Serving on the board of a homeowners association can be a fulfilling experience. Many members enjoy being active volunteer leaders, assisting neighbors regarding association matters, and getting to know their community better.
Most board members take their position seriously. However, there are a fair number of potential pitfalls and possible liability issues if a board member isn’t careful. For these reasons, it can be a huge advantage to work with a community association manager who can help board members avoid snags and ensure the association runs smoothly.
Here are some of the common mistakes association board members should avoid.
Holding meetings incorrectly
All board meetings need to be documented and with notice given to all homeowners. It is considered a board meeting any time a majority of the members get together and speak about association business. Often board members may get together for a casual lunch or similar gatherings and talk about board business, not realizing this could be a violation of association law. Talk with your community association manager to help clarify what is OK to discuss with other board members when no official meeting is taking place.
Not adhering to the governing documents
Sometimes boards do not carefully read the community’s governing documents, and then fail to abide by them. This can happen if a new board is elected and they neglect to review the declaration and bylaws of the association. This is usually unintentional, but it can cause a lot of issues. Every board member should read the bylaws and all other association documents.
Mismanaging association funds
It is all too easy to use bad judgment when it comes to managing association funds. A common mistake is to spend too much too quickly without leaving anything for emergency maintenance or repairs. Board members also should consider long-term finances. While a board may want to use funds on things that may seem important in the short term, it is imperative to think of the community’s future needs. It would be wise to go over prior-year budgets and learn from them. Community association managers can provide guidance and advice throughout the budget review process, and ensure work is done at a reasonable price.
Board members are generally excited to be in their position, and often they can make big decisions too quickly. It is always best to weigh any major policy changes carefully. For example, a new board may decide to change vendors, believing it is in the association’s best interest, but in doing so will lose momentum on all ongoing projects. Take time to speak to your community association manager, and if you are unhappy with someone, then he or she can give you advice about better vender contracts as well as how to make changes within the community.
Not seeking legal advice
You will find there are situations where legal advice should be sought after. Community association managers are not lawyers and are prohibited from offering legal advice to their clients. If you are dealing with a situation with a homeowner that could possibly turn into a lawsuit, it may be best to work with the association’s attorney for advice and procedure. Consider that the expense of the attorney may well be far cheaper than the potential legal liabilities.
Being a board member is a tremendous responsibility and requires important decision-making skills and judgment. It can be easy to make common mistakes that can cause significant issues in the future. Maintaining a good relationship with your community association manager is an excellent way for your community to operate efficiently.
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Bob Begley, CAM, CMCA, AMS, is a managing partner and instructor at Florida CAM Courses, LLC., which offers training and exam prep for becoming a Community Association Manager.