Who Are These HOA Bullies? (Part 2 of 3)
In part one of this series, we looked at how and why HOA’s (Homeowner Associations) were created, and learned that you – the homeowner – are part of the HOA. Since you’re not the bully in question, we’re going to take a look at the next likely culprit: the HOA board.
HOA Board Members – Are They the Bullies?
According to your HOA’s governing documents, the board is usually made up of homeowners who volunteer and are elected by fellow homeowners to be on the board once the developer turns over the community. (The developer is on the board at the beginning of construction. In some cases, board members may not be required to be a homeowner in the community.) These board members are volunteers who were voted into their board member positions by – who? Yep, you again! Homeowners may attend all HOA board meetings, including the annual meeting where you vote in person for your board member(s) or send in your signed proxy. Based on your governing documents, board members may serve either limited or unlimited term(s). There’s usually an odd number of board members so that voting on HOA matters won’t result in a tie. When there aren’t enough qualified volunteers to fill these board positions, HOA boards may try to recruit volunteers from inside the community, or ask associates who are able to volunteer.
Your HOA governing documents will specify what the HOA board is responsible for, such as the financial management of the dues, common area maintenance, enforcement of the HOA rules, and referral of issues/owners for legal matters. You should review these documents to ensure your board is properly following the rules they’re required to follow, and make note of any areas they may not be following. The governing documents may be very specific on certain duties, such as limiting the amount of an increase in the annual assessment, and very vague on other duties, such as how the architectural committee decides what paint colors are permitted in the community. There may also be supplemental or amended documents to clarify certain issues that needed to be addressed.
If you’re unhappy with your board members decisions, there are several options. (Refer to your governing documents for details.) For instance, can you contact your board via email or letter to express your concerns? Or, you can attend the next board meeting and if necessary, request time beforehand to speak at the meeting. In many instances, the board can explain why it has made a decision, or taken a specific action, on a particular issue. The property manager who attends the meetings is often able to address the issue as well, and if not, should take your information and get back to you with details. Remember, the property manager works for the HOA (which is you and all your fellow homeowners), and must follow all the rules and laws governing your HOA. If, however, no reasonable solution is forthcoming after these steps, determine if your governing documents provide you additional options. In some cases, you may need to seek assistance from an outside source, such as a county office or a lawyer/mediator. Soliciting the support of other homeowners with similar concerns to write letters/emails, and/or attend board meetings, is another good option if the matter is of greater interest to the community.
A note on HOA committees – HOA’s have board members who make many decisions, but there may also be committees that make certain decisions. Board members appoint volunteers to these committees that may or may not be the source of your disgruntlement. If a volunteer committee member has an agenda that doesn’t mesh well with the goals of the committee or the HOA, the board may need to consider removing that volunteer. If you’re unhappy with the job of a volunteer committee member, educate yourself on the rules and volunteer to be placed on the committee.
So…while some HOA board members can seem like power-hungry, mean-spirited people taking out their anger on homeowners, that’s not usually the case. Remember, they’re homeowners just like you, and they’ve volunteered for a position that requires them to fairly uphold the HOA rules. Depending on the size of your HOA, these volunteer board members may spend several hours per month reviewing board matters, budgets, repair needs, and other complaints. A good board member recognizes that careful management of HOA funds, and maintaining an attractive community (both common areas and enforcement on private property), benefits all homeowners by keeping property values high. However, if your HOA board has members who are abusing their position, and you think you would be a better board member, then the best solution is to garner the support of fellow homeowners and make your case at the next annual election. Your community deserves a board that takes care of the HOA and all its members.
GREAT. SO MAYBE IT’S NOT THE HOA OR THE BOARD. WHO’S THE PROBLEM HERE? (Read Part 3 here)