HOA board membership is a unique situation. There are few other scenarios where a group of volunteers assembles to oversee the management of a multi-million-dollar nonprofit corporation in which they all also have a vested interest.
All HOA boards face a similar set of demanding circumstances. Knowing how to handle these situations, as well as how your HOA management company can help, will go a long way toward ensuring your board and association function smoothly.
Here are some the most common issues faced by HOA boards–and what to do about them.
Issue #1: Dues discussion
Every board and association member wants to know, “Are our dues reasonable? Are we getting a good value for the amount we’re paying?” The real question you should be seeking to answer is: “Are my dues reasonable for the service level that we’re requesting?” It’s tempting to compare your monthly membership dues to those of neighboring associations to determine if you’re getting a good value. But membership dues reflect the needs of your own community and every association is different.
Here’s how to put this issue to bed once and for all: evaluate the qualities of your particular community, taking note of things like landscaping, amenities, home type, lot size, security service, etc. Ask your HOA management company to provide you with a breakdown outlining where your monthly dues go each month. Seeing the exact services you receive in exchange for your monthly membership dues gives you a better sense of whether or not you’re getting a good deal.
Issue #2: Member engagement
Every board faces difficulty getting the membership involved in HOA governance. There are two ways to look at this situation. First, disengagement might be a good thing. If homeowners aren’t flocking to the meetings to raise issues with the board, that means that your membership is content and the board is probably doing a good job.
On the other hand, associations that lack membership involvement miss out on the benefits of building a tight-knit community. You can take proactive measures to build a greater sense of community by organizing more events within your association. Brainstorm with your manager events that can get neighbors involved. Great ideas include potlucks, movie nights, pool parties, BBQs, or any other activity that makes use of your community’s amenities. Your HOA management company can help you spread the word via your community newsletter or other communication channels.
Finally, identify individuals who might make great future board member candidates. Speak to them early about getting involved, answer their questions about board membership, and encourage them to run when election time nears. By creating a stream of potential board members coming down the pipeline, you ensure that fresh energy and ideas cycle onto your board.
Issue #3: When to involve your legal team
Many HOAs have questions about how to protect the association from exposure to liability. It’s difficult to know when to make a decision on your own versus when it’s a good idea to ask your legal counsel for guidance. This is where your HOA manager should step in. Their experience and expertise overseeing HOAs in your state will come in handy, so don’t be afraid to ask.
The general rule to evaluate good business judgment is: if you’re making decisions in a reasonable way that a likeminded person would agree with, then your liability is minimized. But if there exists even a shadow of a doubt, ask your management company and trust their judgment. They’ll let you know when it would be prudent to consult your attorney. Relying on experts is always a smart way to minimize your liability.
Issue #4: Lack of education
All HOA board members are volunteers with different professional backgrounds, coming together to oversee the management of your association. Though all of these people bring unique and valuable skills, unless they have direct experience in overseeing a homeowners association, they likely lack extensive knowledge about the laws and norms related to association management.
There are many resources available to educate HOA board members about running a successful association. Ask your property manager for a review of basic board duties and responsibilities, conduct a board member orientation session, utilize online resources at the Community Associations Institute (CAI), and ask your management company for a breakdown of roles and responsibilities outlined in your association’s governing documents. Equipped with the same level of knowledge, all your board members will quickly get on the same page, so you can move forward with decision making.
Issue #5: Conflict resolution
Relationships are at the heart of any association. When you bring together a group of individuals who are trying to seek consensus, differences of opinion are bound to arise. What matters is how you handle these differences. The people at your association management company are experts in conflict resolution. They know how to resolve issues amicably and efficiently. Let them act as your mouthpiece. Remember that your management company’s job is to help solve a conflict, not incite it. If your manager doesn’t excel at bringing peaceful and productive resolution, then it’s time to ask for another manager.
Homeowners association management is a people-based business. Whenever people are involved, issues are bound to arise. Remember that these issues are a natural byproduct of the process; they’re to be expected. When challenges arise, it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing your job correctly. It simply means that you’re on the right track and there’s still a bit more work to do.
For questions about how to make your HOA board or association run more smoothly, contact Keystone Pacific today.