As we at CAMS know all too well, at times it can seem as if community management professionals are speaking their own language.
HOA, POA, CAI, AMS, CMCA...all that acronym-speak can be harder for homeowners to decode than a teenager’s texts.
Before you get too bogged down in abbreviations and industry jargon, what you really need to know as a homeowner often boils down to two terms – planned unit development (PUD) and condominium.
Condominium is a word I’m sure you already know, but PUD may not be as familiar. A PUD is a grouping of various structures – homes, recreational facilities, businesses, etc. – within one designated subdivision or area. Simply put, it’s the community in which you live.
They’re easy enough terms to understand, but they’re also important to understand. If there is a community association where you live, then your neighborhood falls under one of those designations - if you don’t live in a condo, then you are in a PUD. These two are different under NC law and, as such, are governed by two separate acts: the N.C. Planned Community Act and the N.C. Condominium Act. Knowing where to look and what to look for when you have questions about your community, its association and/or board governance is crucial.
Beyond that, my number one piece of advice is to follow best practices, some of the same practices you’d expect from any organization or business. Those include:
- Transparency – association boards should not hide behind the proverbial curtain. Be sure to open your meetings up to residents as much as possible. Further, it’s good to proactively share important documents like financial summaries, and to make other documents easily accessible.
- Fairness – In an earlier article, I noted that association rules should be both enforceable and reasonable. Being reasonable is key. Make sure rules are fair and that you can rationally assume they can be adhered to by all homeowners. Being reasonable also means being consistent. Don’t give your next-door neighbors a pass for lawn maintenance but send notices to residents on the next block. Create a process for non-compliance that is clear and stick with it every time.
- Fiscal responsibility – This goes without saying, but association board members have a duty and obligation to the residents they represent to effectively manage funds. Again, communicating with homeowners about the annual budget highlights or major spending projects can go a long way. And a tip for all association members – pay your assessments and pay them on time. Associations rely on that money for maintenance and improvements to your community, so it’s to everyone’s best interest to not overlook that invoice.
- Conscientiousness – As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be careful in all matters, whether it’s checking state law before ratifying a rule for your association or making the wise choice not to engage irate residents in person or on social media. If you aren’t sure what to do, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional management company like CAMS, an attorney or an accountant depending on the specific issue.
And above all, don’t underestimate the importance of being kind. Think of your fellow community members in everything you do, and you will make the right decision every time.