By Michael S. Hunter
Another year has come and gone, and I have witnessed a great many homeowners’ association (HOA) conflicts, some of which might easily have been avoided.
HOA disputes can be expensive, and they frequently generate unneeded animosity among homeowners and board members. This year, every person serving on a board for an HOA should make these New Year’s resolutions for improving your ability to effectively and successfully govern your association and to reduce the likelihood of an unnecessary HOA dispute for your community.
1. Re-read your community’s governing documents. You would be surprised how many HOA board members have never read them. Are you sure you have a complete set? Sometimes there are amendments to the original documents that get lost in the transition to new board members.
Refresh yourself on the procedures for holding annual meetings and board elections, the types of architectural changes that are allowed and what the procedure is for getting them approved by the board or architectural control committee. And consider whether the rules governing the use of common areas need updating.
2. If your community has substantial common areas or amenities to maintain, review the financing needs for the repairs, improvements, and replacements that will inevitably be required.
Do you, or will you, have enough reserve funds on hand when it’s time to replace the roofs, repave the parking areas or refurbish the clubhouse? Are you setting aside enough of the monthly assessment income to fund these long-term needs? If the answer to these questions is no, then your board should consider hiring a reserve specialist to analyze your common elements and help you develop a long-term reserve funding plan so that large special assessments on homeowners will not be necessary when something needs replacing or repairing.
3. Do you need to form committees to investigate and make recommendations on certain community initiatives? Being a board member can be a time-consuming (and thankless) task. Board volunteers often are juggling full-time jobs and family responsibilities, which leaves little time for HOA-related duties that extend much beyond preparation for and attendance at monthly board meetings. Tap into the talent in your community to form committees to tackle issues such as landscaping and beautification, municipal affairs, rule development, and upcoming construction projects.
4. Commit to improving your knowledge and skills in HOA management. A good way to do this is to join the CAI (Community Association Institute, with national and state chapters) and attend some of its educational conferences. Toot your own horn to homeowners to let them know what you and your fellow board members are doing to make yourselves better community leaders and that you take your responsibility seriously.
5. Seek out the advice of professionals on issues that require it. Reserve specialists, accountants, HOA property managers, insurance brokers and public adjusters, engineers, architects, attorneys, pool and landscaping contractors; all can help you make better-informed decisions on the best use of your community’s assets and relieve you of the anxiety of dealing with issues the board is not equipped for.
Originally published in the Charlotte Observer on January 5, 2013.