Boards are critical to the management of all Homeowners Associations. Board members are responsible for a lot of functions within the HOA. It’s the board’s job to ensure the HOA’s compliance with local laws and manage common areas. The HOA also enforces rules within the community, keeps records of the HOA and represents the interests of the homeowners. HOA’s have a fiduciary duty to manage the budget and money of the association. It is the responsibility of the board to collect and effectively manage fees and assessments. Board members are accountable to the HOA for the ways in which the money is managed. The HOA board can also be the go-to resource for coordinating information in the event of an emergency.
HOA board members are usually volunteers. Most have little or no experience in managing HOA boards. With the number of responsibilities required of board members, there can be a steep learning curve. That means there are many ways board members can trip up as they perform their duties. Though no one can avoid all possible mistakes, there are a few common pitfalls new board members can easily avoid.
Here are some of the danger areas to watch out for when managing an HOA:
Manage Property, Not People
The point of an HOA is to maintain property values in a neighborhood. HOAs are not meant to act as behavior monitors. They try to expand their powers to manage things that aren’t related to the HOAs. As a board member, it isn’t up to you to monitor where neighborhood children play or how often certain residents have parties. The role of the board is to maintain and improve the neighborhood and property values. This is done by enforcing rules related to property. Any attempts to regulate lifestyle choices should be avoided. As a board member, if you stick to regulating issues that affect property values, you’ll be successful. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to dictate the behavior of your neighbors.
Communicate Clearly and Document Everything
Every year there are scandals involving HOA boards, usually related to money. HOA board members have been accused of all types of misconduct, though. Many misunderstandings in HOAs could be avoided with clear communication and good documentation. Good communication should happen not only between board members but also between the board and the rest of the homeowners. To avoid any appearance of impropriety, communicate all changes to homeowners clearly. Documenting all expenditures with receipts and photos is another way to ensure transparency. Most board members want to do a good job. Being clear about what’s going on in the HOA is the best way to avoid any misunderstandings.
Learn to Delegate in Your Community
One of the first things most HOA board members learn is that it’s impossible to please everyone. If you have other association members demanding action on certain issues, you can try forming a committee. Invite those people calling for change to participate. Being part of the decision-making process will provide several benefits. First, it will show them that getting things done within an HOA isn’t as simple as they might have assumed. Next, it will give more people a feeling of ownership in the issue. Finally, it will take some of the workload off the board and distribute it to other homeowners.
Decision-by-committee can slow the decision-making process. So, it’s not a great method for decisions that need to be made quickly. But for longer-term projects that require research and bidding, it’s a great way to get people involved in the decision.
When you’re on a board, it can be easy to feel responsible for getting everything done yourself. Delegating responsibility will lighten your load and make others feel more involved in the community.
Have Confidence in Your Role
Making mistakes is inevitable, and no one can be perfect all the time. HOA board membership requires a lot of duties, many of which have a steep learning curve, which makes errors more likely. When you do make a mistake, don’t make it worse by attempting to hide it. Own up to it and do your best to correct it. Being transparent about it will show that the error was unintentional and earn you goodwill for making things right.
If you’re new to managing an HOA, it can be easy to fall prey to some of the common pitfalls. In addition to following the suggestions above, you should also attempt to learn from others. Talk to past board members in your HOA. Or make contacts with board members in other HOAs for advice. Networking is a great way to make contacts with other HOA board members. You can learn from their experience and ensure you don’t repeat their mistakes.