When it comes to your homeowners’ association (HOA) board of directors, resignations and unanticipated leadership changes are inevitable. While you can’t predict when and how the change will occur, there are things you can do to minimize disruption and preserve harmony in the community. The following are seven expert tips for handling a board member’s resignation.
1. Prepare in advance.
Abrupt resignations happen in all organizations, including HOAs, and can negatively impact the normal course of business. That’s why it’s important to prepare and have plans to handle them before they happen. Once a year, you should review governing documents and board member resignation guidelines. If your association doesn’t already have established policies for board resignations, make it a priority to implement them to ensure resignations are properly and consistently handled. Research federal, state, and local laws to confirm your policy is compliant, or consult your association attorney for legal advice. Keep a list of confidential documents or categories of documents routinely given to board members, so you’re aware of all the information the resigning board member has stored. Also, develop a succession plan that includes everything a new board member would need to know to facilitate a smooth transition of duties.
2. Get everything in writing.
When a board member steps down, ask them to submit a written letter that states the date when the resignation takes effect. The resignation should be added as an agenda item to the next board meeting, where the board should formally accept it and include the letter in the records and minutes of the meeting. While it would be ideal for the resigning board member to give a month’s notice to provide time to find a qualified replacement, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often.
3. Arrange an exit interview.
There are many reasons why a board member might resign, ranging from new time commitments to irreconcilable differences with other board members. Regardless of the situation, arranging an exit interview and having a polite conversation with the resigning board member can result in valuable feedback that can improve the board. You might be surprised to find that he or she has deep institutional knowledge that’ll aid current and future board members. Create a standard exit interview checklist that includes questions such as:
- What prompted you to resign as a board member?
- What did you like best and least about your position?
- Did you feel well equipped to succeed as a board member?
- What could’ve been done to keep you from turning in a resignation?
- Did you feel like a valued member of the board?
- What suggestions do you have for the board of directors? How could we improve?
- Do you have any other issues or comments you’d like to address?
If something new and useful is discussed, add it to your standard list of questions.
4. Restrict access to HOA documents.
On the effective date of resignation, immediately change the resigning member’s passwords and restrict access to internal documents and email accounts. Update communication distribution lists so future HOA emails aren’t inadvertently sent to the former board member’s personal email. Redirect their association-affiliated emails to the appropriate contact person. A best practice is to structure HOA email accounts with titles instead of names, such as secretary@GreatPlaceToLiveHOA.com instead of john.doe@GreatPlaceToLiveHOA.com. That way, you don’t have to shut down email accounts or lose past emails, and the replacement board member immediately receives relevant emails. If the board member has any hard copies of documents, be sure to get those back and have them sign and date a form stating that all documents were returned.
5. Update marketing and communication materials.
Remove that person’s name from present and future communications, including any places where names might appear on the HOA website, newsletter mastheads, or printed letterhead. Don’t forget to check standard PDFs that are links on your website or frequent attachments to emails sent to residents.
6. Notify the community.
You may not want to divulge the reasons for the resignation, but it’s crucial to be transparent with the community that the board member has resigned. Encourage interested candidates to apply, and reach out to prior volunteers. Depending on the situation, you may even want the resigning board member to help vet or recommend their replacement. Remember that he or she might still live in the neighborhood and is a constituent served by the HOA, so it’s best to keep a professional tone, thank them for serving their community, and follow the communication guidelines outlined in your governing documents.
7. Fill the seat.
While you may have to operate with fewer board members until the next election cycle, refer to your governing documents and association attorney on the legalities of filling a board member’s seat when it becomes available. Some states may allow the board to appoint a new board member when there’s a vacancy, but others may require a vote from the homeowners. Still, when a board member leaves, it opens an opportunity for a new member with new ideas to join the board, which can benefit the association long term.
How to Prevent Board Resignations
It’s difficult to predict when a change will occur and how it’ll affect the composition of the board and the community as a whole. It’s wise to implement a plan to limit resignations and enhance continuity within your community’s structure. Read our article, “Want to Reduce Board Resignations? Use These 4 Tips,” for helpful guidance on reducing board member resignations in your community.