The coronavirus pandemic has turned 2020 into a wild ride for homeowners associations. When the news first broke, homeowners and HOAs initially went into protective mode, closing amenities to comply with shelter-in-place orders for what was expected to last only a few weeks. As new cases plateaued and the state attempted a slow reopening, expectations surged, only to be stymied as more cases emerged, triggering another shutdown during the summer. For many homeowners and HOA board members, it feels like there is no end in sight to the pandemic and associated closures.
In this time of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: the pendulum of emotions swings far in both directions, but neither of these extremes reflects the reality of the situation. COVID-19 will likely be part of our “new normal” for the foreseeable future. However, that doesn’t mean we need to stay on an emotional roller coaster.
Here are some of the productive changes the pandemic has brought about, as well as what to do to keep up the positive momentum.
Your HOA’s mission remains unchanged
No matter what happens in the world around us, your homeowners association is tasked with two important objectives: to protect your property values and build and maintain a sense of community in your HOA. Though COVID has added a new layer of complexity, associations are still guided by this directive and this is the lens through which all decisions are filtered.
Though the amount of decisions facing your board has grown significantly in the last few months, remember that none of the board’s actions are arbitrary. Board members are simply weighing a new set of factors and challenges as they continue to do their fiduciary duty for your organization.
Technology takes on added importance
We’ve seen associations successfully make the jump to implementing new technologies, facilitating easer communication between the board, membership and HOA management company. Use of video conferencing tools like Zoom has also caused a spike in member participation, as homeowners can now participate in open session board meetings from the comfort of home.
Homeowner involvement is a positive byproduct of the pandemic: the more involved homeowners are in guiding the direction of their association, the better the association reflects and responds to the membership’s desires.
Communication matters more than ever
Associations are relying more on digital platforms to communicate with members, and more and more homeowners are utilizing the HOA’s communication platforms.
E-blasts quickly disseminate rapidly-changing information, members are using online portals to pay assessments and find forms, board members are using the board portal to access board packages, and homeowners are utilizing their community websites more frequently for information about amenities and other updates.
Increasing communication between the board and members – as well as promoting connection between the membership – ensures everyone in the HOA stays informed.
Updates to governing documents may be required
As we move forward, many associations may choose to keep the virtual meeting structure in place. Though boards may have instituted a new online meeting format as a response to COVID, we recommend all associations check with their attorney to make sure teleconferencing is allowed. Many association governing documents were drafted in the 1980s and 90s, when these technologies simply didn’t exist.
We expect state legislators to amend state code to allow for increased use of electronic media, and it will be a good idea to make sure the language in your governing documents matches. Your HOA management company and legal counsel can help put this on your meeting agenda and draft appropriate language when the time comes.
Regarding amenities: safety is the priority
Being cut off from your community’s amenities is frustrating. Your board and management company recognize this. Everyone is working hard to determine the best way to provide homeowners with as much access to amenities as possible while prioritizing the safety of everyone involved.
For board members, this means developing and implementing new cleaning procedures and usage rules – or making the hard decision to keep certain amenities closed for the time being. Your HOA board is working closely with your association’s legal counsel and management company to provide you with as much access as possible to your community’s amenities while taking your safety seriously.
Check back frequently with your community’s website or manager to find out if there is an expected timeline for re-opening. If there’s no word yet, keep in mind that your HOA board is working hard to provide appropriate protocols on your community’s behalf.
One of the best ways to feel empowered during this time – as well as strengthen your community in a tangible way – is to get involved in your HOA.
Participate in open session board meetings, join a sub-committee, submit a suggestion if you have an idea for a process improvement, and show up (virtually or socially distanced) to community events.
It’s possible to use this time as an opportunity to grow even closer to your community and become more invested in its success.
Patience and flexibility are important
As we have mentioned before, adopting an attitude of patience and understanding will help during these stressful times.
Know that your board is working hard and if you make your requests known, your board will respond. Talk to your community manager about your questions and concerns. Use your community’s digital tools to obtain information.
Most of all, as the pandemic stretches on, take the time to recognize and appreciate all that is available to you. Things might not return to “normal” for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to enjoy your community today.
Want more ideas on how to make your community more enjoyable, even as restrictions remain in place? Our HOA management experts can help.