In this series we are focusing on you, the board member, and the challenges you face each day when running your homeowners association. We are exploring the challenges of self-management and ways to work through them. This series will answer questions from readers. If you see something that seems common or you identify further challenges, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add your comments and feedback as the year goes on.
Board Members and Owners, Speak up!
1. Deferred maintenance: When should it be fixed, replaced or maintained?
2. Trusting a board: Get involved and go to meetings.
3. Contracts: Not just for their sake but yours as well.
4. Board fraud: Boards make mistakes, but what if?
5. Agendas and announcements: Where do I find our info about meetings?
Bored with the norm
How active are you in your association? Are you someone who simply trusts that the elected board members are exercising sound, fair judgement?
Self-managed boards sometimes lack depth of involvement and are more focused on immediate needs. In reality, lack of involvement can have negative long-term effects.
Each homeowner should get involved in the association in some way. It is hard to be upset with the norm if you aren’t helping to shape your community. Join a committee or simply volunteer to go on spring and fall inspections. Help spread the work out.
In the "Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities” (RRBC), a document published by the Community Associations Institute, homeowners have the right to "participate in governing the community association by attending meetings, serving on committees and standing for election.” And they have the responsibility to "read and comply with the governing documents of the community” as well as "treat association leaders honestly and with respect.”
Some homeowners are left thinking that there is something underhanded going on or someone on the board is doing things that would be considered illegal or even criminal. Use the meetings to gain trust and learn their point of view. Someone has to do it. Why not you?
Be the leader
There are best practices and duties for board members. The RRBC notes that leaders have the responsibility to "fulfill their fiduciary duties to the community and exercise discretion in a manner they reasonably believe to be in the best interests of the community.”
Most self-managed boards entrust the majority of the duties of the association to a small percentage of active members. This group is often referred to in negative ways and sometimes can seem controlling. That is usually not the group’s intention, nor should it be. Many board members struggle to work 40 hours a week and then continue working into evenings, weekends and holidays as association projects pile up and members request more of them. They burn out or finally just move.
Be considerate of these folks and be a leader with them. Thank them when the lawn looks good, and understand that being a board member is a bigger responsibility in self-managed communities.