After 15 years working side by side with homeowners associations throughout Utah, I’ve spent a lot of time considering the idea of “the perfect HOA.” It may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s a very real goal to strive for–one that would increase property value, simplify the home-selling process, reduce board member workload, minimize frivolous lawsuits, and provide a level of peace to your community. In this series of articles, I talk about what an HOA needs to be perfect both on paper and in practice so that all of these results can be seen in your community.
The more time I spend with community association boards of directors (“BODs”), the more my faith in humanity is restored. Sure, we’ve all experienced the odd bad apple. But more often than not, board members like you are dedicating their time and energy into their communities to make it amazing.
So with that in mind, how does your community handle board member education? It takes a little more knowledge than you’d expect for a board to be successful–especially if you’re shooting for the stars hoping to create The Perfect HOA. Ideally, your Treasurer has some financial prowess, your Secretary has an organizational background, your President has general management experience. But even that isn’t always enough to support the incredible number of tasks a group of volunteer (read as “unpaid!”) homeowners is expected to handle on a day-to-day basis.
Whether you’re a brand new board member looking to do their very best right out the gate, or a seasoned board president working double-time to do their due diligence, board member education is going to make everything easier. Knowing how to navigate common BOD ground rules and conduct expectations will help you bring your community that much closer to being the perfect HOA.
When you joined the Board of Directors for your community, you were probably briefed about a handful of pretty obvious job expectations: everything you do as a board member should be done in the best interests of the community, any financial decisions must be done to support or enhance the community, and pretty please don’t burn the place down.
If only things were so simple.
Luckily, the very rules and restrictions that are going to feel like tedious or painful processes to remember are going to be what keep you sane and safe. Ensuring that you follow some well-established rules for your personal and private conduct will do wonders for your ability to efficiently operate your HOA or condo association.
Standard HOA Code of Conduct
Being a board member is hard work. It’s a 24/7/365 kind of job and you live where you work, which is a pretty well-known challenge. For this reason, community association boards should have a documented Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics–something that lays out in no uncertain terms the actions that board members are expected to be taking, and the actions they are expected to avoid. In most cases, those lists are about the same length.
Though this is not a comprehensive list, a typical HOA ethics code will include items such as:
- DO act without bias
- DO prioritize the best interests of the community
- DO engage professionally with homeowners about their
concerns and comments for the association
- DO recuse yourself from a vote when you have a personal stake in the topic
- DO NOT use your authority to make community decisions for personal gain
- DO NOT use association funds for personal purchases
- DO NOT disclose confidential information without express authorization
The Community Association Institute, or CAI, is well-known for being a leading authority on community association management. They have a lot of great starting resources for managers and board members alike, including this very handy board member code of conduct.
Whatever your HOA Code of Conduct looks like, it should be documented and amended as needed. It should always be provided to new board members and homeowners so that everyone is equally aware of how their board is supposed to act (homeowner education can be just as important as board member education).
HOA Media & Communications Policy
Though it’s probably a little lesser-known, an HOA Communications or Media policy can be crucial to your community. Specifying how a board member can communicate with homeowners, with news outlets, and with their own social media accounts, is a really important step in maintaining the greater image of the association.
The California Association of Community Managers (or CACM) is another very well-respected entity in the community association management industry. This sample policy they’ve created includes both a Code of Conduct for Board Members as well as a general Board Member Communications Policy.
Ground Rules for HOA Meetings
We’ve all been in a meeting at one time or another that took a nosedive due to lack of organization. In a community association, board and community meetings are crucial to community success. Having a set list of operational rules will help your meetings run smoothly and efficiently every time, giving board members back precious time and instilling trust and confidence in homeowners.
Robert’s Rules of Order (often just called Robert’s Rules, or even parliamentary procedure) have been used in countless industries worldwide since their original publication in the 1800s. An adaptation of the meeting rules used by Congress, Robert’s Rules provide a standardized order of operations for the most important aspect of any board meeting: managing time.
Industry-Specific Board Member Education Options
Functional operations aside, there’s plenty of knowledge for board members in every community to seek out online. As a member of the elected board of directors, you are responsible for plotting the course to protect your community association’s future. If you are interested in training specific to your association board, you should consider training as a group, and working on a strategic plan for your association. Facilitated by professionals in community management, HOA Strategies can provide community specific training and help your board develop a strategic plan to move your community forward. Developing a long-term, strategic plan is a great way to receive training in real time and helps you guarantee that you (and future members of the board) don’t have to fly the plane blind.
Building Blocks for Success
The perfect HOA isn’t just wishful thinking. HOA Strategies has 15 years of experience guiding and supporting community associations to help them achieve success. We will work with your board to craft the policies you need to find success. If you’re looking for ongoing board member education for yourself or others on your board, contact us today. We’re ready to help you achieve perfection.