Common Mistakes of Board Members
It can be a wonderful experience being on the board of a condo or homeowner’s association.
Many members really enjoy the experience of being active in their community, guiding neighbors regarding association matters, and getting to know the members of their community better.
Board members generally take their positions seriously, and truly want to do the best job possible. The fact is that being a board member can be very challenging, and it can be all too easy to make mistakes. This can be harmful to an association.
For these reasons it can be a huge advantage to work with a community association manager (CAM).
Here in Florida, an even bigger benefit is that CAMS MUST be Florida certified and complete a CAM licensing course even before taking the state exam.
CAMs can help board members stay away from various pitfalls to ensure the association runs smoothly and legally.
Below are some of the common mistakes boards can make:
1. Holding meetings incorrectly
All board meetings need to be documented and notice provided to all. It is considered a board meeting any time board 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 is a direct violation of association law. Any conversations at social gatherings should not include any discussion about the community business. Talk with your CAM to help be clear about clarify what is okay (or not okay) to discuss with other board members when no official meeting is taking place.
2. Not adhering to the governing board documents
Sometimes boards do not carefully read their 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. Having an association manager who can assist with questions a board might have about documents prevents many possible problems. CAMs will also review the documents and help advise boards.
3. Mismanaging the association funds/budget
It is all too easy to use bad judgement in relation to the funds of the association. It is a common mistake to spend too much too quickly, without leaving anything for emergency situations or miscellaneous items. It is always necessary to 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 ahead for long term necessities and thing about how the association may be affected in five to ten years from big financial decisions today. It would be wise to go over prior year budgets and learn from them. CAMs can typically provide excellent guidance and give knowledgeable advice throughout the entire budget process and also help ensure any work completed is done so at a good and reasonable price.
4. Becoming overzealous
Board members are generally excited to have their position, and often they can make large decisions too quickly. It is always best to weigh any major policy changes very carefully. If a major change is in place too quickly, there is risk of upsetting fellow residents. For example, a new board may decide to make a decision, believing it is best for the association. However, in doing this, all ongoing projects lose momentum. An example is changing vendors. Take the time to speak to your association manager, and if you are unhappy with someone, then your CAM can give you advice about vendors as well as how to make changes within the community.
5. Not seeking advice of a legal professional
This can be expensive, BUT definitely you will find there are situations where legal advice should be used. If you are dealing with a situation with a homeowner that could possibly turn into a lawsuit, you will find it may be a great idea to work with a legal professional.
In short, being a board volunteer is a tremendous responsibility and requires important decision making. It can be very easy to make common mistakes that can cause significant issues in the future. Reading the advice above and keeping a good relationship with your association manager is an excellent way for your community to operate successfully and smoothly.