Serving as a board member of a homeowners association (HOA) can be an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience. That said, it is serious business as there are of responsibilities associated with protecting a community's assets and making it a great place to live.
For an HOA board to effectively serve its members, board members need to demonstrate calm judgment and commitment to the best interests of the community, along with a willingness to serve. Board members regularly interact with a myriad of professionals, ranging from attorneys and CPAs to engineers and community managers. Integrity, character, experience and people skills are important pieces of the puzzle.
In addition to making important decisions regarding managing the funds of a community in order to maintain common areas and other expenses of the association, enforce rules, and carryout other responsibilities of the association based on the governing documents, HOA board members are expected to provide leadership in building the social and civic well-being of their community. The most effective boards promote civic pride and shared responsibility among neighbors, leading to a reduction in the amount of rules violations, delinquent assessments, and other administrative issues negatively impacting community associations.
One of the number one roles we have at CAMS is to professionally guide our board members. We have been in the professional community association management industry for almost 30 years and have vetted best practices in many areas of community association management that we can share. We work to ensure fluid communication between community managers and board members, and community managers attend board meetings regularly.
There are a plethora of resources available to board members to assist them in doing their jobs efficiently. First and foremost, the HOAs governing documents — Bylaws, Declarations, Operating Rules, and Articles of Incorporation (among others) — are legitimate, legal materials that explicitly state what a governing body (the board) can and cannot do. Some governing documents are recorded in the county's Register of Deeds and the Secretary of State.
In our years of experience, we have found that the strongest HOA boards start with a serious focus on job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities as areas of importance. If you are serving on a board, you should fully understand your job requirements and fiduciary responsibilities. The roles and authority of the board and board members are outlined in the bylaws, declarations, articles of incorporation and in the community association’s state statutes.
We’ve also seen some common misconceptions of what board members are empowered and supposed to do. Members may nominate themselves or others in the community to run for board elections to serve on the board due to a specific topic or platform they feel strongly about, even if the individual running may not have the right combination of experience, availability or best interests of the community as a whole in mind
Some board members don’t understand that their fiduciary duty is to the association (not the members) and they need to make decisions about what is best for the association. Many find it difficult to separate these decisions from their own personal opinions on issues, or from what might work best for them or a group of members.
We maintain a section of our CAMS website specifically for individuals joining HOA boards. This provides access to information covering the basics of association living, how a typical HOA board works, examples of governing documents; and resources including:
- A web portal
- Educational articles on how to become an effective board member
- Samples of financial reports
- Information on how insurance relates to HOA communities
- Budget preparation guidance
Information, tools, and resources — from CAMS or other well-respected organizations like the Community Association Institute — are readily available for board members and officers eager to understand the many issues, expectations, and challenges that come with being a successful board member and officer.