As of Jan. 1st of this year, my 2 terms as the HOA president ended. I opted not to run again. I would become the default president for life if I had. I completed all the things I set out to do. I was going to make a list in this post of all the things I (with help on some) improved in our community — but who cares. The list was long — probably longer than it should have been. When I get involved in something, I like to jump in full-on. I spent a lot of time over the last 4 years. Time that took away from family and work.
So what did I learn? Probably more than I remember in writing this. I learned a ton about technical things like water rights, irrigation, maintenance, budgeting, and much more. I changed a lot about how I interact with people. But as advice goes, I had a few things to share from my experiences.
1) Your Decision
After I got elected and had my first meeting, we had an issue come up and we said “we should have the community vote on that”. To which our community manager pointed out (in so many words) that you were elected because people don’t want to think about this stuff. They want a board to decide. Only bother homeowners when you must, legally. Otherwise, you are empowered to decide matters on their behalf. That is why a board of directors exists in the first place. This was great advice and made me decide things for myself from the start.
2) People Will Treat You Like A Servant
There are always a few bad apple in every group. These folks usually only come out to complain. They are often very observant. To the point of documenting and photographing your issues, failures, etc. They know how it should be done and usually have some story about how they were involved in something or ran something for years and years. What do YOU know? Well, these are the people that never get involved. They would rather bitch at you than help you. They would often be the perfect board member but they actually don’t have the drive to deal with it. They just want to complain and be heard and then tell all their neighbors about how you are an idiot and they showed you. Well, my first response to these people is that they should join the board. They act like that is an insult. Why not? The only qualification is owning a home. So take your turn. Do your part. Improve your community. You might just learn a thing or two.
3) People Fear Confrontation
Whenever any issues are presented that will cause confrontation, people run in fear. Don’t expect homeowners to care about your issue if it is going to cause confrontation. It might change the world for the better? Oh, good. But we might upset somebody and possibly involve legal action? Run away! That is what I always heard. Your goal as a board member is to improve things without causing confrontation. There is bound to be some but don’t expose it to homeowners. It makes them scared. They just want to live their happy lives. So keep it under wraps and present the shiny happy face all the time.
4) Use Your Legal Resources
If your association doesn’t have an attorney, get one. A good one. That knows or specializes in HOAs. We have a few in Colorado that I know of. The laws are crazy and board members can’t be expected to understand it all. Get a professional and use their counsel. Not everyday but don’t hesitate for their opinion. Sure it costs some money now, but it will save everyone time and money in the long run when the issue becomes much more than you thought it was going to become.
5) Improve Something
We have often have trouble getting new board members each year. Some are always quick to complain but never want to help. I guess the pay isn’t that great ($0). But the best thing in the world is someone that has a passion for something that they want to see fixed/improved. I was like that from the start and had the pleasure of serving with people that had similar ideas from time to time. Want greener grass? Go for it! Want to build a playground? Go for it! This was always my only qualification when screening prospective board members. One question. What do you want to improve? If they don’t have anything, then they will drift through the job. At least that was my experience.
I have more thoughts but I want to close the chapter. It was a fun and challenging job and I learned a lot and left the place better than I found it. So for now, I am going to take a back seat and see how others can improve things. Hopefully, they continue to build on what we got done in the last 4 years. I continue to live here so I have a vested interest. I don’t want to come out of retirement but I will if I have to — as opposed to just bitching about how I would have done things.