Trial and error may work for many situations, but when you’re on the board of your homeowners association, it’s best if you can avoid making mistakes as much as possible. Errors you make as a board member can compromise the very reasons you chose to volunteer in the first place—to make life better for residents and preserve everyone’s investments.
It’s not always easy to avoid making mistakes, especially if you are new to your position. A professional community manager supported by a good homeowners association management company can offer guidance in this area, having had years of experience seeing firsthand many of the mistakes that board members make. Here we describe four of the most common mistakes we’ve observed and provide suggestions for avoiding them.
1. Voting “no” without an explanation
You can appear obstinate if you vote “no” on a motion without explaining why. Other board members may even assume you have an axe to grind or that your dissent is motivated by self-interest.
Eliminate assumptions by providing a brief explanation of your vote. Tell fellow board members why you believe the measure does not support the best interests of the HOA. The goal is not to convince anyone of your opinion; it is to dispel misunderstandings. Make it a regular part of any vote for dissenting board members to elaborate on their decision. This will demonstrate your board’s willingness to welcome diverse viewpoints and will create a more open atmosphere.

2. Undermining a board decision
No doubt, you won’t be happy with every decision your board makes. However, as a board member you have an obligation to support these decisions anyway. You already explained your “no” vote, and now is the time to work together. Displaying outright opposition or, even worse, undermining a decision that the board has made can break down its effectiveness and create dysfunction. It may even be a violation of your fiduciary responsibility to the HOA and to homeowners.
If your HOA board is having difficulty with board decisions, get assistance from a good community association management company. Community managers have seen it all. They can apply their expertise and offer an impartial perspective to help resolve conflicts.
3. Getting impatient with homeowners
Community managers aren’t the only ones who have “seen it all.” When you’ve served on your HOA board for a number of years, you may begin to see a repeat of the same kinds of issues, too. The homeowners vary, but their issues don’t.
Even if you’ve addressed the same problems or answered the same questions over and over, remember that they are new and unique to the homeowner who has come to you. Rather than getting impatient, try to reframe the situation. You have the opportunity—and the ability—to offer assistance to a neighbor who needs your help. You may also want to get guidance from an experienced community association management company if you have issues that keep coming up.
4. Overstepping your authority
Unfortunately, some homeowners become board members for the wrong reasons. They may want to be in control of decisions or wield power. This can lead to rogue decision making, such as discussing legal matters with a homeowner, negotiating directly with a contractor or managing staff or crew without the board’s approval. This can put the entire HOA at risk by creating liability issues.
As a board member, you represent the HOA and the community. That means that you need to be working cooperatively with the other board members, rather than in opposition, and put the interests of homeowners ahead of your own. Make sure you discuss any important decisions as a board before taking action. Your bylaws can provide guidance on when you need to bring a decision up for a vote.
Being a board member can be a very rewarding experience when you are able to accomplish your goals and create a great community. Make the best of it by avoiding the kinds of mistakes that we’ve described in this article. Your neighbors and fellow board members will thank you.
Learn more about how to be an effective board member. Contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading homeowners association management company.

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Monday November 21, 2016