HOA’s tend to get a bad rap. Countless news stories, as well as television shows and commercials characterize them as a looming, ever-present force, terrorizing the neighborhood and well-meaning citizens who unwittingly go a day too long before cutting their grass, or allow the branches of their tree to venture just a bit too far into a neighbor’s yard. There is often the perception that it is “us versus them” and that somehow, the homeowners and the association are locked in a constant and epic battle for the heart of the community. However, it is important to note that the whole reason HOAs were, and continue to be, formed is for the benefit of all of those who reside there, even if (at times) it doesn’t feel that way. Is there a way to bring the two sides together in such a way that this widely-accepted feud could be ended amicably? Perhaps you are just the one to do this. The chosen one, if you will. You can bring the board and its community members together. How, you ask? You can join your HOA.
Should you? Before you do anything, consider your intentions. Do you really want this? Really? Taking the plunge into a role within the HOA can be a major commitment and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Consider what is driving you to this decision. Are you planning on joining, in earnest, to make your community a better place? Or are you seeking to indulge some repressed megalomaniac tendency, bubbling just under the surface of your seemingly ordinary existence and lord over your neighbors like the sovereign you were born to be (the first step is admitting it)?
Be sure that you know what will be required of you. What is the time commitment, and can you manage this on top of your other responsibilities? The amount of time expected of members can often correlate with the size of your community and the amenities that are offered and overseen. For example, if you live in a smaller community, with a park or two, the amount of time required of you may be just a few hours a month. Conversely, if you live in a larger community, with parks, a pool, a golf course, ball field, etc., then it can be concluded that the time and effort required of a member would be more extensive. Be sure that you are willing to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to this role. After all, agreeing to uphold these duties and then neglecting them makes you part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Take Part Begin by attending the scheduled HOA meetings. In years past, this was a pretty simple endeavor and only entailed showing up, wearing pants, and using your inside voice. However, These days, as with most things, association meetings may be a bit different. Meetings may be virtual, or only allow so many attendees, so be aware of any COVID-specific precautions that are being taken, or changes that have been made to the status-quo. All of this will vary greatly depending on your state and local mandates. In the vast majority of cases, the association is required to make the community aware of upcoming meetings, so be sure to check often if your community has a website, sends out a newsletter, etc.
Join in Some associations, in order to divide tasks and involve the community, will form various committees. Contact your board members and volunteer to join one that you have a particular interest in or passion for. Often these committees will focus on things such as landscaping, safety or events planning. Not all associations will form these committees, and not all associations who do form these committees, allow non-board members to join. All of this information will be in the governing documents or your community's website, so (as always) look here first. This will also allow you to make a positive impact in your neighborhood, as well as to see the inner working of the board before you become an official member.
Hit the Books REALLY know your documents. Plan on carving out a hefty amount of time to sit down and really read all of the documents that govern your community. Do not skim, READ. If they are available, you might also consider reading the minutes of past meetings (usually posted to community websites). Admittedly, this is not the most riveting reading material, but, in order for you to be a truly effective member of the HOA, you will need a deep understanding of the rules and statutes that your community has established. So often, disputes between the board and community members are based in misunderstanding of these documents.
Won’t you be my Neighbor? Be a member of your community. Go out, meet your neighbors. Participate in community events. If your community has a social media page, become an active part of it. Now, let's be clear, this does not mean using the page as your own personal soap box, or therapist's office. This is not the venue to complain about the length of your neighbor’s grass, the shade of chartreuse that the family down the street painted their house, or your personal feelings about the current seated board members. Do your best to be positive, or at least impartial and helpful whenever you can. Too often these forums become toxic melting pots, with members only chiming in to stir.
Sign me Up Your community’s governing documents should outline for you the appropriate steps that you’ll need to take in order to officially run for the board. While each association will have their own nuances, In most cases, this entails filing paperwork. You may be asked to outline your specific qualifications, your intentions in joining the board, and general information about yourself. If you plan to run for a specific titled office within the board (secretary, treasurer, etc.), additional documentation regarding your qualifications may be required. You may be asked to prepare and deliver a speech to community and board members explaining why you are the ideal candidate for such a position, so be ready to stand in the spotlight.
With Great Power... Once you have succeeded in this endeavor, and find yourself a genuine HOA board member, remember what made you decide to take this step in the first place. The goal is to perpetuate positive interactions and to grow and build a relationship between the board and community members, while maintaining the beauty and prosperity of the home that you all have chosen to share. Understand that you are in a unique and important role, and have the ability to make a real impact on your community. As great minds like Voltaire and Stan Lee have said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So, chosen one, go forth, like Spiderman, and do good things.