What I’ve Learned in My Time Serving on My HOA Board

Wine&Cheese HOA Board.pngSo far, I’ve been a member of my HOA board for 4 years. In that time, I’ve gained a new perspective on my community and the work it takes to maintain it. Prior to serving, I would be happy to pay my dues and let someone else take care of everything, and probably much more likely to have a negative view of the Board and of HOAs in general. I think if you live in an association, becoming involved on the Board or with some sub-committee is eye-opening in the way that working in a restaurant makes you a better customer. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned (I’m sure there are more to come):

Serving can be fun:
I’ve made friendships and enjoyed getting to know a group of people I might never have interacted with otherwise. Modern life is often spent driving from garage to garage, with little time leftover to build relationships in the community. I think it’s pretty common now not to know who your neighbors are, let alone be friends with them. Serving on the HOA Board is an opportunity to meet some of your neighbors and build relationships while working toward common goals. Board members get to experience a deeper sense of community in taking care of the neighborhood.

Wine and cheese make everything better…even board meetings:
Simple refreshments help lighten the mood and tone of board meetings and the chance to share a bite around a communal table with fellow Board members makes it easier to hash out the details of upcoming projects and budgets because sharing food has a way of mitigating interpersonal differences.

Activity counts:
It’s not enough to be on the Board in name only. Every community needs an active, engaged Board to make sure procedures are followed and that maintenance is taken care of. A Board ca only be as effective as its members are active.

It’s serious business:
Serving on the HOA Board means weighing in on decisions with real impact. These decisions determine how money collected from homeowners is spent, what policies are adopted, how to handle delinquent accounts, and so much more. It’s important to realize that decisions Board member make can have legal repercussions, so it’s not a duty that should be taken lightly. Luckily, my Board has never gotten into legal trouble, but when you see negative headlines about the HOA, it usually comes down to either a homeowner not understanding the rules they agreed to follow, or a Board abusing its power in some way. I’ve learned that Board members should seek out and value the advice of legal counsel with tougher decisions, especially related to collections.

It’s community service:
If you join the Board, you are volunteering your time and talents for the benefit of the community. Board members are not compensated, to the contrary, they are often rewarded for their efforts with impatience and ingratitude. Many homeowners treat correspondence with the Board like an angry Yelp review, not remembering that Board members are simply neighbors donating their time. There are positive interactions with general homeownership, and most likely appreciate that the association hums along, manicured and maintained without any direct effort on their part, but feedback always skews negative. If you serve on your board, adopt the outlook that no news is good news and consider your work as community service.

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