Homeowners association board members are an elected group who are tasked with making important decisions on behalf of the association. Each board member brings their own proficiency and experience to their role which can be a huge asset to the HOA. However, because they are volunteers, nearly all new board members lack experience with the policies and procedures that specifically govern homeowners associations.
In our years of providing HOA property management services to associations throughout Southern California, we have helped hundreds of recently elected board members get acclimated to their new roles. Effective training is imperative to help board members get their bearings quickly. Here are some tips to get started.
Training Tip: Get to know vocabulary & roles
The governing documents of any homeowners association are packed with legal jargon and industry terms. The sooner you familiarize yourself with this terminology, the easier time you’ll have. You’ll need to know things like: What is Davis-Stirling? What is a fiduciary? What is Common Area and Exclusive Use Common Area? What constitutes “good business judgment”? Your property manager can provide you with a list of common terms and their meanings.
You’ll also need a clear sense of who does what inside and outside of the association. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of the board, association members and management company will help you see the bigger picture of how each contributes to the success of the association.
Training Tip: Learn correct procedures
Most new board members are enthusiastic about their new role, which in itself is a positive thing. However, as a quasi-governmental body, a homeowners association must, by law, abide by certain specific procedural guidelines. Approvals, agendas, board meeting frequency, and budgetary decisions are just some of the board’s functions that must follow the rules outlined in the association’s governing documents. While a new board member might be excited to enact sweeping change ASAP, doing so may be in violation of a community’s bylaws. Before attending your first board meeting, familiarize yourself with the steps of common board actions.
Training Tip: Ask your management company for education
Part of the role of your HOA property management company is to provide your board members with instruction on how to be more effective in the role. This instruction can range from a basic overview regarding roles and responsibilities, state codes, and understanding governing documents…to more specialized topics such as position-specific training (ex. HOA treasurer) or planning for your HOA’s long-term future.
Training Tip: Take advantage of CAI
The Community Associations Institute (CAI) is a national chapter-based organization dedicated to building strong communities by providing guidance, resources and advocacy for community associations. In short, they are the leading source of information and advice for HOA members and boards. CAI offers a huge breadth of educational services—including online training, in-person workshops, and informational seminars—all dedicated to helping you manage your community more effectively. Use these resources to your advantage. If you’re unsure which would be the wisest investment for your board’s time, ask your property manager to provide recommendations.
Training Tip: Seek continual improvement
As a new board member, the scope of your responsibilities broadens from just your property to encompass the entire community. You’ll be tasked with making decisions that extend beyond your own personal interest to deliver the greatest benefit for the association membership and the success of the association itself. If you’re unclear about any aspect of what is being asked of you, don’t be afraid to stop and ask. Your property management company’s job is to educate you, so don’t let the opportunity go to waste.
Serving on the board of an HOA is an important function—don’t underestimate your value or the seriousness of the role. As part of the team that manages the association’s financials, reserves, and millions of dollars of assets, it’s in your own best interest—and in the interest of the community you serve—to become knowledgeable and comfortable with your position. Training and education are ongoing. The more you know, the more effective you will be.