Want to Serve on Your HOA Board? Make Sure You Know the Basics.

February 1, 2012

New to a community association and interested in getting more involved? Think about serving on your community’s board of directors.

How does the board get elected?

At the annual meeting of the association by the homeowners within the community, unless:

  • The community is under development, in which case, most of the time, the board consists of developer representatives until the community is almost built out…usually at least 75 percent of the homes/units have closed escrow, but this may vary; or
  • A vacancy is created by a board member resigning and then the remaining board members usually appoint someone to fill the remaining term or until the next election, depending upon the requirements in the governing documents for the association.
    What are the responsibilities of the board?

This is identified in detail in the governing documents for the association but in general responsibilities typically include:

  • To ensure the community and amenities are well maintained and property values are protected;
  • To ensure that the association has a healthy financial position (low delinquencies, funded reserves, responsible budgeting);
  • To pursue those in violation of the governing documents--either for covenants/architectural violation or for those that have not paid their assessments;
  • To conduct association business openly in accordance with state statutes;

What can I do to be a good board member?

  • Come to meetings prepared—Read the board packages prior to the meeting and ask questions to the manager so they can come to the meeting prepared to answer them. Some items may require additional research and, in order to be fair and timely, it is helpful to have the questions in advance of the meeting.
  • Be respectful—The Golden Rule works best here…treat people as you would want to be treated. No one wants to be treated in a hostile and disrespectful manner.
  • Have an open mind—Try to listen to both sides of the issue before you make up your mind and give careful consideration to the advice of the professionals helping you.
  • Communicate—Ask questions when you don’t understand, communicate with the membership and with management in a thoughtful, respectful and productive manner.

How can a board of directors provide good leadership to the community?

  1. Be mindful of the tone of board meetings—Communities develop reputations and you want to ensure a positive one is set for your association. Avoid yelling, arguing and personal insults—agree to disagree politely and professionally.
  2. Lead with a plan—Work with each other and/or your management company to determine the goals for the association. It is usually best to do this prior to approving the annual budget so that the plans can be incorporated into next year’s expenses. Short-term goals are good—meaning 1-3 years—as the board can change considerably which can impact the direction of the association. Long-term goals are best so that current and future leaders have a big picture of the goals of the association.
  3. Build an advisory team you trust and rely upon—Carefully consider the guidance and advice of the professionals you hire.
  4. Maintain transparency—Conduct business openly and allow the membership an opportunity to be heard. Many complaints stem from homeowners thinking that the board is doing something underhanded—if you keep the business operations open, then it avoids the problem. This does not mean the homeowners can participate in board meeting discussion (only during open forum) but they are able to listen.

As a board member, do I have to have any prior experience?

No, but you do have to have the best interest of the association in mind. Many people volunteer for the board based upon an experience they have had, and now they want to change or correct that process. However, what many people quickly realize is that there is another side of the equation, and they begin to understand the responsibilities of the board or the association. Just have an open mind and be willing to listen and you will do great!

 

Heather Graham, CMCA, PCAM
Community Management Corporation

 

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