Thursday, July 18, 2013

Who Serves on Homeowners' Association Boards and Should You Do It?

Many people live for years in communities controlled by a Homeowners Association (HOA) and never think much about it one way or the other, except that board work looks dreary, tedious and thankless. Others dutifully go to most, if not all, meetings just to see what's going on, or maybe just because they think they should. Still others watch every move an HOA board makes and expresses their opinions, usually noisily. 

But who from these groups actually commits to board service? Should you consider doing it?

Appearances notwithstanding, HOA boards are kind of between a board of directors of any corporation,and a city council. What HOA boards may do is spelled out in the governing documents (Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, C C&Rs). As a general statement, though, HOA boards manage the business of the community--maintenance, collections and disbursements, budgeting and covenant enforcement. HOA boards are not customer service organizations.

Work can be divided, generally, into two areas: business administration and community development. The former includes Architectural Review, contractor selection and oversight, budgeting, and similar work. Community development would deal with Pool and or Recreation committees, for example, or any other social program or activity designed to bring owners together.

If a community is large enough to have a professional community manager or management company, so much the better. While managing community business isn't rocket science, it is technical and, at times, difficult. Community managers are professionals and are trained to handle this kind of work.

Regardless of what kind of work individual members choose to do, an HOA Board has a single prime directive (does this sound like Star Trek?) which defines all activity: To preserve, and where possible, enhance, individual owners' property values.

Robert Swann (and I don't know who that is) said, "The greatest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will save it." That's also true with communities. Each of us in this world is a unique individual, and some are more inclined than others to want to get involved. Board members, then, may come from any of the groups mentioned in the first paragraph.

And, to be fair, many people kind of think the community is better off if they don't serve. Agree or disagree, but it's a valid opinion. The work can be chronic. Some issues--C C & R complaints, fee increases, landscaping changes and so on--often cause resentment with the other owners, all of whom are neighbors and a few of which are friends. And owners seldom say anything when a board does well.

I served on an HOA board for nearly four years. The first part was enjoyable and I believe the board did some useful work, but after the final third or so, I swore I'd never do it again, for the reasons mentioned above.

But tonight, in a new community, I'm off for duty one more time. We'll see how it goes.

Have a comment or question? Let me know!