Common Mistakes New HOA Board Members Make

Mistake #1. Not taking the time to learn how the association works.

Many new board members feel they can Learn as they go” when they join the board. It is important that they either take a course or have the Managing Agent provide them with an overview of their roles and responsibilities and the management plan in existence at the association.

As soon as a new member is elected, the management Company should provide a new member orientation. Explain how the Board has been run, ask how they would like to run the board and establish the policy to run the Board meeting or set a new policy if it is deemed necessary.

Mistake #2. Trying to do more than you’re permitted to do.

As a board member, authority stems from your association’s governing documents. If it’s not in the governing documents, you can’t do it. New board members try to do things outside of the board’s authority. Often they are enthusiastic and they want to take care of issues they care about. A new member may want to deal with signage. But, if there’s nothing in the governing documents about adding or taking down signs, there’s little the board can do.

Mistake #3. Changing the character of the association.

One of the most egregious mistakes new board members make is coming into office and attempting to change the lifestyle the membership expects the association to provide. Let’s say that an association has an onsite manager and the new board enters in a cost-saving mode and decides to cut out the onsite manager. Membership believed this type of “Cadillac” service was a feature provided to them; however, now they are being asked to accept “Volkswagen” service. Boards can implement cost saving measures, but must be careful about changing the lifestyle that the owners expected when they moved into the property.

Mistake #4. Trying to do too much too soon.

One of the biggest mistakes is a new board member being overzealous. More often than not, they got on the board for a reason. Sometimes, in a rush to make new policies, time is not taken to; examine the current policy, determine whether the board can enforce the new policy, notify residents of a potential new policy, and get everyone to buy in to the new policy. Decisions need to be thought through with a complete understanding of the impact and consequences of any new policy prior to implementation.

Mistake #5. Why policies are they way they are?

New board members sometimes take on their new roles without understanding why previous boards have implemented -or not implemented- past policies. A previous board may have also wanted to make sweeping changes, but it ran into resistance or found it didn’t have the authority or funds to facilitate those changes. There is often a lack of patience and a need to show action. New board members should understand that there are reasons for the current policies and why they were put in place. Act with caution. Have a full understanding of the background on a policy and the reasons for it.

Mistake #6. Replacing vendors hastily.

A lot of new boards want to replace vendors and contractors from the old simply because they did not like something they may have been doing. Before acting, meet with each one. It is important to remember, they took direction from the old board and what was not liked may be resolved with a new face-to-face meeting.

Mistake #7. Not learning from previous boards.

New members like to assume the previous board did everything wrong. They fail to understand that making big changes affects the entire community. New members need to read the minutes of the old board and see what went into any changes. Swift reaction will certainly result in negative feedback or getting voted out themselves at the next election. Learn the history of the association and understand what did not work and why.

Mistake #8. Operating in secrecy.

New board members need to realize that transparency in an association is the best policy and goes a long way toward homeowners having a comfort level with the actions of the board. By not talking about issues publicly, they can get themselves into trouble.

Mistake #9. Understand the financiai”Big Picture”.

Boards are faced with, “We need to get this implemented” or “Homeowners really want this”. However, often times they neglect looking at the overall financial position for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. If there is no CPA on the board, many do not understand how to interpret financial records, income and expenses statements, and understand how much money they really have to work with.