- Read and Understand the Governing Documents
While some of the content can be a bit dry, the governing documents are your guidelines for the operation of your association, which most often is a corporation. You need to know your purpose, your duties and your obligations before you get started. There are many state statutes that pertain to associations and there are hierarchies which vary by state. Luckily many attorneys who specialize in association law offer written information and seminars to assist board members in sorting this all out.
- Remember What the Basic Premise Is
The board members are in place to make decisions that favor the greater good of the association, and generally speaking, to maintain, protect, and preserve the assets. Often this is a stumbling block. When faced with voting on any matter, a board member must know what the governing documents say on the matter and should vote in favor of what is best for the association as a whole, not just one owner (e.g. an owner who can’t pay their assessments) or a small group of owners (e.g. pet owners who want to let pets run free). A good board member will often consider the question, “What if everyone wanted to do this?” which is a simple way to consider what is best for the association as a whole.
- Rely on the Professionals
Board members often get in over their heads, trying to sort out legalities, analyzing maintenance needs and projects, determining financial needs, etc. Rely on the advice of trusted professionals who work in this industry and deal with such issues daily. Do not hesitate to call in consultants, advisors, and professionals. If you have a management company, your manager can assist with a variety of issues, but when the manager recommends consulting a specialist, heed that advice! Managers know quite a bit about many things, but they are not attorneys, nor roof consultants, nor CPAs, etc. Budget to seek professional advice as needed.
- Budget Realistically
Speaking of budgets, there is no glory in keeping the assessments at the same level for 12 years! While uninformed owners may applaud you, when the reality of a large special assessment arrives your hero card is revoked. Nothing is less costly to repair as it ages, so plan accordingly. Incremental increases based on a long-range plan are easier to collect and easier on owner’s wallets. Not having a funding plan based on the life expectancy of the common elements is irresponsible and will lead to larger issues down the road.
Naturally there are many more specific tips that can be offered, (be courteous to your manager and vendors; don’t waste time at meetings gossiping; don’t make unilateral decisions, etc.), but giving attention to these four in particular will get you your association established on the right track!
Christine E. Evans, CMCA, PCAM
Regional Vice President, Associa