Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) aren’t immune to abrupt resignations and unanticipated changes to the board's structure. It’s difficult to predict when a change will occur and how the leaders and community will be affected, but your board should know what to do if a board vacancy arises. To help you prepare, we’re sharing five tips and best practices for filling HOA board member vacancies.
1. Look to the governing documents first.
Governing documents are, in essence, the constitution, law, and regulations that explain how a community is governed. Before acting, refer to these documents on the legalities of filling a board member’s seat when it becomes available. Within them, you’ll find information and guidelines about board member elections, resignations, removals, appointments, eligibility, and more. You should also check state, local, or federal laws and ensure compliance. As always, consult your association attorney if needed.
2. Evaluate the necessity of a new board member.
Once a seat becomes vacant, your board may be overwhelmed and unaware of what actions to take next. While filling that spot may seem like the appropriate move, it might not be necessary. Often, boards have too many members when all that’s required is a few in the first place; it’s not always about the quantity of board members, but the quality. Based on what the bylaws for your association say, evaluate if you can operate efficiently with one less person. Here’s what to consider:
- Determine board morale. Is the board of directors currently a positive or negative environment? Will the addition of a new board member improve or damage board morale?
- Confirm the board can handle its workload. Have the exiting board member’s duties been assigned to existing members? Can the existing board effectively fulfill these new duties and previous ones? Will the board now lack expertise without the exiting board member?
- Ensure you’re working within all applicable laws and guidelines. Every association has different rules on if, when, and how vacant seats can be filled. Is your association required to operate with fewer board members until the next election cycle, or is it required to appoint a new board member or fill the seat immediately?
- Get a pulse on membership. Will members feel excluded from the opportunity to serve on the board if there is an open seat? Will members believe the board is acting out of authority if someone new is appointed?
3. Communicate with homeowners.
You may not want to divulge the reasons for a board vacancy—and you may not have to—but it’s crucial to be transparent about the occurrence and next steps. Communicate the update to residents, and if you’re looking to fill the role immediately, encourage interested candidates to apply. Depending on the situation, you may even want the resigning board member to help vet or recommend their replacement. Remember they might still live in the neighborhood and are a constituent served by the HOA, so keep a professional tone, thank them for serving their community, and follow the communication guidelines outlined in your governing documents.
4. Create a board member job description.
To help fill the role with a suitable prospect, demonstrate your due diligence by creating a job description that clearly identifies the commitment involved and the skills that would be valuable in the position. The more information you share, the more likely you are to find a dedicated member who will have a lasting and impactful tenure on the board. When communicating about the vacancy and requesting a new volunteer, include a job description that entails:
- General overview of the role, responsibilities, and requirements
- Board meeting frequency and attendance requirements
- How many hours per week or month they’d need to dedicate to board duties
- Any specialized skill that would help the volunteer excel in their role (i.e., for a treasurer, financial acumen would be helpful)
5. Don’t rush the process.
While your board may be eager to fill the vacant seat, it’s important to be careful and methodical in how you appoint or select a new board member. Take your time and thoughtfully seek to identify potential candidates who will strengthen the board. Board members should be of high character and integrity, active and positive in the community, willing to devote sufficient time to fulfilling their responsibilities, and free of any interest that would violate laws and interfere with proper performance.
How to Handle a Board Member’s Resignation
Just like in any organization, sometimes leaders resign from their post. Whether they’re moving, have added personal commitments, or something else, a board member’s reason for resigning might help inform the board’s future success. Read our article, “How to Handle a Board Member’s Resignation,” to get expert tips for professionally handling a board member’s exit.