Tips for Recruiting Potential HOA Board Members

One of the best ways to enhance your community and make it the best that it can be is to volunteer as a member of the HOA board. Becoming a board member can take up a lot of valuable time, but it is well worth the investment of energy and passion. At times, filling positions on the board can be a challenge because homeowners have a lot of demands on their time, but having a stable and energetic board is one of the most crucial parts of a successful homeowners association. Here are a few tips for recruiting potential HOA board members.

 

Appeal to the Specific Talents of Your Homeowners

Sometimes homeowners may not be getting involved in their community because they believe they do not have the right strengths or talents for the job. However, an HOA board does not simply need people who are good at accounting (although this is a very important skill for HOA boards to possess), it needs people with all manner of skills. Find people in your community who are skilled at construction, design, information technology, or gardening and appeal to their specific skill-set to help get them involved

 

Direct Complaints into Participatory Roles

When a homeowner expresses discontent in the way the association is being run, far from being a bad thing, these complaints are actually opportunities for wonderful, passionate residents of the community to get involved. If you find that a particular homeowner is often politely complaining, try to see if you can encourage them to get involved so that they can have an active hand in improving the community.

 

Provide Low-Commitment Positions

Some homeowners are hesitant to jump into the board because it is too much responsibility all at once. What if they did not like being a member? One of the easiest ways to gain lasting support from this type of person is to get them involved in low-commitment activities or positions that can encourage a small spark to become a flame of enthusiasm. Committees are a great start for the hesitant resident.

 

Provide Education for Homeowners

It can be very easy to forget that the association board even exists. It is on the shoulders of the board to make sure that homeowners are aware of its active role in bettering the community, and the many opportunities for everyone to get involved. Try sending letters regularly to residents to remind them of the work that is being done by the board and to invite them to add their talents to the mix.

 

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

Homeowners who are approached about trying for a position on the board will have a lot of questions regarding their position. Be prepared to answer questions such as do I have enough experience?, How much of my time will the position require?and What if Im not very political?Prepare answers for these questions that both quell fear and educate the questioner about their role as a potential board member.

 

Recruiting board members is one of the most important tasks that you will undertake. A strong board can lead to a strong community, so taking the time to find gems among your homeowners will go far in promoting the welfare of your HOA.

Eight Golden Rules for Boards of Directors

This article originally appeared on Associaonline.com’s Living Better Blog.

By Mike Packard at Associa

Board members must interface with their membership, management team, association vendors and other members of the public pragmatically at all times. Following are my personal “Eight Golden Rules” to assist you with achieving that goal:

  1. Always be a straight shooter.People admire this trait in other human beings more than almost every other characteristic. Those who quibble or, at worst, lie about something are destined for failure. Effective and respected board members always practice this principle.
  2. Praise in public; criticize in private. Never publicly ridicule nor scold someone. “Someone” is any of the many, many people that you interface with as a board member. People who rebuke in public are neither respected nor admired. When I was an officer in the military, I never, ever witnessed someone being admonished publicly (except in “boot camp”!).
  3. Read, read, read.The world, and certainly the responsibilities of serving on a board of directors, require staying abreast of legal issues, state statutes, finance, insurance, risk management, etc. Unless you keep current on public events and issues, you will suffer in terms of lacking a better understanding of how to perform your job as a board member.
  4. Emulate the quality traits you see in others.To do so is “OK plagiarism”!
  5. What goes around really does come around. Treat others as you would like to be treated. An axiom for this is “never throw anyone under a bus as there will certainly be a bigger bus coming for you”. This rule complements rule # 1 but deserves its own place in the hierarchy of “golden practices”.
  6. Never get in a hissing contest with a snake.Those few people in your community who may want to pick a fight are not worthy of your energy and time. When confronted, turn the other cheek as you cannot nor will not win battles with those kinds of folks!
  7. Don’t put something where you don’t normally put it. If you violate this edict, men, it’s in the back seat of your car, and ladies, it’s in your purse. Life is too short to be looking for stuff when you should know where it is in the first place.
  8. Don’t borrow something of value from a friend or a team member. How many times have you violated this important universal rule and damaged or lost that item of value? Be honest! Too many times?

 

These tips will help you become a better person and, most importantly, a person of influence. Influential people are the most respected in any profession, and this is especially true for the profession of leading community associations as a board member.

 

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6 Common Failures of HOA Board Members

Far too often associations fail to please their homeowners, making their neighborhoods a place where no one wants to live. That’s why we are listing the biggest mistakes we see board members make time and time again. If your association is experiencing some of these problems please refer to the preventative steps listed below

 

1.Failing to collect overdue fees on a timely manner

Collecting fees can be a daunting task, especially if some homeowners are reluctant to pay them. As a board member, it is your duty to collect fees in a timely, professional manner, without fear nor favor. Failure to do this can impact your entire association’s cash flow and hinder your HOA.

 

2.Failing to review financials

It is very important to closely watch your associations spending. Far too often, association’s experience fraud in some way or another. In order to prevent this, accounting for every dollar spent will help ensure homeowners that their money is going towards their best interest and prevent fraud amongst your association.

 

3.Failing to file tax returns

It is very common for board members in self-managed associations to forget to file important legal documents each year. Every homeowner’s association is required to file a federal tax return (IRS Form 1120-H). Many board members think that the association is not required to file anything because it doesn’t pay taxes. This is not true. You are still required to file this form on behalf of your association. Failure to do so can put your association at risk of losing its non-profit status and will result in penalties and interest that will need to be paid to the IRS.

 

4.Failing to file Secretary of State documents

Another common mistake is board members forget to file their annual reports with the Secretary of State. Failure to file the required documents can result in a dissolution of the association which can cause potential legal and financial issues. If this does happen, it can easily be remedied by contacting the Secretary of State office to file the necessary forms and pay any applicable penalties.

 

5.Failing to maintain insurance coverage

Boards need to take special care to review insurance policies; understand lapse dates and renewals; and review coverage amounts. If a claim occurs during a time when insurance has lapsed, it can cause major problems. Do you want to be the one to break the news to the association members that a Special Assessment is going to be required because your board forgot to renew the association’s insurance?

 

6.Failing to ask for professional help

There is absolutely nothing wrong in seeking help for your association, especially when it comes to accounting and money management. Let the professionals come in and help you with these matters to ensure your association is functioning at its greatest potential.

How to Stay Neutral as an HOA During Election Time

Election season is in full swing, and it’s usually expected to see people supporting their political views publicly, often in the form of yard signs, flags, or car stickers. And while it’s of course fine to have members in your HOA with passionate and opposing views, you also want to make sure everyone sticks to your HOA’s rules related to this.

Know Your CC&Rs

So, are members in your HOA allowed to post political signs in their yards? That can depend on your state and your rules. In some states, HOAs have to allow political signs, but they have to be restricted to a certain size. Others prohibit them completely. Encourage each owner to understand your state’s and HOA’s specific rules before putting up anything about the election outside their home.

And of course, make sure you as a board understand the rules so you can relay them to any owners who ask. And always be sure that the board and HOA as a whole sustains a completely neutral bias during each campaign election. You can, however, encourage homeowners to go out and vote.

And remember that if your CC&Rs conflict with the law, the law does take priority. If you have any questions or doubt about what to follow, speak with your attorney and call on your HOA manager to help you deal with any conflicts of interest among members.

Remain Unbiased Online Too

Remember that there shouldn’t be any leanings towards one political view or another on anything related to HOA business, including the HOA website, social media accounts, and (online and offline) newsletters.

Finally, send out reminders to owners during each election season about what is and isn’t allowed, and encourage everyone to remain respectful of their neighbors’ opinions. We all know politics can get heated, and it’s important to maintain the sense of community among HOA neighbors despite any conflicting views.

What to Do When Board Members Turn Against Your HOA

Those part of a homeowners association must put a lot of trust in the HOA’s board members for holding up the success of the association and being good leaders. But what do you do if things don’t go so smoothly behind the scenes? What if some of your board members don’t see eye-to-eye — or worse yet, what if they start to rebel against the association?

Board Responsibilities

As an HOA board member, you’re responsibilities to the association are vast. Taking on the board position means you have a fiduciary duty to make choices that positively affect the association those who are members of it. It also means setting personal interests aside, protecting the confidentiality of owners, and always make decisions on the board within the law and for the betterment of the association in every aspect.

First and foremost, it’s important for each board member to understand their duties at all times so there’s no confusion about what’s expected. The problem happens when board members understand their duties and responsibilities yet choose to not fulfill them.

Examples of Board Member Problems

It might start with a board member wanting to hire contractors for the HOA just because they know them — even if the workers aren’t the properly insured or aren’t the best price for the association. Or maybe another member complains about every decision made that wasn’t his or her suggestion until the rest of the board members are worn down. Or, heaven forbid, sometimes several board members have even banded together to rebel against the association. For example, they might decide not to pay their monthly maintenance fee.

What You Can Do

If you have board members who have gone to the dark side and just aren’t serving their duties anymore, it’s time to take action. Talk to your HOA manager, and if the problem is just with one board member, they can consult with your other directors and come to a decision that best serves the association’s interest. Sometimes the other board members will just need a reminder that the offending board member doesn’t hold the full authority to act as they are. Ultimately, you can come to a vote to remove the member who isn’t upholding their duties.

As an HOA board member, you’ve hopefully experienced mostly great fellow board members who care about their association. But if that’s not the case, know that you can take action if needed. And hiring a homeowners association management company can help too.

Are HOA Members Entitled to Review HOA Documents?

The short answer? Absolutely!

As a member of any Florida HOA—from the smallest complex to grand-scale planned developments—you are guaranteed both legal rights and access to information with regard to your individual property, as well as the expectation of consistency in treatment and enforcement of regulations by the homeowner’s association with regard to your property and its function within the greater community.

Review of official documentation can be vital to HOA members, as under Florida law the definition of “official records” is comprehensive, encompassing a variety of common homeowner’s concerns. While certain HOA documents are not included under this act (such as attorney-client communications, personnel records and medical records), the act does encompass many other HOA member issues of interest, such as:

  • Applications or approvals for expansions or other structural changes to HOA properties

  • Architectural control covenants

  • HOA member obligations

  • Prohibited clauses

  • Required disclosures prior to sale of residential property

  • Lien claims and enforcement

  • Treatment and handling of HOA common areas

  • Creation of and governing documents for Florida homeowner’s associations

  • Homeowner rights to assembly

  • Plat records for real properties and land parcels

  • Covenant revitalization

  • Timely notice with regard to disciplinary action on the part of the homeowner’s association

  • Assessment fees, amenity fees, and the calculation of additional fees or property liens

The association must make official documents available within 10 business days after receiving a written request

Florida Statue 720.303 (5) states that official records must be maintained within the state for at least 7 years and be made available to parcel owners for inspection or photocopying within 45 miles of the community or within the county in which the association is located within 10 business days after receipt by the board or its designee of a written request.

While the association may adopt reasonable written rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected and manner of inspections, they may not require a parcel owner to demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, state a specific reason for the inspection or limit a parcel owner’s right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month.

Records may be made available in the community or online in electronic format

The association is in compliance with this statue if they have a copy of the official records available for inspection or copying in the community or, at the option of the association, by making the records available to a parcel owner electronically via the internet or by allowing records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request. If your HOA isn’t in compliance or you have an accident within your community please contact personal injury lawyers bunbury.

Rules for photocopying

The association may impose fees to cover the cost of copying and the costs required for personnel to retrieve and copy the records if the time spent retrieving and copying the records exceeds one half-hour and if the personnel costs do not exceed $20 per hour.

If the association has a photocopy machine available where the records are maintained, it must provide parcel owners with copies on request during the inspection if the entire request is limited to no more than 25 pages.

Personnel costs may not be charged for records requests that require a copy of less than 25 pages. The association may, however, charge up to 25 cents per page for copies made on the association’s photocopier in excess of 25 pages.

If the association does not have a copy machine available where the records are kept, or if the request exceeds 25 pages, the association may have copies made by an outside duplicating service and may charge the actual cost of copying when supported by a vendor invoice. The association must maintain an adequate number of copies of the recorded governing documents to ensure that they are available to members and prospective members.

Members and authorized representatives can use smartphones and other technology to make copies and cannot be charged

Associations must allow members (or their authorized representative) to use a portable device including a smartphone, tablet, portable scanner or any other technology capable of scanning or taking photographs, to make an electronic copy of the official records in lieu of the association’s providing the member with a copy of the records. The association may not charge a fee to a member or an authorized representative for the use of a portable device.

What happens when your association fails to comply

An association’s failure to provide access to the records within 10 business days after receipt of a written request submitted by certified mail, return receipt requested, creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply.

A member who is denied access to official records is entitled to the actual or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply. Minimum damages are $50 per calendar day up to 10 days beginning on the 11th business day after receipt of the written request.

Whether you need to file an official request for HOA documents or simply need an experienced professional to help you understand the terms of your transaction, PeytonBolin can help you make sense of your legal rights as an HOA member. So if you’re tired of feeling alone and confused by the language of real estate law, contact our experienced team today.

Reduce Your HOA Budget in 5 Areas

By Wise Property Solutions

Unforeseen expenses can crop up anytime throughout the year, and these can make you start looking for ways to tighten your homeowners association’s belt. You need to stay on budget to keep the community running smoothly, but you must make changes to do that. If your Board is looking for ways to stretch the budget, there are several areas to look at closely. Here are a few ideas.

1. Discuss Options with Your Insurance Agent. Insurance is usually a Community’s largest expense, and it’s important that you have the right coverage in place. But, there are a lot of changes in the insurance world, so it makes sense to keep the lines of communication open with your insurance agent. Do at least an annual review of your insurance to make sure that the Association has the right coverage at the right price.

2. Examine your utilities. Water and electricity are usually the second largest expense. Is your Board watching for major hikes that can indicate a problem? Have you switched to light bulbs that use less electricity in all your commons areas. The savings you can realize from catching routine problems is worth a little research time.

3. Negotiate lower contract rates. If your Board oversees contract workers, ask about lower prices. There’s a lot to be said for staying with the same vendor because you know the quality of their work. But, don’t forget that competition can impact pricing, so explore bids from multiple companies.

4. Reduce contractors/staff. Analyze where you are using staff and contractors in common areas such as clubhouse, pool, or grounds. Can you reduce operational hours to save money? Are there automation products that can offer a savings to the Association such as motion sensors instead of guards? Look to balance your cost with what’s best for the community as a whole.

5. Focus on necessities. The board can find ways to cut back such as less landscaping or refurbishing the clubhouse. However, you have to separate the wants from the necessities. While you may not have to renovate some of the commons areas, you need to continue regular maintenance. Some Associations cut back on funding reserves when faced with tightening the budget. However, we don’t suggest doing that because it isn’t good for fiscal responsibility, current owners or for potential buyers who will pay for this decision in the future.

There’s a lot more to budgeting that just these few tips. Your property management company is familiar with your budget, so discuss your options with them. They know how to keep your assessment fees low while maintaining the quality of your services and properties.

6 Ways to Improve Your HOA Board Meetings

By: Barrera and Company

1. Select a mutually convenient location. Your community club house is ideal but a nearby restaurant, school or church might work also. Keep in mind, you’ll need table space and a semi-quite environment. Keep it close to home for a better turn out.

2. Always be prepared. Never wing it. Help others do the same by creating and dispersing the agenda well before the meeting. Keep in mind – meetings are for making decisions. Everything else should be kept to a minimum.

3. Bring your association documents – especially the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Any other supporting documentation such as Bylaws or additional Rules and Regulations may prove useful as well. It’s best to keep all these documents together and never leave home without them. You can never be too prepared.

4. All for questions. When allowing association members to attend meetings, be sure to set clear expectations that all comments / questions will be held until the end of the meeting. You want to be inclusive but don’t lose control of your board meeting. Remember – the goal is to make decisions, not argue.

5. End each meeting with a wrap-up – it should include action items and meeting minutes so everyone is prepared for the next meeting. Always share both items with the entire association within 2-3 weeks of the meeting.

6. Never allow alcohol, small children, or pets at the meeting. We love parties, kids and pets as much as the next guy but they have no place in a board meeting. Again, making decisions efficiently and effectively is the name of the game.

Developing The Annual Calendar

iStock_000022164657XSmall-400-x-380-300x285One of the most important roles of the Board of Directors for a community association is to establish the direction of the association and allocate the necessary resources.  Most of this work is done through the approval of your annual budget, which many of you just completed for 2013. The resources you have available to allocate in this process include both dollars and human resources.  Dollars take the form of the assessments you collect for operations and reserves, and human resources are the time required of your community management team, the board and other volunteers.  One way to assure that you use these resources wisely is to create an annual plan also referred to as an Annual Calendar.

Used effectively, Annual Calendars become the road map for management to control operations and for volunteers to manage deadlines for community functions.  It becomes the single-source of all of the critical events, activities, compliance and renewal dates for the year.

Following is a sample listing of items found in an Annual Calendar:

  • Meeting Dates (Board Meetings, Committee Meetings and the Annual Members meeting)
  • Routine Preventative Maintenance (gutter cleaning, equipment service, carpet cleaning)
  • Reserve Projects  (replacement of common area components)
  • Facilities Open and Closing Dates (swimming pools)
  • Election milestones (call for candidates, mailing of election materials, meeting  plan)
  • Budget Preparation Cycle
  • Insurance Policy Renewal Dates & Milestones
  • Common Area Inspection Schedule
  • Social Events
  • Newsletter Publication Dates

The intent is to note key dates and events, however the details will generally be found in other documents.

In addition to the operational benefits of having all of the community priorities noted in one location it can also serve as an effective communication tool.  Think about the time you spend at board meetings explaining to members the current priorities or defending a scheduled expense.  If you publish the calendar, and have it available on the association’s website, everyone in the community will know what they can expect during the year and they’ll know that the funds for all the activities published in the calendar have been included in the approved budget.

So, with the approval of the budget fresh in your mind, and the beginning of a new year less than a month away, now is the time to get that annual calendar completed.  Not only will it help you track your accomplishments, but it will improve communication between the board and the members of the association.

Board of Directors: Do You Qualify?

There’s something rewarding about being on the Board of Directors of an HOA, especially if you fit the criteria. Like that one time when you you were spending time at the pool on a sunny summer day and you noticed one of the umbrellas was not doing their job due to the huge hole at the top. Being on the board allows you to take responsibility and replace the umbrella. With a HOA management company, the request is simple. All the board member would have to do is call their management company, report the maintenance issues and the company would contact a vendor for them.

There is a certain type of person that can serve on a homeowner associations Board of Directors. The person needs to be responsible, trustworthy, and have the community as a whole in mind when making decisions. When board members are elected, the community chooses the people they think would do the best job at overseeing the community and all the aspects that come with the position. They need to know how to handle money and have the ability to make wise financial decisions. A board member is a leader and should have the knowledge necessary to oversee the community.

Do you have what it takes to be on the Board of Directors of your homeowner association? Would you be able to conduct the day-to-day business of the HOA and make decisions that affect all the owners? Most board members agree that serving on the board is a valuable and rewarding experience. It gives you an opportunity to serve your fellow neighbors while protecting and enhancing the assets of the community. It is serious business, but also a task worth doing well in order to safeguard the investments of all.