Homeowner associations are growing every year. Statistics show that around 8,000 new associations are formed annually and at least 40 million homes and condos are in community associations. More than half of homeowners across the country are living in HOA neighborhoods.
Living in an HOA yourself, you understand the benefits. Property values are protected, standards for how the community looks and operates are held high, and all the homeowners and residents in your HOA enjoy a high quality of life and rising home values.
Joining the Board of your HOA is a great opportunity to support your community and share your voice when it comes to making decisions and improvements. When you decide to join the board, you’re showing your friends and neighbors that you support volunteerism in your association. This service allows you to lead by example, and it allows you to have a role in making your HOA productive, responsive, and accountable.
It can be immensely rewarding, but also a bit overwhelming. This type of board service can quickly take a lot of your time. It can also make you an easy target if someone in the community is unhappy with a rule or an assessment. You have to be ready to work with diverse groups of people and you have to quickly establish yourself as a leader.
If you are a new Boston HOA board member, we have some tips for how to settle in and make a big difference quickly. These are 7 tips that the board members we work with frequently say they wish they had known to do before they joined their board.
1. Spend Some Time Studying Your HOA Governing Documents
Every HOA in Boston will have its own set of governing documents, rules, bylaws, and other corporate documents. Most HOAs are nonprofit organizations, and that designation comes with a unique set of rules and requirements. Before you begin addressing the business of the board, your first move should be to get familiar with the governing documents for your association.
Most modern homeowner associations will have these documents available online, for the entire community to easily access. You can likely get a printed copy from a current board member as well. Take some time to read and absorb the Master Deed, which includes the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (or CC&R’s), and sets forth the responsibilities and authority of the association. It also outlines the rights and responsibilities of owners in the community.
You certainly aren’t required to memorize every detail of what you’re learning, but understanding the basics is important, and you’ll also need to know where to look when you’re confronted with a specific problem or question and you need more information.
Separate from those governing documents is the Declaration of Trust, which you’ll also need to review as a new board member. The Declaration of Trust provides legal standing for the creation of the association as an entity. Here, you will read how it was decided that there would be a specific number of directors and what the functions of the Board are expected to be.
Check your bylaws and get familiar with all of the rules and regulations of the association. You probably gave those a scan before you bought your home and moved into the community, but you’re looking at them from the perspective of a board member, now, and clarity will be more important than ever.
2. Know Your Role as a Board Member and the Role of the Entire HOA Board
Basically, your job as a board member is to promote the community and its events, lookout for the best interests of its homeowners, help preserve the value of the homes in your community, and improve the quality of life of the residents who live there.
It sounds like quite a large undertaking, but you won’t be responsible for all of this alone. You’ll have your fellow board members working together to meet these goals, and you’ll likely have a strong support network of involved homeowners who want to help by serving on committees and getting programs in place.
Once you know what your role is as part of this team, you’ll have to think about the team as a whole. Who makes up the board of directors? If these aren’t people that you already know, you’ll want to spend some time developing positive and professional relationships.
3. Remember the Importance of Communication and Work to be Responsive
Transparency and communication are important to a board’s credibility within the community. No one likes being kept in the dark or being surprised by the unexpected, and this is especially true inside a homeowners association.
As a board member, it will be your job to communicate openly with your neighbors and fellow homeowners. You’re likely the person they’ll go to when they have a question or a complaint. Be willing to hear them, even if there’s nothing you can do to give them what they want. When you commit to keeping your residents informed and educated, you’ll find you earn a lot of respect even among your most vocal critics. Making yourself available to your residents and easily accessible is a great way to be an effective leader and a good board member. Let people know that their opinions matter. This contributes to a sense of community and gives your entire Board a sense of authority that you’ll need to establish and enforce rules.
4. Boston HOA Board Meetings Don’t Have to be Difficult
Board meetings are traditionally dreaded, but they don’t have to be painful. You can actually do your best as a board member to make them meaningful. Instead of pushing the narrative that board meetings are awful, make your meetings productive and do what you can to increase attendance.
Work with your fellow board members to ensure everyone is prepared, organized, and interested in the important business of your HOA. Typically, there are annual board meetings that are open to the entire community, and if you’re able to drive up attendance, you may find you’ll have better meetings. People will feel like they’re part of the decision-making process, and that will make the job of the board much easier.
Stick to your agenda and keep the meetings short. No one should have a platform to take up too much time. Implement and enforce time limits for comments from homeowners.
Stick to parliamentary procedures in your meetings. This provides structure. At the end of every meeting, the chairperson must read out loud the summary of all the decisions made and what the next steps are. Everyone should leave the meetings with a full understanding of everything that was discussed, agreed on, and the next steps.
5. Long Term Planning is Easy to Forget
There are often fires to be put out and issues that need the immediate attention of the board, but don’t let yourself get too caught in the weeds. As a new board member, you’re contributing to what your community will become in the future. You need to take this responsibility seriously.
How can you make things better where you live? Coordinate with fellow board members and talk to your neighbors. Discuss plans for the future and put together a budget that will support those plans. Brainstorming is an important responsibility when you’re on the Board.
6. Use All Available Tools and Resources
Experienced board members should be prepared to orient you to the board and help you get adjusted to the responsibilities, the culture of the HOA board, and the flow of how the board works together. You can talk to former board members and gather as much wisdom and experience as you can. This isn’t a good time to be shy. Reach out to anyone willing to help you.
Professional tools and resources are also available. If your HOA isn’t already working with a Boston property management company, it might be a good time to consider it. This will make a huge impact on what you’re able to accomplish.
7. Commit to Accountability and Character
Board membership has its challenges, but when you decide what kind of impact you want to have and then you set about achieving those goals, you’ll have a successful term as a board member. Make sure you stay honest, open, and accountable. Remain calm and professional, even when you’re challenged or attacked for your views. You’ll have to put the needs of the entire community over your own desires. That speaks to character.
If you’d like to learn more about the work we do with HOA communities in Boston, we’d be happy to talk with you and your entire board. Please contact us at Platinum Realty Group.