Being a Member of the Board in a Community Association
A Beginner's guide
Board of Directors -
commonly referred to as "the board," the board of directors are charged with the conduct and management of the community.
The Declaration -
essentially a contract between the association and owners, it outlines an owner's responsibilities to the association, such as payment of dues and assessments. The declaration is sometimes referred to as the "master deed," "documents," or "declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions," (CC&Rs)
a set of rules or guidelines regarding the operation of the board of directors that generally defines offices and communities involved with the successful operation of the association.
Governing Documents -
the declaration, bylaws, operating rules, articles of incorporation or any other documents that govern the normal operating procedures of an association.
an individual or set of laws adopted by local government at the county and city level
the minimum number of members required to hold an official meeting of the association; varies according to the association's governing documents.
to temporarily remove or disallow an association board member from participating in a particular vote or proceeding because of a possible conflict of interest.
Common Area -
any area of improved property intended for shared us by the members of the association
So, you've been elected to serve on the board of directors in your community?
The board of directors are largely responsible for well run, beautifully maintained communities and are often proud contributors to the well-being of the neighborhood.
A position on the board of directors can be a challenging and rewarding duty.
It won't be all fun and games, though.
There will be a lot of necessary blood, sweat, and tears to pull it off.
In fact, it may seem like a rather daunting task at first;
the fate of the association resting in your hands.
It will be hard work, but we're here to guide you through.
This is your beginner's guide to being a member of the board in a community association.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of serving on the board, it's pertinent to first briefly touch on what a community association is.
Certain communities are comprised of deed-restricted properties and at the heart of these communities is the community association.
A community association is a nongovernmental association of participating members of a community, i.e. neighborhood, village, condominium, cooperative, or group of homeowners.
Typically a non-profit corporation, the community association serves the unit owners within the community with various amenities, such as: landscaping, general upkeep and maintenance of parking lots, clubhouses, pools, and common areas.
Upon purchasing a property within a deed-restricted subdivision, the owner is required to pay assessments to, and abide the rules of, the association.
In return, the owner is permitted access to the community's amenities and has the opportunity to participate in the governance of the community.
The rules and guidelines of a community association are outlined in various documents.
The declaration, sometimes referred to as the "master deed," or "declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions," (CC&Rs) describes an owner's responsibilities to the association, as well as the association's duties to an owner.
It is commonly considered to be somewhat of the "constitution" of an association.
The Board of Directors
In order to effectively serve on the board of directors, it is crucial to understand who they are and what they do.
In relation to a formal organization, community, homeowners' association (HOA), or condominium association, the board of directors is responsible for managing the conduct and affairs of the community.
The board is initially composed of members that have been appointed by the property developer to maintain the character of the community they have designed.
As ownership in the community transitions from developers to owners, the members of the board also transition accordingly; with fewer developer-appointed members and more owners serving on the board of directors.
The required number of directors on the board is typically determined by the bylaws of the association and, depending on the number of units, is usually anywhere between three and five members.
Ultimately, the board of directors will be solely comprised of unit owners elected by members within the association.
As with any formal organization, there are a few key positions within the board of directors that are designated by a majority vote of the full board: president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary.
Much like the CEO or chairman of a corporation, the president of the board of directors in a community association oversees, handles, and leads the board.
The president is charged with safeguarding the personal investments of all members within an HOA or condo association.
He or she is responsible for many of the procedural duties within the association and are often expected to preside over each and every board meeting.
Residents of an HOA or condo association often address the president with various matters regarding the community.
Therefore, an HOA or condo association president will spend a decent amount of time interacting with unit owners, property managers, and other board members.
Additionally, the president is required to know and understand the state laws that are applicable to the association, before passing rules.
Hence, to be successful in this role, the president must be well-versed in all of the association's legal documents as well as state and local legislation.
The vice president of an HOA or condo association shares and assists the president with many of the same responsibilities and tasks.
They will need to be able to assume the leadership role when the president is absent and help to ensure order in meetings and procedures.
The treasurer maintains securities, funds, and financial matters within a community association.
Their responsibilities include: monitoring budgets, reporting on financial status, year-end reporting, audits, billing, collections, disbursement of funds, etc.
The treasurer must also be proficient in the community's bylaws and governing documents pertaining to financial records.
The main duty of an association's secretary is to maintain and distribute official records, agendas, and meeting minutes to members of the association in a timely manner.
The documents are to be stored in a safe place that is also accessible to members of the association.
Additionally, the secretary maintains meeting minutes and is responsible for providing proper notice of meetings.
The secretary must review and update records as needed and ensure that the association meets legal documentation requirements.
Board Member Elections
Board members are elected in an annual meeting by a democratic vote within the community.
The location, date, and time of the election must be provided to all unit owners of the association.
The voting process should be private and anonymous and each member within the association has equal opportunity to run for a position on the board provided that they aren't delinquent in any monetary obligation, suspended by the division, or convicted of a felony less than five years earlier.
New board members can bring fresh perspectives to persistent issues within the community and help dust off some of the 'cobwebs' that have developed as a result of tradition and routine.
Within 90 days of being appointed to the board, a new member must become certified.
This certification is typically awarded after completing a two hour course presented by a division-approved education provider.
If a director fails to become certified within the 90 day period, they will be suspended until compliance is met and the board may temporarily fill the vacancy during the period of suspension.
At Larsen, we regularly teach Board Certification Courses in order to qualify our clients, board members, and community association managers (CAMs).
Our courses are taught by highly experienced condo and HOA lawyers who are equipped with the knowledge to answer any and all questions you may have regarding your role as a board member.
Board Member Duties/Responsibilities
In addition to the specialized roles of president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary, every member of the board in an HOA or condo association is charged with a number of duties and responsibilities.
It is crucial for each director to be familiar with the declaration, covenants and restrictions, bylaws, and all controlling documents of the association.
The board of directors has a fiduciary duty to unit owners within the HOA or condo association.
Often charged with handling sensitive information such as personal addresses and credit card numbers, it is crucial for the board to uphold their duty to the community and safeguard these items.
If there are bylaws, rules, or restrictions that are outdated, disliked, or irrelevant to the association, the board of directors has the ability to decide to amend the governing documents.
The association must decide how to interpret and handle violations of these governing documents, so knowing and understanding them is vital.
Additionally, the board has the right to collect a reasonable sum of money from each unit owner, commonly referred to as assessments or dues, to be utilized toward the maintenance and general upkeep of the community.
However, some residents of the association may not pay their dues.
Unit owners that are delinquent in paying assessments cause serious financial strain on the community.
For this reason, the association may decide to take legal action against delinquent owners in order to obtain past dues.
A law firm or debt collection agency can be suitable means of collecting delinquent assessments.
Larsen is highly experienced in the collection of delinquent assessments (our collections process is like no other), covenant enforcement, document amendment, and many other association law practices.
Learn about our practice areas
The board of directors will need to formulate a budget to guide the association with spending and maintenance costs.
This budget is determined by careful analysis of past costs, anticipated costs, actual costs, and assessments collected.
A large portion of the association's attention is directed to maintaining and repairing common areas, such as building exteriors, landscapes and features, clubhouses, pools, etc.
Maintenance and repairs ought to be prioritized in terms of urgency and importance.
For example, building a new doggie park takes backseat to a broken and cracked sidewalk that poses a tripping hazard.
Furthermore, the association will likely want to save some of the money acquired from assessments to account for unexpected repairs, replacements, and emergencies.
Natural disasters and 'freak accidents' can cause unexpected damage to properties. Maintaining a healthy reserve can save your association a lot of stress and headaches.