To achieve effective communications between homeowners and their homeowner association, it is important to understand the authority that belongs to the property management company, the board members individually and the board as a whole.
For example, the management company may be able to solve a problem quickly while at other times, management may not have the authority without board approval. When that occurs, frustration and conflict may ensue. Can this situation be avoided?
The Management Company and the Board: The management company serves as the agent of the HOA's board of directors. In other words, the management company has limited authority. When that authority is exceeded, the board must provide the additional authority. Similarly, an individual board member (including the President) does not have the authority to override board policy or governing document authority.
Homeowners' Concerns: It is not uncommon for an owner to ask the property manager to take certain action to assist that homeowner. However, that manager may not have been granted authority to make decisions on behalf of the board. It's helpful to understand why some owners might prefer for the management company to assume the authority and bypass the board's decision making process:
Mistrust: If a board communicates poorly or has issued unpopular edicts, homeowners will be leery and suspicious of a board's ability to make the correct decision on their behalf.
Past Failures: If there is a history of problematic board decisions, such as failure to allocate reserve money for maintenance, then resistance and distrust are assured.
Buyer's Remorse: Some owners buy into a covenant-restricted HOAs without realizing the requirement to abide by the governing documents and rules.
Speed of Decisions: People expect timely results and don't want to wait.
How the board can facilitate communication:
- Adopt policies to handle routine items that the management company can follow without having to go to the board every time a routine approval is needed.
- Hold consistent board meetings. If the meeting schedule is known in advance and when the board makes decisions, the wait becomes more palatable.
- Have a reply sent immediately to the owner after the decision is reached and state the reason for the decision if their request is denied.
- Give members an opportunity to address the board when requested.
- Provide a newsletter and website that keeps members informed of board policies and procedures.
From an owner's standpoint, it is a good idea to get involved in the governance of the HOA. Attending board meetings, serving on committees and running for the board are excellent ways to learn how an HOA works.
Some homeowners view the conformity required in homeowners association as a sacrifice of rights. However, most people enjoy the stability, structure and self-governance that are part of every homeowner association. They appreciate the rules that protect and maintain the quality and value of their investment. The key to success is a board of directors that works to promote harmony among the owners and does what it can to make swift and fair decisions.