A homeowners association, often abbreviated as an HOA, is commonly put in place through the CC&Rs (covenants, also called master deed) governing a condominium association or other subdivision association where property is owned in common.
The set-up varies widely from state to state, and from attorney to attorney. But if you find yourself on a homeowners association board, or at odds with one, you need to learn a bit about who to select for the board and how to train yourselves to do a better job.
First, we recommend that you choose people who have business experience and financial acumen.
Individuals who have never administered a long-range project may underestimate how much maintenance situations will change over future years and not set aside enough money from the association fees to cover future expenses.
Then there's the nasty backlash as the monthly HOA fee is raised dramatically, but sometimes the homeowners association board members responsible have long vanished from the scene.
Secondly, if you are in the type of development where neighbors are really fussy about how things look, choose someone with some urban design talent as well. An architect, landscape architect, or urban planner could be really useful to the board. Engineers and attorneys always come in handy as well.
Thirdly, choose people who are truly likely to live in the development over the long term and are dedicated to its success.
Those for whom your particular development represents a second or third place to call home are unlikely to serve well even if they have the professional skills we have been advocating.
Fourth, the community and the board needs to deal promptly with any personality conflicts that arise. If you are a part of a board that squabbles frequently, and that seems to be true of many HOAs, ask that mediation services be purchased.
The threat might actually bring the bickering parties back into line, but if not, you're protecting your most valuable financial investment.
If you're on the receiving end of the bullying that seems to happen in a number of homeowners association boards, think about whether the toll is worth it. Resign if you must.
Peace on the board is very important, and after several serial resignations, the rest of the community will begin to understand where the problem lies. At least we can hope so.
A truly useful resource is HOA Leader. Many other courses and expensive manuals are available to help board members, but certainly don’t be afraid to ask questions from your city planner and from professionals who might live in your community.
A well-governed homeowners association is a thing of beauty, and in every way comparable to a well-run governmental code enforcement agency. A good board can enforce the spirit of the deed restrictions without going overboard. (This document could be called the master deed or the CC&R's, or any number of variations in your particular association.)
However, if your association leadership isn’t up to the task, it can be a nightmare as you find everything from simple incompetence, to failure to deal with important but unpleasant news, to outright fraud.
Whether you simply live in an association-governed community or are a board member yourself, be generous about providing your board with the necessary resources to learn the job.
That doesn't mean trips to Las Vegas twice a year either! But it might mean a course or organization membership to understand how to make future-oriented decisions.