There are many reasons why potential homebuyers choose to reside in an HOA. From high standards of appearance, to maintenance carried out by the association and other amenities, HOA residents receive several incredible benefits that translate to a rewarding way of living. Still, common myths and misconceptions about how HOAs are run oftentimes taint a resident’s view of their board members.
The HOA’s governing documents lay out the ground rules for what board members are responsible for as well as what residents can and cannot do with their homes and surrounding property. It’s no surprise that antagonism between residents and board members occurs. When homeowners feel as though they’re being slighted by those in charge of the HOA, a crack in the foundation of the community forms.
It’s up to the board members to not only uphold the rules fairly and treat every homeowner with equal respect, but to debunk common misconceptions so that residents feel empowered and taken care of. Along with clarifying these myths, board members must offer solutions to remind residents that they are all on the same team.
Myth #1: Board members seek out unfair power.
Because board members are essentially unpaid volunteers, it can be assumed that those who opt to run for a board position are merely seeking out power. Because board members have such a big say in the HOA’s operations, homeowners will sometimes believe that board members yearn to impose unfair rules and make their lives in the community difficult.
No one likes to receive a violation notice or a fine, particularly residents of an HOA. Sometimes a violation for something relatively harmless (such as trash in yards) can be seen by the resident in question as a personal attack. It’s important for board members to not only enforce the rules that have been laid out, but to keep residents informed of what those rules are so that problems do not arise over what can and cannot be done.
Solution: Start an online community.
Because so much of our personal and professional lives exist online, an easy-to-navigate digital experience can be a reliable and accessible mode of keeping residents abreast of an HOA’s operations. Whether it is a simple website, a Facebook page, or a blog, board members can create a digital space where residents can stay informed of the ins and outs of the community on their own time, knowing that the board members are more than happy to take the time to have everything explained. A message board (or even the messenger tool on Facebook) can facilitate meaningful conversation, giving residents the chance to converse easily with each other and with board members. Lay out the rules and what the board members are responsible for in a way that’s easy to internalize.
Myth #2: Residents are blindsided by rules.
Aesthetics play a major role in what sets HOAs apart from a “typical” type of residence. The uniformity, cleanliness, and incredible upkeep are a big part of why residents choose HOAs in the first place. Those who opt to live in an HOA are looking for a well-mannered and aesthetically pleasing neighborhood where fellow residents are just as loyal to and passionate about the preservation of the community’s look.
Unfortunately, certain rules may dishearten residents and lead them to believe that they have little say regarding what makes their house their home. Although interior choices are typically up to the resident’s discretion (provided that they don’t seriously impede upon the collective aesthetic), exterior choices are strictly regulated by the HOA. This can be difficult for many to accept, considering that personal choices are of great value to some.
Still, the framework for the community’s aesthetics is an integral part of a living community and must be upheld to ensure satisfaction. In order to make sure that no resident feels blindsided by the rules, it’s a wise for the board to inform new homeowners as soon as possible about what they can and can’t do with their homes.
Solution: Offer a welcome kit upon arrival.
When a new resident arrives, it’s important to let them know that they are valued. A great way to do this is to offer a welcome gift with special items to acclimate them to the community such as a gift basket filled with local offers and coupons. In addition to these items, make sure to include ample information regarding the rules in a way that does not intimate anyone. Board members can also include a calendar of community events, as well as information on how to stay afloat of the HOA’s operations.
Myth #3: Everything is done in secret.
Because the board of directors is a select group of the HOA’s residents, homeowners commonly believe that the major operations are decided and carried out in secret. This leads to a misconception that there is a purposeful lack of communication in order to avoid conflict. Not communicating regularly with residents is a surefire way to foster mistrust.
Not listening to what residents have to say or cutting them off during board meetings only leads to further problems. Similarly, holding “secret” meetings, such as impromptu get-togethers where an agenda is discussed, can be seen as a behind-the-back ploy and can irritate residents. Make sure that whenever any issue that relates to a resident or their way of living is discussed, that residents are informed. Especially when it comes to major changes, such as an increase in fees, residents must be aware as soon as possible.
Solution: Maintain strong communication with newsletters and community events.
A monthly newsletter is a great method of keeping residents informed and in the loop. The newsletter doesn’t have to be all business, however — it can be entertaining and reflect the unique personality of the HOA. Above all else, make sure that any newsletter that goes out is accurate and informative, and allows residents to feel in charge of their personal well being and responsibilities within the community.
The best way to engender community within an HOA is to keep members actively involved, not only with the HOA’s operations but also with each other. In addition to well-written and insightful newsletters, community-wide events are a thoughtful way to make create a neighborly atmosphere. Fun events, such as barbecues and poolside parties, can held to foster a “peaceful coexistence” and build genuine relationships between homeowners.
Building a strong community not only leads residents to follow the rules, but to follow the rules with a sense of purpose and mutual agreement — not simply because they have to, but because they want to. Not to mention, an engaged community breeds happier homeowners, which benefits everyone.
Although there are several misconceptions regarding HOAs, board members are ultimately in control of debunking them. In a well-run community, board members can use their authority to remind homeowners that they are not in it for the power, but for the chance to maintain a collective well being. When residents are kept aware of the HOA’s operations, they are more likely to feel empowered and in control, and exhibit respect for the HOA’s rules. Simple solutions can make a world of difference for both board members and residents, which helps to maintain a pleasurable way of living.