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Learn how to avoid HOA blunders - FirstService Residential“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? We’ve identified some of the most common HOA blunders and are sharing tips on how to avoid them. Partner with your manager and California HOA management company to help you recognize potential issues and protect your association’s reputation.


Board Blunder 1: Identity Crisis

“As a board member, what am I really supposed to do?” 

Your role as a volunteer board member is not to run the day-to-day business of your association (that’s a job for your management company!). But for some board members, a healthy concern and passion for their association can transform into taking on far too many tasks and decisions themselves. Likewise, many are forced to perform day-to-day tasks because of an unresponsive management company. 

What to do: Leave daily duties to your management company.
As a volunteer board member, your role is to shape the vision and policies for your community and make key decisions, not perform day-to-day tasks to keep your association running. Ultimately, your California HOA management company should be managing financials, enforcing policies and communicating with residents in a timely manner.

Board Blunder 2: Going Rogue 

“The rest of the board doesn’t care, so I’ll do it on my own.” 

When you’re on a board, going rogue is not an option. In fact, if you choose to make a big decision on your own (like hire a vendor or communicate with a resident about a violation), you may even be held liable for breaching your fiduciary duty. Additionally, when board members take drastic measures to get things done, they may create major friction with fellow board members and even damage their HOA’s reputation. 

In our HOA Health Assessment, 20% of board members said that they have difficulty making decisions as a group and/or are rarely on the same page. Work with your management company to make sure that discussions are centered on the association vision – versus personal agendas. 

What to do: Come together with fellow board members.
As a board member, it’s your duty to respect the consensus (whether you 100% agree or not). When a decision has been made as a group, it’s your duty to support the policy and stand behind them. Respecting your board’s decisions helps strengthen relationships and can improve your reputation with residents. Also, a healthy and unified board can develop and implement policies more easily, leading to greater benefits for your association. 

Board Blunder 3: Education Limitations 

“When it comes to HOA policies, legislation and best practices, I don’t have time to learn everything I need to know.”

Of course, volunteering as a board member doesn’t make you an HOA expert overnight. Unfortunately, if you don’t understand association best practices and legislation, you won’t be able to make informed decisions with your board. Plus, by not keeping up with new HOA laws, technologies and changes, you may even put your association at risk. For instance, if a board inadvertently or intentionally ignores a new law that protects homeowners’ well-being, they may be held liable if an adverse incident occurs.

What to do: Make time for board training.
Going “back to school” is an essential part of being an effective board member and avoiding common mistakes. That’s why your California management company should offer board training courses on topics like budget and preventative maintenance to equip you (and your association) for success. By providing comprehensive board trainings throughout the year, board members will learn how to be more effective in their roles, which will have a positive impact on your association through better decision making.

Board Blunder 4: Loose Lips 

“I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that to Bill. But what harm can it do?” 

Outside of an official meeting, board members should not be talking about association business, and that includes potential policies, violations and vendor relationships. In fact, there is California legislation in place that forbids this communication.  Even if a comment seems relatively harmless, you may be inadvertently putting yourself or your HOA at risk, particularly if you’re not aligned with your board. 

What to do: Limit HOA conversations to meetings.
It’s pretty simple: Don’t talk about community matters outside of a formal board meeting. The Open Meeting Act, which is part of the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, states: “The board shall not take action on any item of business outside of a board meeting.” That means you should avoid sharing or coming to a decision on any association issues on your own. Board members should also refrain from discussing legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals and personal, financial and health information of employees or members.

Board Blunder 5: Getting Personal 

“I don’t need to be courteous to him. He’s being completely unreasonable.”

Many board members take their roles personally and respond emotionally to resident or board issues that arise. The truth is, HOA matters are often very personal because of the nature of the industry (after all, it involves your home), but ultimately, you should not be using meetings or resident communications for personal views, opinions or conversations.

“When someone makes a negative comment about your board or association over social media, don’t engage. Thank them for their feedback and then direct them to discuss over an email or a face-to-face meeting to discuss further.” – Shauna Gatlin, regional director at FirstService Residential

What to do: Adhere to policies and be professional.
Steer face-to-face conversations, email communications and social media discussions away from personal triggers. For instance, Shauna Gatlin, regional director at FirstService Residential in Santa Clarita, said, “When someone makes a negative comment about your board or association over social media, don’t engage. Thank them for their feedback and then direct them to discuss over an email or a face-to-face meeting to discuss further.” By becoming defensive or engaging with a hostile opinion, you are fueling the fire. To see more best practices for digital communications, fill out the form on this page to download our free guide, 7 HOA Email Blunders to Avoid. 

Why board blunders matter

Of course, everyone is human and makes mistakes. But you can overcome some of the most common board “blunders” by addressing potential issues now. A seasoned community management company will provide resources, strategies and support to help you thrive in your role.


Wednesday May 01, 2019