Alpert

From understanding your role in the community to what to expect if you’re a board member, getting involved with your neighborhood’s homeowners association can be one of the best ways to give back. It’s estimated that more than 57 million Americans live in an area overseen by a homeowners association (HOA) according to the Community Associations Institute. With such a prevalent number of HOAs, it’s surprising how many residents are left puzzled by what their community is actually able to do for them … and what they are able to do for their community.


“The most common misconception is that boards are required to get input from community members prior to making decisions,” says Debra. A. Warren, vice president of client relations for Associa (CMCA, CCAM, PCAM). “When the members of an HOA elect a board of directors, they are transferring all of the authority to these individuals to make decisions about the operation of the community. Members should pay attention to assure that the HOA is operating like the business that it is.”

Working for an organization that manages homeowners associations, condominium associations, and community associations, Warren has seen it all when it comes to successful HOA boards. She notes that the most effective HOAs are the ones that operate like a business, focusing their attention on the business decisions required for the organization’s success and ensuring that there is transparency across the entire scope of the operation (from the top of the board to the residents in the cul-de-sac). She adds that offering clear communication channels about decisions affecting the association is critical.

Whether you’re looking to learn more about your HOA or become a board member yourself, Warren offers these valuable insights and tips into the world of homeowners associations.

Three things people should expect from their HOA board:

  1. Passion. HOAs should all exude a commitment to protect and enhance the value of the assets in the community. Period.
  2. Transparency. Most HOAs publish a document that clearly outlines the rules and guidelines that govern each community. Have you found something that could use some clarification? Ask! The best way to keep things transparent is to initiate an open dialogue.
  3. Communication. This is the key to any successful relationship, business or personal. Again, your HOA should be clearly communicating not only the bad news of violations, but also the good news. If you’re only getting the bad, ask your HOA to start a monthly newsletter to keep the neighborhood in the know. Or better yet, start one yourself!

Three things people should expect if they’re HOA board members:

  1. Your primary job is to listen,” Warren emphasizes, “to your members, to your professional manager, to your experts.”
  2. You are volunteering your time,” she adds. “Know how much you have to offer and what the position requires. Every community is different.”
  3. You will be challenged. “Most of the issues that will come to you will be problems,” Warren warns. “Your challenge is to make them opportunities to improve your community.”