5 Common HOA Board Mistakes to Avoid
HOA board mistakes can cause a huge headache not only for the board who will have to deal with damage control, but also for the residents who have to deal with the consequences of these mistakes.
“Did he really sign a contract for $100,000 without asking the rest of the board?!”
“That meeting turned into a yelling match – do those board members even like each other?”
In homeowners’ associations, mistakes made by board members can have serious consequences. What would you do if faced with this situation? Who can help navigate potential issues and protect your HOA's reputation in Arizona? Our experts provide valuable guidance on identifying and avoiding common blunders, so you don't become one of those unfortunate stories. Think prevention; work closely with your HOA manager as well as a trusted local management company to help steer clear from damaging situations and safeguard the association’s reputation for years to come.
Board Mistake #1: Identity Crisis
“What am I really supposed to do on my board?”
As a board member, you have the power to shape and define how your community moves forward, setting the stage for its future. The job should not include taking on operational duties; instead, they are best handled by professional management companies that specialize in this work. Unfortunately, some boards mistakenly think they need to handle everyday tasks themselves when an adequate team isn't available.
What to do: Leave day-to-day tasks to the experts.
Volunteering requires dedication and energy, both of which should always be respected. Your Arizona HOA management company should be completing the daily tasks needed to maintain a successful community, such as managing financials, enforcing policies, and communicating with residents in a timely manner. Have you been noticing that your Arizona HOA management company is not following through with the necessary tasks for a successful community? It could certainly be worth having a discussion if these essential elements aren't being maintained.
Board Mistake #2: Going Rogue
“The rest of the board doesn’t care, so I’ll do it on my own.”
When you are part of an HOA board, one of the biggest HOA board mistakes you can make is taking matters into your own hands as it can result in more harm than good. Going against the collaborative efforts of board members, hiring vendors independently or holding residents accountable for violations yourselves could mean breaching fiduciary duties and leaving yourself liable to lawsuits- actions which would ultimately do much more damage to both you and your association.
Can HOA president make decisions without consulting? The short answer is no. The role of an HOA board president is to represent the HOA board and their decision. Therefore, an HOA president can represent the board and their decisions, but they cannot make a decision on their own without consulting the rest of the board.
Discover why consistent communication is important in our article, “HOA Policy: Why Consistent Communication is Key".
In our HOA Health Assessment, 20% of board members said that they have a difficult time making decisions as a group and/or are rarely (if ever) on the same page. Partner with your management company to make sure that your discussions are centered on the association vision – versus personal agendas.
What to do: Be united with fellow board members.
Whether you like it or not, board members must respect the consensus. This means when a unanimous decision has been made, you stand united with your fellow board members and support the policy. According to FirstService Residential leaders, a united board not only creates a healthy atmosphere, but it also helps improve community morale and your association’s reputation. In addition, a unified board that agrees with each other will be able to develop and change policies more smoothly, leading to improvements for your association.
Board Mistake #3: Education Limitations
“HOA legislation, policies and best practices are so complicated. I don’t have time to learn everything I need to know.”
Many homeowners’ associations lack the knowledge and resources to understand the continuously changing legislation, news, technology advancements, and other relevant changes. Without staying informed on up-to-date best practices for HOA management, boards may become liable for breaching their fiduciary duty if they unintentionally or deliberately fail to adhere to new laws or regulations. Many board members are not HOA experts and often have little to no time to keep up with the latest news and legislative changes.
What to do: Prioritize board training.
Your management company should offer comprehensive board training courses to help equip you (and your association) for success. Not every board member has the time to become an encyclopedia of HOA knowledge. That’s why it is important to have a management company who supports your board with detailed training throughout the year on topics like budget 101 and preventative maintenance planning to help board members learn how to be more effective in their roles.
Board Mistake #4: Loose Lips
“Well, I probably shouldn’t have told Bill about that. But what harm can it do?”
To ensure a productive board environment, all association-related deliberations should remain within formal meetings. Discussing matters related to the organization outside of these sessions is prohibited and can be considered unlawful according to Arizona's Open Meeting Law. As such, board members must stay cognizant about conversations had in both face-to-face interactions as well as email communications ensuring that any business relevant discussions are reserved solely for official gatherings only.
What to do: Follow Arizona HOA Open Meeting Law.
Board meetings are an important platform to discuss community matters and ensure compliance with the Arizona Open Meeting Law. In these sessions, legal issues, including attorney opinions and appeals, need to be addressed in private—as do any personal information related to members or employees such as financial data or health information.
Board Mistake #5: Getting Personal
“He’s just ignorant about what we really need in our community. I don’t need to be polite.”
Interacting with colleagues or fellow board members is an essential element of business, but when conversations become heated it can be difficult to remember that we are in a professional environment. As such, it is important for associations and boards alike to maintain civility by refraining from allowing personal opinions into the conversation during any form of communication - whether through emails, meetings, or even face-to-face interactions. Many HOA board mistakes can be avoided by keeping communications professional.
What to do: Adhere to policies and be professional.
To ensure that board meetings remain constructive and objective, focus on discussing the issue at hand rather than personal triggers. If a fellow member starts to become visibly upset about something, politely suggest taking some time away from it before further discussion ensues. Similarly, be mindful of how emails are composed – keep them free of any value judgments or statements you wouldn't say in person.
Prevent future board mistakes
HOA board mistakes are unavoidable, but you can help avoid future frustrations by addressing potential problems now. Your HOA management company can give you the resources and support you need to do a better job and tackle blunders before they happen.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your association attorney.