One of the most important aspects of being an HOA board member involves dealing with the politics surrounding the position. Sometimes, being a board member requires more time and effort than a person has available to them, leading that person to resign from their position. Other times, a board member might pose more trouble to the board and community than they’re worth, causing other board members to call for that person’s removal from the board.

The following information is designed to help you and your fellow HOA board members understand certain processes that you will take part in, whether you’re handling community maintenance or making sense of board politics.

Positions and Duties on the Board of Directors

Just like congress or a corporation, the board of directors on a HOA board is made up of multiple different positions. The association’s governing documents and state statutes define and set forth the duties and roles of each board member. However, your HOA management company is also great resource to lean on for general clarification. Each and every board member has a role within their association, all geared towards making your community function and operate well. These roles include:

  • The President: As the leader of the Board of Directors, the President of the Board works in close conjunction with the community association’s property manager. If the association is using the services of a professional management company, the president is usually the main point of contact for that company, though this is not always the case.
  • The Vice President: The role of the association’s vice president varies with each community. One constant is that the vice president will take the place of the board president if that member is not present. Like any other position on the board, the role of the V.P. can be as effective as the officer is willing to be.
  • The Treasurer: The treasurer has a prominent role in overseeing the association’s finances. This officer has the responsibility of developing the association’s budget, as well as overseeing the financial operations of the association. If the association has a finance committee, this is usually headed by the treasurer. This is a vital position for any association, and it’s highly recommended that the treasurer have experience in accounting, business, or financial management. Work with your HOA management company to get the insight needed.
  • The Secretary: The board secretary is also vital to the association’s affairs. This officer is in charge (along with the president and property manager) of setting the agenda of any meeting, accurately recording the minutes at those meetings, and ensuring that quorum criteria has been met. In addition, the secretary has the task of sending meeting notices to homeowners in advance, to comply with state laws and the community’s governing documents. The secretary is also entrusted with maintaining the records of the association; they are usually in charge of the association’s corporate seal, and are also expected to sign and attest to certain important documents, such as the corporate resolutions and bank documents. Many of the above described duties would normally be handled by a management company, but the HOA secretary should still have to oversee these functions, to make sure they’re being in accordance with the association’s governing documents.

Keep in mind that the specific responsibilities of each board member may vary from association to association, but one fact still remains; an effective board will always keep the best interests of the association at heart. They will enforce all of the association’s rules equally and fairly. The will take their fiduciary duty seriously, and will do their best to make informed decisions for the community, regardless of their roles Your HOA management company should be able to assist you and your fellow board members in your efforts.

Conflict Resolution

Obviously, knowing your board hierarchy is essential to understanding the politics of your HOA; but, you must understand and improve the operating processes of your board as well if you want to survive in this political environment. This begins and ends with conflict resolution. Whether it results from a board decision or just someone is being difficult, conflict exists in your HOA for various reasons and must be dealt with in an appropriate manner. Fortunately, when you look at the nature of conflict and how you can enhance your skills to deal with it more effectively, conflict can actually provide you with an opportunity to create trust, and therefore build better relationships. Here are just a few ways this can happen:

First, acknowledge that you are aware of the person’s perceptions and concerns. In a situation where you have repeated interactions with the same people, it’s important to bring the matter out into the open, and give them an opportunity to explain or provide additional information. Go beyond the surface facts and examine the details to uncover the root cause of the conflict—not just the symptoms.

After you’ve acknowledged the conflict, you should apologize. You don’t have to apologize for your actions necessarily, but you can apologize for the “misunderstanding,” or for that person feeling frustrated or angry. With this type of apology, you’re not accepting blame, but you still leave open the possibility for further discussion.

Next, you’ll need to listen to what they have to say. The goal of “active” or “reflective” listening is to understand what a person needs in a given situation. Active listening involves creating a block of time for the conversation when you will not be interrupted, as well as giving your total concentration to the person speaking. Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions; hear their needs, not just their position. In order to show that you’ve been listening, you may want to repeat what you’ve heard—the words and the feelings—then allow for clarification. As you listen, tune into words, feelings, and body language.

When deciding what action should be taken after listening to the other person, think about the long-term. Ask yourself what it will cost you and/or your HOA to make this person happy, as well as the long-term value of that end result. The answers to these questions will provide you with the information you need to reach a solution that can work for you, your HOA and other people affected by the conflict.

On that note, finish strong if you can. Surprise and delight the person by sending confirmation of the resolution and an acknowledgement of appreciation immediately. This will convey your interest in the person’s needs and provide them with an experience they will remember favorably.

All the above actions require personal interactions with your HOA homeowners. To create trust, you must have real time conversations where you can provide feedback, share feelings, and reach mutual agreements. While email is an effective tool for sharing information, it’s not effective for building or maintaining relationships.

Improving Your Board’s Decision-Making Process

Part of conflict resolution, however, is doing your best to make sure conflicts don’t happen in the first place; one of the best ways to do this is to do your best to improve the processes involved with your board’s decision making process. Fortunately, there are a number of ways your HOA board members can effectively improve their decision-making process:

  • Follow the notice requirements contained in your association’s governing documents. Make sure you always give the proper notice to the membership of meetings being held. This is very important, because you may not make decisions or take any action unless there is a quorum present at your meetings. The requirements for the proper quorum amount can be found in your association’s governing documents. If any actions are taken during a meeting without quorum, those actions are automatically invalid.
  • Another way to improve your board’s judgment is to avoid serving alcohol during meetings. Some HOA boards may hold their meetings in one of the directors’ residences, and consequently might think it would be appropriate to serve beer, wine, or liquor. It is NOT acceptable. Alcohol impairs basic functions, such as decision making. Even if it seems like your duty as a host, don’t do it.
  • Sometimes, better judgment results from the inclusion of a variety of ideas. Allow those who are present at the meeting to contribute to the discussion at hand. As the board you have the authority to limit the amount of time each person speaks at a meeting, otherwise the meeting could drag on for hours. However, attempting to prevent any discussion from the membership can come back and bite you, so make sure you allow your members to speak up at the appropriate times during your meeting.

If you’re still having trouble resolving an issue, or if the issue concerns something small in comparison to another issue faced by your HOA, gather up members of the community and form committees to help find solutions. Committees can help brainstorm new and different ideas to contribute to the decision making process for the board. However, community members won’t always have all of the answers, so don’t ever hesitate to seek professional advice from attorneys, engineers, architects, etc. Whatever issue you’re handling, it’s always wise to get an expert’s opinion before taking action.

Resigning from Your HOA Board

There are a number of reasons that a board member might resign. It could simply be they are selling their unit and moving on. They might not have the time to dedicate to properly serving on the board. There are even some extreme cases when an entire board resigns.

Whatever the reason, you will need to follow the proper procedure to resign from your HOA board.

First, you will need to write an official written notice of your resignation. This written notice can come in the form of a letter and/or email, which should state the specific date you would like your resignation to be effective. This notice does not need to delve into the personal reasons why you might be resigning. In other words, you do not have to defend your reasons (unless you want to). Keep it short and professional.

Next, you will need to distribute your notice to members of the community. As an HOA board member, you represent all of the owners in your community. This is why any notice about resigning from an HOA board position should be distributed to that entire community. You might even post the notice in a community area with a bulletin board.

Finally, you should help your HOA board and community through the transitional process. If you are giving the HOA notice of your resignation several days, weeks, or even months before your resignation is effective, you can help with the transition by training the interim board member. Any help that an experienced board member can give to a new recruit would be greatly appreciated. The bottom line is that you do not want to leave your board hanging with your resignation. Keep in mind that these are still your neighbors and you have a vested interest in making sure your HOA is running correctly.

Removing “Problem” Members of Your HOA Board

We’ve touched on the subject of bad behavior from HOA board members before. Now, we will discuss the process of removing those board members from office. These “bullies” can cause serious issues within the community, and they are often not worth the trouble.

How might one go about removing these problem HOA board members? The easiest and most effective way for removal is by membership vote. It is important for the association’s board members and managers to know how the process of removal works because the membership may decide to take things into their own hands. You will need to know how to implement the removal process by way of your association’s bylaws. Your bylaws should have an explanation of how to remove these board members by the vote of the membership. Normally the bylaws don’t require the membership to give a reason for removal; board members may be removed with or without cause. The bylaws will also say whether or not a special meeting is required for the removal of board members, though it is most likely necessary.

The next step in the process is to draft a petition to call for a special meeting for the intents and purposes to remove the problem board member. The amount of signatures needed on the petition will vary based on what is stated in your association’s bylaws. Also, check with your state for any requirements they have for petitions. After you’ve gotten the required amount of signatures, you will need to send notice to the membership of the time and place the special meeting will be held. Your association’s bylaws may have specific instructions on how to go about mailing out notices, and the amount of advanced notice you are required to give.

Send a letter to the problem board member. It is important for the board to send a notice to the board member whose removal is being voted upon, to notify them that a special meeting is taking place. This letter will be tough to write, but you should include all pertinent information so that board member may defend themselves if they choose to do so. The final step is to hold the special meeting to discuss and vote on the removal of the problem board member. This can get ugly, but if conducted correctly, it can be done with minimal complications.

Wrap Up

HOA board members provide a valuable, voluntary service to their community. Their jobs aren’t easy, but having full knowledge of the specifics of vendor agreement approval, how to properly resign from the board, and procedures for removing problem board members can certainly help simplify the complex processes involved in HOA board membership.