Way to go – you are the newest elected member of your community HOA board! This new role means great things for you, and we are excited to be part of your journey to help you make the most of this experience. Along with your new role comes some new challenges, but don’t worry – we are here to help!
We’ve all been beginners at something – from a new job, to taking a community education class, to learning a new skill. As with most new things, there is a transition period in which you adapt to the nuances of what is expected. The same goes for being voted as a new board member in your HOA community. Unless you’ve done it before, there’s a lot to learn, and sometimes, there are some hurdles to work through.
We are going to break down the most common mistakes that new board members make, as well as discuss how you can avoid them, making your transition as smooth as possible:
Being focused on doing, rather than learning
Being a new board member is different for everyone, and varies from community to community. Not giving yourself room to really learn about your role and responsibilities within your community before trying to change it can cause problems now and later down the road. Be patient with yourself as you navigate how your association works. Consult with your management company for information and guidance before taking action that could seriously impact (and potentially jeopardize) your association.
While there certainly may be policies you don’t agree with – and that may even be the reason for your motivation to serve as a board member – try to see the full picture of why they are there and what you may not be seeing before jumping into action mode. Along the way, you may be surprised to learn that those policies are necessary for a stable and productive community.
Reading through meeting notes can help you see decisions that were made and whether or not they have impacted your community in a positive or negative way. Meeting minutes should be available on your community website for you to access at any time.
Having an overzealous attitude
Bring your enthusiasm, energy, and passion for the new opportunities in front of you. Just be aware that one of the most common mistakes of new board members is trying to do too much too soon. Another common mistake is trying to do more than the HOA’s governing documents allow. Be sure you understand the authority of your role within the governing documents before you try to enact change.
While many issues are within your jurisdiction to modify, if necessary, some may be outside of the board’s authority when it comes to enforcing and/or creating new policies. Serving as a board member is a collaboration of minds and experiences, so consider the other members’ points of view and take time to make a good decision.
Making abrupt changes with vendors
Before you start terminating contracts with vendors, such as your association’s landscapers, gate repair service, and/or community CPA, meet with them directly to better understand what type of expectations they were given from the previous board members. If they were just doing what they were told and you’d like them to do things differently, modify tasks accordingly and give them an opportunity to meet your expectations.
After you’ve provided adequate feedback and the opportunities to change, if you feel they are no longer fulfilling their responsibilities within your community, speak with your community manager about getting bids from alternative vendors.
If they’re willing and able to adapt per your new requirements, consider yourself lucky to have found a vendor that is a good fit for your community!
Only seeing the short-term financial impact
Understanding financing and how this works for your community on a long-term basis is crucial for your success as an association. New board members often get distracted by the short-term financial goals and forget to consider what may be needed 5 to 10 years down the road.
Finding ways to justify spending money is easy, but that doesn’t make it right. Consider what your neighborhood really needs and what long-term impact it will have on your association financially. If it’s something worth the investment, then move forward with the changes. However, if you feel that it may do more harm than good in the long run, better to either do without or find a more affordable compromise.
Your management company can help walk you through these decisions if you’re struggling to decide what’s best for your community.
Failing to be inclusive
The HOA board is not some exclusive club you just got into. It’s there to work for your community and its members. Secrecy should not exist within your board, so transparency should always be one of your top priorities. Residents should feel confident that you are making decisions for the betterment of their community, and any issue that your association board members may encounter should be discussed publicly to avoid any mistrust.
These tips are meant to help you be the best board member you can be. By working to avoid these common mistakes, you will feel more productive and know that your contribution to the community is making a positive impact. There will be hurdles to overcome, but don’t forget that we are always here to help! Our education and training provides you with the resources you need to make a difference and help you stay committed to your new role as an HOA board member.