I didn’t bother with official New Year’s Resolutions this year, but “lose weight”, “save more money”, “finish home projects”, etc. will rattle around in the back of my mind for all of 2020, and maybe I’ll make some progress. However, in my capacity as a Board Member and the Vice President of my HOA Board of Directors, I have made a few more concrete resolutions. Below is my list…if you’re a Board Member or Manager, now’s a good time to think about what you want to improve in your communities and professionalism in carrying out the work of community associations
1. Re-read and Notate Possible Edits for Governing Documents
Governing documents are written in “legalese”, and so tend to be rather dull and perhaps unapproachable for many HOA Board Members, and even Managers. Our governing docs haven’t had a single amendment in well over a decade, and even the amendments ONLY serve to bring us into compliance with changes in the law. There are real substantive changes needed to benefit our little association. My resolution is to really dig into these documents and discuss with the Board and our attorney so we can identify a “wishlist” of changes. Making any change to these documents is difficult, as a majority vote of the full membership has to agree with the changes, so starting with a “wish list” will help us prioritize the edits worth fighting for to make our jobs easier and the rules more clear and easy to follow for our fellow members.
2. Communicate with Homeowners Consistently and Personally
I’ve observed that where we’ve run into any problems with homeowners is where communication has been lacking. We have to do better at covering all the communications bases; just because we post something to the HOA’s portal, doesn’t mean everyone has seen it. In our last meeting, the Board discussed this issue and we’ve decided upon a few simple fixes:
a) Go where the people are: If homeowners are online, then posting announcements, newsletters, reminders, etc. to the portal and distributing via email will work. We have a handful of elderly retirees who have little engagement with computers or online media, so we will be providing paper copies of these materials to these homeowners, either by mail, or hand delivery (serves as a good opportunity to check in on neighbors who might be lonely, need some assistance, or who appreciate a more personal touch.
b) Keep things fresh: In our email communications, we will remind everyone to register for portal access and provide instructions for registration. We will also keep portal content up-to-date and responsive to the types of questions we are receiving so that it is more directly pointed to the needs of the community.
c) Give a heads up: We will send out fair warning to homeowners one week in advance of violation inspections and focus on a specific issue that might be a seasonally appropriate focus. For example, after a (rare) bout of rain in the desert, weeds tend to spring up everywhere, seemingly overnight. If we choose to focus on this issue after a few rainy days in a given month, homeowners will be informed and given a chance at yard cleanup before we have to send out notices. I think our focus for this next inspection will be holiday decorations (why anyone inflates the giant polar bear with a Santa hat or projects cascading snowflakes onto their garage this far into the New Year is beyond me).
3. Learn More about Roles and Responsibilities under the Law
Board Members are volunteers working on behalf of their community but agreeing to this type of voluntary service could carry legal liability. I will be attending educational events hosted by our attorney and other attorneys in the area. Attorneys in the Community Association practice area all over the country offer lunch-and-learn events and other seminars, typically free of charge, to help educate Board Members. This is an invaluable resource for Board Members to take advantage of. Attorneys in this space are attuned to nuances and changes in local legislation, and their workshops provide important guidance regarding your role as a Board Member.
There are other valuable opportunities available for Board Members to educate themselves. Check out the Community Association Institute (CAI) website and consider joining your local chapter, which offers continuing education courses and tradeshow events where you can meet and vet vendors for your community needs. CAI is the largest professional organization dedicated to the community association industry, but other regional organizations could offer similar services, so it’s worth a bit of research.
I’ll probably be 10 pounds heavier on January 1st, 2021, and the trim around my bathroom doorway will probably still be unpainted, but I will be better at serving my community as a volunteer Board Member.