Avoid these 7 common community association board member mistakes
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Serving on the board of your community association can be challenging. No matter what your level of experience, mistakes can happen. Although some of these common community association board member mistakes can be corrected with ease, why not avoid them altogether.
What are the seven common mistakes community association boards make?
Not working together
Sharing confidential information
Not being open minded
Lack of communication
Read on as we break down each mistake and provide the solution to avoid it.
1. Getting personal
Typically, residents volunteer to serve on the community association board of directors to improve the financial health and residents’ enjoyment of the community. However, emotions or a personal disagreement can sometimes get in the way. That can create rifts within the board or with members of the community at large. This is never good for the association.
Solution: Staying businesslike and making decisions rationally.
Learning to prioritize the community’s needs is crucial for any HOA board member. This means recognizing that you’re not acting as an individual. Seasoned board members know the importance of navigating their emotions. This includes accepting the board’s decision – even if they disagree. Once a decision is made, the community must see that the association board is moving forward together.
Many board members initially feel like they need to stay on top of everything. As a result, they either interfere in the duties assigned to their property management company or they delve too deeply into the details of their community’s operations.
Solution: Working in partnership with a trusted property management company.
The board’s role is to set the strategic goals and policies of the community. The management company is there to enforce those policies and take care of managing the community’s day-to-day operations. A good management company will also help the board in other ways. They will offer training, identify ways to cut costs, help to craft the annual budget, and offer needed advice.
Association boards should make sure that the management company they hire is trustworthy. Then they need to empower it to fulfill its role. In a good partnership, boards understand their roles and responsibilities, and association mangers understand theirs, too. Each one lets the other do their job and trusts them to do so.
3. Insufficient training
New board members may be so enthusiastic that they jump in with both feet. That enthusiasm is welcome! However, board members who haven’t spent time reading the governing documents, learning about their new role, and understanding the history of past decisions can quickly create difficulties.
Solution: Undergo training.
Upon first joining the board, new members should make a point of reading through their governing documents. This ensures they fully understand the community association’s current policies and their function as a board member.
If the property management company offers board training (and it should), new members should be required to enroll. The right training will cover topics like running board meetings, preparing budgets, insurance coverage, and understanding the value of reserve studies. Training goes a long way in helping to avoid another one of the common community association board member mistakes.
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4. Not working together
When you’re on a board, going rogue is not an option. In fact, if you choose to make a big decision alone (like hire a vendor), you could be held liable. Additionally, when board members take drastic measures to get things done, they may damage the association’s reputation. This could create major friction going forward.
Solution: Working alongside board members.
As a board member it’s your duty to respect the consensus of the board. Regardless of if you’re in agreement, once a decision has been made as a group, you should stand by it. Standing united as a board not only helps strengthen those relationships, but also improves your reputation with residents. Having healthy and unified board helps you more easily make decisions and develop policies, leading to greater benefits for your association.
5. Sharing confidential information
Association business should never be discussed outside of an official meeting. That includes potential policies, violations, and vendor relationships. Even if a comment seems harmless, you may be putting yourself or your association at risk. Particularly if you’re not on the same page as your board.
Solution: Limit association business conversations to meetings.
Think twice before you discuss business matters outside of board meetings. For both in-person and email conversations, avoid sharing anything that is specifically related to your association or sensitive to residents and board members. Additionally, keep legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals and personal, financial and health information of employees or members off the table.
6. Not being open minded
Contrast to the board member who's eager to change everything is the one who's unwilling to make any changes. This can range from keeping reserve funds in a bank account that doesn’t yield interest to holding onto a property management company that isn’t providing the right level of service.
Being averse to change or being too comfortable with the status quo may not be in the best interest of your community.
Solution: Re-evaluating the association’s needs and opportunities each year.
The first thing you should assess is whether your management company is giving you enough value. So much of your community’s success depends on the company you work with. A large company will have the depth of resources to keep up with new developments in the industry. They will also provide you with innovative approaches to generating income, saving money, and running your day-to-day operations.
7. Lack of communication
Sometimes the association board must make a necessary but unpopular decision. This can range from raising assessment fees to not addressing a resident concern right away due to more pressing issues.
In either case, a common community association board member mistake is neglecting to inform the community. Just as frustrating for residents is when board members are difficult to reach or don’t respond to their questions and concerns.
Solution: Transparent communication with residents.
Transparency is one of the main resident concerns in associations. Your board must ensure clear communications are sent out via various channels. Emails, postal mail, bulletin board postings, and uploads to your community website are all examples of efficient resident communications.
Most importantly, board members should recognize resident concerns. Best practices suggest communicating quickly with the community to let them know their concerns have been heard. This will encourage transparency and answer any questions.
Lean on your property management company’s experience to help avoid common community association board member mistakes
Serving as a board member can be very rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Follow our simple tips and you’ll be better prepared to navigate around some of the more common board member mistakes. And remember that your property management company can also share unique insights to help you successfully run your HOA. They have years of experience working with boards and have learned how to avoid the common pitfalls boards can face.