I recently facilitated an election at a contentious HOA meeting. The lone board member called a special meeting to fill the vacant board seats and she was concerned it would not go smoothly due to conflict amongst the members. Her first brilliant move was to consult an attorney for advice on how to properly notice and conduct the election and her second smart move was to have us facilitate the meeting. Having a neutral parliamentarian or HOA attorney lead the meeting diminishes any concern about impropriety and also removes the board member(s) from the hot seat.
I am happy to report that the meeting ran smoothly and all 4 positions were filled without a hitch. Although it is important to know how to handle a contentious situation if you are in HOA leadership, creating a strong leadership structure is even more important and will help you avoid disputes among members and attacks on the leadership.
Some keys to structuring good HOA management include:
- Communication, communication, communication. It can’t be emphasized enough that a fundamental aspect of good leadership is good communication. Board members should always be transparent, approachable and open to feedback from homeowners and regularly communicate information to residents through newsletters, town hall meetings, and social media such as Facebook or Instagram.
- Fairness. No matter whether the Board is making a decision about the trash pickup schedule or the budget, it is essential that the decision is made fairly and consistently. Nothing will spark a challenge to the Board faster than members believing the Board has favorites or is taking care of itself before the members. Apply the rules and regulations equally to all residents if you want to maintain trust and harmony.
- Fiscal Responsibility. Sound financial management is probably the biggest responsibility of the Board and Board members should develop realistic budgets that take into account short and long term expenses. A professional accountant or financial advisor may be a good investment especially for large expenditures and long term planning. First and foremost, however, the budget must be transparent and accessible to the members at all times so that members can easily see how their dues are being spent.
- Conflict Management. Like any community, conflict is going to occur from time to time. Board members need good conflict resolution skills. When a conflict arises, the sooner leadership can address it, the better. Open dialogue among residents, conduct mediation of disputes, and emphasize the importance of reaching a resolution through compromise. These techniques will help the Board resolve and even avoid conflict, which benefits everyone and helps the Board maintain trust.
- Long Term Vision. Effective Boards must have a clear vision for the future of the community and should invite and welcome input from the residents. Property values, amenities, local business development and overall quality of life must be considered in any long term plan. A long term plan should be flexible and revisited regularly to assess whether residents’ needs and expectations are being met.
- Accountability. Good leaders are accountable to their community and Boards are no different. To gain trust and get the work of the community done, Board members must be transparent in their decision-making and should keep records of their meetings and decisions to ensure that they are held accountable for their responsibilities.
- Inclusivity and Involvement. To get the most from your residents, include them in short and long term planning by holding meetings and creating committees for residents to participate in making recommendations to the residents. Residents will likely have expertise they can contribute and the Board not only gets good advice but it also gets buy in from the residents. The more invested and engaged members feel, the more the Board can accomplish and the better the residents will feel about their Board leadership.
- Professionalism. Board members must set the tone for the community by always being professional, recognizing the right to residents’ privacy and handling conflict discreetly. The integrity of the Board is essential to maintaining trust of the members.
Leaders of a homeowner’s association should possess administrative, interpersonal and conflict resolution skills, financial knowledge and a lot of compassion and interest in serving others. By practicing good communication, demonstrating a sense of fairness and integrity at all times and committing to improve the overall well-being of the community, you will be an effective leader and will help create a thriving, harmonious community of residents who are proud to call their association home.
If you need assistance with HOA management, development of bylaws and other governing documents, or running a Board or membership meeting or election, call one of the attorneys at Law Firm Carolinas with offices in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina and Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina. LFC represents hundreds of homeowners associations and our attorneys can provide advice on the simplest to most complex issues in HOA formation, management and meeting procedure.