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How can you manage community conflict and restore relationships? Read our article and download a guide to see best practices for resolving conflict.
Whether it’s dealing with differing opinions on the board, frustrated residents or legal struggles, no one wants to get caught up in conflict. The best HOA boards and management companies partner together to navigate these difficult situations and rise above circumstances that can significantly harm a community and its reputation. To that end, the Anthem Highlands Community Association (AHCA) partnered with FirstService Residential, including its management associates and executive leadership team, to move past ongoing conflicts and miscommunication, and to improve resident engagement, restore vendor relationships and mitigate costly litigation.
In the several years prior to FirstService Residential being engaged, AHCA was struggling with a number of community issues, resident disputes, board dysfunction and strained vendor relationships. “While it can be easy to point fingers when these kinds of issues occur, most can be traced back to a lack of understanding of the board’s roles and responsibilities,” said David Vineyard, community manager with FirstService Residential. “Unfortunately, by misunderstanding their position in the community, volunteer board members were overstepping their roles and often creating liability for the association.” Some of these issues included:
- Vendors were being micromanaged by individual directors and in several cases, creating rifts between local vendors and the association.
- Lawsuits and administrative complaints were filed against several directors alleging violations of civil matters and overstepping their responsibilities. As a result, the HOA was paying an average of $125,000 in legal fees (more than 10% of its annual assessment revenue) each year for several years.
- Due to dysfunction between directors, the board failed to meet on a regular basis, violating a Nevada law that the board meet every 100 days. In California, the board is similarly required to meet at least once per quarter.
- Without board meetings, violations stacked up against residents without resolution, with more than 500 outstanding violations in mid-2016.
- The prior management company was not proactively communicating with residents or returning resident inquiries on a timely basis.
- Because of conflicting opinions involving all of the areas above, board meetings were characterized by tense, complex and difficult interactions between the directors.
“We were coping with internal power struggles and legal wrangling. Corbin Seti (Senior Vice President, FirstService Residential) helped the new board members and management team navigate the complex issues we were facing. Instead of having to solve it on our own, Corbin and the FirstService Residential team offered the support, guidance and advice we needed, exactly when we needed it most.”
—Mark D. West, President and Director, AHCA
To move forward from its complicated past, AHCA sought to rebuild from the ground up. Elected in 2016, director and president Mark West partnered with FirstService Residential Senior Vice President Corbin Seti and community managers Marlina Short and David Vineyard to make significant changes to the way the association was operating. They worked as a team to resolve outstanding violations, rebuild vendor relationships and restart the dormant community newsletter.
With the ultimate goal of unifying the board and community:
- The AHCA’s officers scheduled regular meetings with Corbin and the FirstService Residential team to determine the priorities and create an action plan to reduce legal expenses and repair the community.
- The board worked to restore vendor relationships by partnering with FirstService Residential on publicizing its changes and being transparent with vendors throughout the bidding process.
- Management reviewed the extensive number of violations, resolving them via personal contact and proprietary community management software, FirstService Residential Connect.
- FirstService Residential team worked diligently to collect resident email addresses with the express purpose of communicating more often with the community (and not solely for violations or negative news).
- With guidance from FirstService Residential associates, the board developed and adopted the first-ever strategic plan for the association.
“An HOA is a non-profit corporation, and should be run like any other corporation. The board is responsible for the strategic direction of the HOA, and the officers and management team provide day-to-day operational oversight of the community. Getting some directors to understand the scope of their role was a real challenge.”
—Mark D. West, President and Director, AHCA
Led by a committed group of volunteer officers and directors and with guidance from the FirstService Residential management and executive teams, the AHCA was able to rise above its complicated past and revive its reputation among residents, vendors and neighboring communities. By changing their legal representation and collection company, they reduced legal expenses by 80%. The board also took actions to comply with ethical and legal guidance provided by their community manager and legal counsel, respectively. Additionally, as part of a strategic planning initiative, a new assistant manager position was created to handle homeowner and resident interactions with the compliance process as well as architectural requests. Because this position required a manager’s license from the state of Nevada, the individual could legally perform inspections and send violation letters.
As a result, the association achieved the following results:
- Reduced the association’s annual legal expenses by 80% by engaging new general counsel, resolving existing cases and taking measures to avoid future liability.
- Resolved 90% of outstanding violations in one year, from more than 500 in January 2017 to 52 in January 2018 due to the addition of an assistant manager position that handled homeowner and resident interactions with the compliance process, including inspections, violation letters and architectural requests.
- Expanded reach of email communications from 30% of residents in 2016 to more than 75% by August 2018, providing increased cost-effective opportunities to communicate and engage with homeowners, improving resident relations and the overall community experience.
- Rebuilt credibility with vendors, restoring working relationships and achieving a vastly improved reputation which provides the association with more vendor options for its projects.
“After the transition, our focus has been simply on doing the right things. The officers and directors rely on the community manager and FirstService Residential associates to make sure we are not only abiding by Nevada’s legal requirements but also following HOA best practices. We want our community to excel and have a fantastic reputation, which hopefully results in increased homeowner value. At the end of the day, the AHCA would not be in the place we are today without the guidance of FirstService Residential and their commitment to integrity and improving our community on an ongoing basis.”
— Mark D. West, President and Director, AHCA
Get a Free Article and Guide
How do you manage community conflict and restore relationships? Read our article and download a guide to see best practices for resolving conflict.