Understanding HOA Governance: Your Secret Weapon
Many homeowners aren’t entirely clear about the mechanics of governance that apply to their homeowners association. It’s understandable–when you become a member of a homeowners association, you become a member of a non-profit mutual benefit corporation. This corporation is governed by Bylaws, Rules & Regulations, Covenants, Conditions& Restrictions (CC&Rs) and usually involves a property management company. For a quick run-down of who does what, review our article titled, “Community Management: 3 Things You Need to Know.” In the meantime, sorting through roles, responsibilities, procedures, precedent and best practices can be time-consuming. Luckily, you’ve got a secret weapon: your property manager.
Your property manager is an employee of your homeowners association management company, an outside vendor contracted by your HOA to facilitate the smooth running of your association. Remember that your property management company ultimately has no authority when it comes to decision-making on behalf of your association. Instead, the management company is tasked with advising the board on business-related issues, carrying out decisions of your board, and providing administrative assistance to your association’s board of directors.
As a member of the association, your property manager is just one of the valuable resources available to you. Here are some of the ways your property manager can help you better understand HOA governance and your rights within the association.
Your property manager is tasked with carrying out the board’s directives regarding landscaping, general improvement projects, and common area maintenance. They also act as the facilitator between the board and any outside vendors. In many condominium associations, “common areas” often extend beyond recreational areas to cover elements of individual units, such as plumbing, electrical, roofing or fences.
If you have any questions about homeowner-versus-HOA responsibilities, scheduling, repairs or updates to the common areas in your community, your property manager can provide a fast and thorough answer.
Turn to your property manager for clarification of any written communications you receive from your HOA, including courtesy notices, violation letters or assessments. Your manager can answer questions or provide background regarding what the notice means and why you are receiving it. They can also point you to the specific areas in your community’s governing documents that specify the basis for your notice.
If you disagree with a notice you have received, it’s also a good idea to reach out to your property manager. If the notice was issued in error, your manager can help correct it. If your violation was due to a special circumstance, your manager might be able to advocate on your behalf to the board seeking a special dispensation.
If you’re unclear about the wording or structure of your governing documents, your property manager can explain in common terms. Some elements of your governing documents are legally binding and must be formatted in a specific manner. Your property manager can help you and your board navigate the legalese.
Reach out to your property manager if you have general community questions and you can’t find the answer on your community’s website. Things like: community events, common area projects, newsletter items, etc. Because your property management company is in charge of running the day-to-day operations of your HOA they will have the most accurate, recent information. Plus, your property manager loves to get to know residents, so they’ll welcome the introduction.
Before you make the decision to undertake a home improvement project, run your ideas by your property manager. While they can’t fill out the application on your behalf, you can utilize their familiarity with your community’s governing documents to point out any sticky situations you might run into when submitting your plans. Your manager’s expertise and foresight can eliminate back-and-forth with your board, helping to accelerate approval.
As an employee of your HOA management company, your community manager acts in an advisory and administrative role to your association. Community Managers do not have the authority to make decisions about the policies or procedures in the community, but it is their pleasure to help you understand the workings of your HOA more thoroughly. If you haven’t had the chance to introduce yourself to your property manager directly, take the opportunity to do so. Their guidance and expertise can become your secret weapon.