There are some changes to the operations of an HOA board and the pandemic has definitely had its effects. Learn how boards have been forced to adapt and what the future likely has in store for homeowners associations.
When the COVID-19 outbreak spread to the United States, homeowners associations were not left unaffected. The pandemic has put HOA boards to the test, with varying results. Some boards collapsed when faced with a health crisis, with inconsistency playing a huge role in their failure. Other boards, though, remained strong and unwavering. These are the boards that were consistent in their messages and came up with a firm plan of action.
Now is the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses as an HOA board. Lean on your strengths and take advantage of them. As for your weaknesses, learn to confront them head-on and improve upon them. This is your chance to identify areas for growth so that, when faced with another crisis, you can tackle it without hesitation.
Homeowners associations share many similarities with government bodies. However, when it comes to authority, HOAs don’t hold absolute power.
The government can access emergency powers when needed, but homeowners associations can’t impose this power upon themselves. Your association’s authority is limited by state laws and your governing documents.
Granted, there are some states that give homeowners associations additional authority in times of emergency. One example is Florida, with Chapters 718 and 720 of the state statutes detailing this very power. But, in most cases, you will find that your board holds no expanded authority over the association and its members.
If your association does earn emergency powers, though, you must remember to abide by your fiduciary duties. It is your top priority to make decisions that will yield the best results for the community. Taking advantage of this power will undoubtedly give rise to legal issues for your association and board.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, most homeowners associations found it hard to adapt when the crisis first hit. For many HOAs, nothing in their governing documents offered guidance for how to handle this kind of situation. There were no instructions for amenity closures, dues postponement, and virtual board meetings. Most association businesses had to be put on pause because officials asked citizens to remain at home.
Now that you have gone through a pandemic, you know firsthand how important guidelines and procedures are. Boards should, therefore, take this time to amend their governing documents to include such procedures. As for how to amend governing documents, it changes depending on the association. Make sure to check state laws and your current governing documents for instructions. In many cases, you will need approval from a majority of owners.
Communication has always been essential to managing a community successfully. Boards must distribute information in a timely manner, ensuring that all homeowners are made aware of any important developments. And the need for communication further heightens during a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boards must consistently keep members in the loop as rules and policies evolve on a regular basis. Amenity closures, operating hours, occupancy limits, and other restrictions — all of these are pertinent information that many homeowners continue to wonder about. It is your board’s responsibility to keep an open line of communication with members at all times. Use every communication channel available to you, from text messages to email.
There are, of course, some associations that still mandate traditional mail. If yours is the same, consider using more efficient modes of communication in addition to traditional mail. As electronic communication becomes the standard in many industries, it is likely that homeowners associations will continue to use such forms even after the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, it was common practice (and even state-mandated) for HOA boards to discuss issues and make decisions at in-person meetings that members can attend. Many associations’ governing documents also require this in the name of transparency. Because of social distancing requirements, though, holding such meetings is out of the question.
To continue with operations, homeowners associations have turned to virtual platforms. The beauty of online meetings is that people can join them remotely and use a variety of devices to access them. Many states have even issued executive orders granting associations the ability to hold meetings virtually.
Online meetings have plenty of advantages, too. They allow for a more systematic approach to meetings thanks to features like mute, hand-raising, and chat boxes. There is also no need for HOAs to look for a physical location that can accommodate the entire membership. To top it all off, the convenience remote meetings offer promotes increased attendance.
When conducting virtual meetings, it is important to use the following approaches:
Association boards can also meet in executive sessions using a virtual platform. Make sure to follow the proper procedures as you would for in-person executive meetings.
Considering the advantages of remote meetings, it wouldn’t be surprising for states to adopt new legislation allowing HOAs to use them permanently. The future of board meetings, though, will likely be a mix of online and face-to-face meetings.
Countless people found themselves suddenly lacking a source of income thanks to businesses closing down or cutting costs.
To make matters worse, utility bills also started to go up as a result of people staying home more. And while you might think it wise or thoughtful to cancel HOA dues, this will only inflict more harm to the community.
As you know, member dues are an HOA’s primary source of funds. Suspending dues, even temporarily, will lead to your board scrambling for money to pay for operational expenses. The best way to deal with this situation is to make certain financial adjustments. You can waive late fees or offer payment plans to give homeowners some breathing room. It is also a good idea to pause any foreclosures and delay non-critical projects.
To prepare for the future, you must also draw up a plan detailing your association’s financial priorities. This plan should also include your budget for such emergencies (with actual numbers) and a strategy for how to earn these additional funds.
Homeowners associations faced many struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is likely that HOA boards will continue to feel its everlasting effects. While all you can do at the moment is to adapt, you can make it easier for future board members by learning from this experience and making necessary preparations.
An HOA management company can help your board deal with all sorts of emergencies. Start looking for the best one in your area today by browsing through our online directory.