Common Mistakes New HOA Board Members Make

Mistake # 1. Not taking the time to learning 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 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. If an association has an onsite manager, and the new board enters in a cost-saving mode and decides to cut out the onsite manager. But the owners bought a Cadillac and were prepared to pay for a Cadillac, and the new board tries to force them into a Volkswagen. Boards can move into cost savings but must be careful about changing the lifestyle that owners expected when they moved into the property without consulting with them.

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’ve got on the board for a reason, and they rush to make new policies without taking the time to examine the current policy, determining whether they can enforce the new policy, notifying the residents of a potential new policy, and getting them to buy into it. Decisions need to be thought through and understanding the impact and consequences before they are put in place.

Mistake #5. Why policies are the 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 need to show action. New board members need to understand that there were reasons for the things that have been put in place. Act with caution. Have a full understanding of the background on a policy and the reasons for it. Research and carefully act on any changes.

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 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 affect the entire community. New member 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, understand what did not work and why.

Mistake #8. Operating in secrecy.
New members need to realize that transparency in an association is the best policy and goes a long way toward homeowners having a comfort level that the board is doing the right thing By not talking about issues publicly, they get themselves into trouble.

Mistake #9. Understand the financial “Big Picture”.
Boards are faced with, “We need to get this implemented” or “Homeowners really want this” Often times they neglect looking at the overall financial position for the next 1, 5 an 10 years. If there is no CPA on the board, many do not understand how to look at the financial records, income, expenses and understand how much money they really have to work with.

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