According to Community Associations Institute, more than 68 million Americans live in 338,000 managed communities. In Canada, approximately one in eight people live in a condominium or strata corporation of some kind, totaling about 1.2 million owner-occupied dwellings as reported by Statistics Canada. Collectively, these homeowners spend tens of billions of dollars to maintain their communities. Each community is governed by an elected board of volunteer homeowners selected through an HOA elections process. That board makes decisions that affect all residents of the community.

Unfortunately, many people do not participate in their HOA board elections. Why is this so important? The board has the power to impact your community and your daily life there. The actions it takes directly affect property values, the reputation of the community and the overall quality of life for residents, all of which factor into the desirability of your neighborhood.

Proactive involvement in your community begins with voting for board membership. It gives you a voice in how the budget is spent and enables you to influence the choices that the board makes.

Read on to learn about some of the areas that boards manage and why your vote matters.  

Choosing the best experts for the job

An association or strata is a business. The board is responsible for developing and managing its budget and making choices that help the community run efficiently. It’s not an easy job. The board needs to be able to make the most of the budget, minimize risks and liability and invest in the upkeep and maintenance of the community. At the same time, it must maintain the lifestyle that residents want and need and be socially aware of community dynamics—all while remaining fiscally responsible!

To do this, boards often turn to a professional property management company, which will have the resources and buying power to help the association get the most for its money. The best property manager advises the board, offering expertise to help it address issues like developing policies, enforcing compliance, finding the right vendors for needed services and implementing upgrades to amenities. The manager also oversees daily needs, such as communication with residents, landscaping and maintenance. Because the board hires the property management firm, your vote for board membership can affect this choice as well.

Protecting your community through action

Overwhelmingly, the people who want to serve on association or strata boards are dedicated volunteers who put in untold hours of their time to improve and protect their communities. Unfortunately, there are occasional exceptions. Abuse of power, fraud, disregard for state laws—these are all things that have happened on boards. When they make the news, as they sometimes do, these events can negatively affect the reputation of association and strata boards everywhere. 

What’s the best way to prevent this from happening in your community? Get involved! Know who is on your board, meet the property manager and other staff, go to monthly meetings and voice your concerns. Vote in the elections, or even run for board membership yourself. You can also lobby state legislators to improve resources for oversight agencies that protect against board injustices.
The most desirable communities have a board working diligently to improve property values and enhance resident lifestyles, often with the assistance of a professional property management company. This isn’t by accident. Strong communities grow and thrive when everyone—from board members, to homeowners, to managers—is involved and committed to success.
Wednesday November 02, 2016