5 Common HOA Board Blunders to Avoid
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“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?”
Heard these board member horror stories before? We’ve identified some of the most common blunders (including some you may not have thought of) and are sharing some tips and tricks for how to avoid them. Work with your manager and Arizona HOA management company to help you identify potential issues and protect your association’s reputation.
Board Blunder 1: Identity Crisis
“What am I really supposed to do on my board?”
Let’s cut to the chase: Your role as a board member is to shape the policy and vision of your community, not to run the day-to-day business (that’s why you have a management company!). Many board members take on too many responsibilities or are forced to perform day-to-day tasks because of an unresponsive management company.
What to do: Leave day-to-day tasks to the experts.
You’re a volunteer, and your time and duties should be respected. Your Arizona HOA management company should be completing the daily tasks needed to maintain a successful community, like managing financials, enforcing policies and communicating with residents in a timely manner. If they aren’t handling these details (and helping you develop a vision and strategic community plan), it may be time for a conversation.
Board Blunder 2: Going Rogue
“The rest of the board doesn’t care, so I’ll do it on my own.”
Being a rebel without a cause doesn’t pay off when you’re on a board, and you may be held liable if you take action. Some board members take drastic measures to get things done if their fellow board isn’t on the same page (including hiring vendors on their own or calling out violations on residents). All of these things can result in lawsuits because you’ve breached your fiduciary duty, creating more problems for you and your association in the long run.
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.
As a board member, it’s your duty to respect the consensus (whether you like it or not). That means when a decision has been made, you stand united with them and support the policy. Kim Rubly, vice president at FirstService Residential in Tucson, said “A united board not only creates a healthy atmosphere for decisions, it also helps improve morale within the community and builds up your association’s reputation.” Further, a healthy, unified board will be able to develop and change policies smoothly, leading to improvements for your association.
Board Blunder 3: Education Limitations
“HOA legislation, policies and best practices are so complicated. I don’t have time to learn everything I need to know.”
Very few people join a board as “HOA experts,” and many don’t have the time to keep up on the latest legislation and news. Unfortunately, this can turn into a big headache when you’re trying to implement new policies without any background into association best practices. With new legislation, technologies and changes, it’s important to keep learning as much as you can in order to stay relevant. And by intentionally or inadvertently ignoring new HOA laws and regulations, you may even be held liable for breaching your fiduciary duty.
What to do: Prioritize board training.
Your management company should offer comprehensive board training courses to help equip you (and your association) for success. Rubly said, “We know that not every board member has the time to become an encyclopedia of HOA knowledge. That’s why we support them with detailed board trainings throughout the year on topics like budget 101 and preventative maintenance planning to help them learn how to be more effective in their roles.”
“Not every board member has the time to become an encyclopedia of HOA knowledge. That’s why we support them with detailed board trainings throughout the year on topics like budget 101 and preventative maintenance planning to help them learn how to be more effective in their roles.” – Kim Rubly, vice president at FirstService Residential
Board Blunder 4: Loose Lips
“Well, I probably shouldn’t have told Bill about that. But what harm can it do?”
Talking about board issues outside of formal meetings is a major no-no. And this applies to both face-to-face and email communications. According to Arizona’s Open Meeting Law, board business is not to be discussed outside of a duly-called board meeting. Board members should not be talking about any association-related business outside of official meetings.
What to do: Follow Arizona HOA Open Meeting Law.
Only communicate about community matters in board meetings. Arizona’s Open Meeting Law requires that legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals and personal, financial and health information of employees or members only be discussed in a closed board session.
Board Blunder 5: Getting Personal
“He’s just ignorant about what we really need in our community. I don’t need to be polite.”
It happens in board meetings, in emails and even in your own backyard – a discussion heats up and someone gets a little too pointed or personal. Remember that your association is a business first. That means board members should not be using meetings or resident communications (in-person and email) as a platform for personal views and opinions.
What to do: Adhere to policies and be professional.
Create a healthy atmosphere by steering conversations away from personal or emotional triggers. If you see a fellow board member becoming emotional about an issue, ask for a break so that they can cool off. Make sure your email communications are also professional, avoiding comments that you wouldn’t say to a person’s face. To get more best practices for association email, fill out the form on this page to download our free guide, 7 HOA Email Blunders to Avoid.
Prevent future board blunders
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.