How to Prevent HOA Board Blunders

Posted on Friday January 19, 2018

Everybody makes mistakes.

That’s why it’s crucial to know what you should and shouldn’t do as part of your association duties. By knowing how to avoid common blunders before they happen, you’ll help your board successfully build goodwill with the community at large and enhance lifestyles. An experienced community management company can assist your board by providing tools and strategies to help prevent these mistakes. Most importantly, they take care of day-to-day tasks, so that your board can focus on building your community’s brand, which will help enhance property values and resident life.

To assist in this area, we’ve highlighted four common board blunders and included some practical tips for avoiding them. It’s important to identify these potential blunders early to save yourself and your board time and frustration.

Board Blunder 1: Your HOA education is limited

Individuals often join a board with great intentions, but limited knowledge. Just as in any new job or position, it’s a new experience with brand new responsibilities. If they jump headfirst into “solving” community issues without having any background into these matters, it may lead to disappointment or tension on the board. To help mitigate these problems, every board member needs to start with a basic understanding of what their role is and what is expected of them. This includes getting up to speed on board documents, operations and what it takes to be successful. Veteran board members aren’t out of this equation, either. With new legislation, technologies and changes to your competitors, it’s important to continue learning as much as you can in order to stay relevant.

How to prevent the blunder: Arm yourself with knowledge

Of course, a good working knowledge of your role on the board begins with an initial orientation. But the most successful board members take it a step further via ongoing board training sessions. An experienced community management company will offer additional board training opportunities, including both in-person and online sessions. FirstService Residential offers BoardAdvantage® online courses that are tailor made to support board members in their roles and common issues they may face. For convenience, board members can take any classes online so that they fit into their schedule. Another good way to mitigate a lack of knowledge is to reach out to outgoing board members or the existing board to learn more about community-specific issues that they may not know otherwise. Lastly, you may want to review past minutes to help boost your understanding of your role and the community. An experienced community management company can help you with this step.
 

Board Blunder 2: You talk about board issues outside of formal meetings

Even though personal communication is easier than ever, it doesn’t mean you have the freedom to say whatever you want about association issues outside of a formal board meeting. In fact, board members should not be talking about any association-related business outside of official meetings. According to Arizona’s Open Meeting Law, board business is not to be discussed outside of a duly-called board meeting.

How to prevent the blunder: Follow Arizona HOA Open Meeting Law

First, only communicate about community matters in board meetings. If you’re not sure whether you should be speaking about an issue, it’s a good idea not to mention it. Arizona’s Open Meeting Law applies to other community-related items as well, not just potential policies or resident issues. Kirk Kowieski, vice president of the Southeast region at FirstService Residential, said “The Open Meeting Law carries into other business matters as well. It requires that legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals and personal, financial and health information of employees or members can only be discussed in a closed board session.”
 
Want to take your communication best practices a step further? For some helpful tips regarding online communication with your residents and fellow board members, complete the form on this page to download our free resource, “Best Practices for Association Board Email.”
 

Board Blunder 3: You are forced to manage day-to-day tasks

Board members have a primary role, and that role is to act as a “policy board,” partnering with their community management company to develop a strategic community plan (SCP) and making sure the latest policies contribute to that goal. But many boards are also forced to perform many day-to-day tasks because of an inactive or unresponsive community management company. Ultimately, your community management company needs to handle all of the day-to-day details (e.g., vendor management, property maintenance, policy enforcement, etc.) in addition to helping you with strategy and planning for the future.

How to prevent the blunder: Evaluate your management company

The potential blunder here is not seeking out the support your HOA needs to create a thriving community. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your community management company to ensure that they are completing the tasks needed to maintain a successful HOA, like managing the financials, enforcing policies and communicating with residents in a timely manner. If your community management company isn’t handling these important details and helping you develop an SCP, you may want to sit down with them and discuss. By fully taking on these tasks, your board can partner with your community management company to focus on the big picture: building the community’s reputation and enhancing resident lifestyles.
 

Board Blunder 4: You make HOA business too personal

As a board member, you should approach your role with the same level of professionalism and accountability you would give to any job. Before anything else, your association is a business. That means you should be using a board meeting as a platform for your personal views and issues. Additionally, board members should not be responding or reacting to resident and board-related issues in an emotionally charged way. And that policy applies to both in-person and email communications.
 

How to prevent the blunder: Adhere to policies and be professional

First and foremost, make an effort to bring professionalism to your board meetings. You can help create a healthy atmosphere for your board by steering conversations away from personal or emotional triggers. For example, if you see a fellow board member becoming emotional about an issue, ask for a break so that they can cool off. Respect everyone’s right to contribute and have an opinion about an issue, but make sure the conversations are not only respectful, but productive. Your communication outside of board meetings should also reflect this level of professionalism, including in your emails to board members and residents. A good practice to keep in mind? Don’t say anything over email that you wouldn’t say to the person’s face. To learn more best practices for being professional over email, fill out the form on this page to download “Best Practices for Association Board Email.
 

Preventing future board blunders

Some mistakes are unavoidable, but you can help avoid future frustrations by addressing potential problems now. Partner with seasoned board members and an experienced community management company. Your HOA management company can give you the resources and support you need to do a better job and tackle blunders before they happen.

Fill out the form to download our resource, Best Practices for Association Board Emails

Want to prevent a blunder in your emails to fellow board members and residents?