Members of a homeowner association board are charged with directing business and being "in the know". Since board members are usually directors of a multimillion dollar corporation (asset-wise), they should carefully consider all business before acting. HOA business is sometimes fraught with political ramifications so decisions should not be made on the fly.
In some organizations, retreats are used as a way of getting groups to focus on important goals and issues. Retreats are designed to talk about philosophical issues and not to transact business. A retreat needs to be held apart from day to day activities that invariably interfere: ringing phones, the kids’ music and barking dogs make it impossible to focus. Consider gathering in a community meeting room. Libraries often have them available for little or no charge with the advantage of an available copier. Churches are also options.
When it comes to having critical information at hand, a Board Manual fills the bill. The Board Manual is a collection of essential information that can be easily and quickly accessed to respond to questions and emergencies. Some of the essential components include:
- Governing Documents (Declaration, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation)
- Rules & Regulations
- Current Operating Budget & Reserve Study
- Insurance Coverage Recap & Agent Contact Information
- Management Planning Calendar
- Maintenance & Insurance Areas of Responsibility
- Current Financial Report
- Meeting Minutes (last 12 months)
- Newsletters (last 12 months)
- List of board members and contact information
- Management key contact, phone #s, email address
- Utility companies (trash, water, power, gas, cable, telephone) contact information
- List of preferred vendors and contact information
- Site map showing streets, buildings, homes, utility meters, fire extinguishers, underground plumbing, equipment, etc.
- Security Information (keys, passwords, etc.)
- Tool and Equipment Inventory
- Equipment Information (elevator equipment, parking garage door, pool equipment, etc.)
Organize this information by subject in a three ring binder or digital files so updates can be easily made. Provide a full set to each board member. With this information on hand, most issues and crises can be addressed without scrambling.
Prepare for Meetings. All board meetings should have an agenda and related materials distributed to the directors at least a week in advance of the meeting for review so the board doesn’t shoot from the lip. At the meeting, stick to the agenda. Do not allow guests to spring issues at the meeting and expect a decision. Architectural change requests and rules enforcement issues should only be considered after full and complete written request is received and reviewed.
Get good advice. One area where boards often stumble is failure to seek out competent advice. Use your insurance agent, an attorney specializing in homeowner association law, a CPA, reserve analyst, engineers and architects when the subject matter is clearly beyond the expertise of the board. Do not wing it to save a few bucks. There is too much riding on the outcome and the owners are depending on you. The board is not charged with knowing everything. It is charged with making informed decisions. Use experts, gather and use key information for a board manual and get in the know.
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