From rowdy neighbors to malfunctioning utilities, every community faces problems at one time or another. However, living in an Association comes with its own set of unique issues. Although it can feel as though these concerns are simply part of community living, that doesn’t mean that the Board of Trustees is powerless to enact any effective solutions. The distinctive problems within an Association will require some equally distinctive solutions, but developing the strategies to overcome these issues will result in a strong, smoothly functioning Association.
Problem: Community members are apathetic about their Association and the community overall.
Community apathy doesn’t necessarily mean that residents are unhappy with the way that the community is operating — although this might sometimes be the case. Rather, this ennui can stem from many different causes. Both homeowners and community board members are pulled in many different directions. From career responsibilities to family matters, it can be hard for community members to find the time to attend Association meetings or to regularly check the Association website. Alternately, community members might feel as though they don’t have an opportunity to get involved in the operations of the community, or don’t have the information necessary to voice an informed opinion about Association business.
Solution: Improve communication and the connection between board members and residents.
Getting residents more actively engaged in the community requires better communication and connection, which ultimately boils down to increasing the breadth and frequency of Association communications. This can start with making personalized, direct outreach to members of the community.
Looking for help planning the next Association event or meeting? Reach out to community members for that assistance, explaining why they’re best suited for that responsibility. If the Association website doesn’t yet have a contact form, survey feature, or other method for residents to quickly and easily offer their feedback to board, integrate that feature into the site. Keep residents well informed of all community updates, from regular budgetary and maintenance issues to congratulatory messages on community members’ achievements. If community members are active on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media channels, consider creating an account for the Association on these sites to encourage further communication. Above all else, these actions will need to be consistent in order for community engagement to truly blossom and grow.
Problem: There are ongoing complaints related to resident behavior in the Association.
Although noise complaints and other complaints related to resident behavior are an inevitable and ongoing part of community living, they can become a real problem under certain circumstances. Distinguishing whether or not the majority of these incidents are tied to a handful of “disruptive” residents, for example, could hint at a larger issue that needs more attention. Similarly, if these events are increasing in frequency or severity — escalating into physical altercations, for example — then they might require a more thought-out, overarching solution.
Solution: Develop an Association policy for handling neighbor disputes.
The Association’s governing documents dictate much of the policies surrounding the board’s operations and the way that the board interacts with the rest of the community. But these documents might not be clear when it comes to handling exclusively resident-to-resident quarrels. While it’s generally wise for an Association to keep out of these kinds of feuds, it can be necessary to step in if these issues affect the rest of the community. In these cases, the board should develop a plan to facilitate a resolution that avoids direct involvement, as this can result in a liability issue or elicit complaints from other members of the community. Communicating with both residents to schedule a time to meet and talk out the issue, for example, would help both sides reach a resolution without heavy board involvement.
Problem: The Association is constantly running short on funds.
Even the most aspirational Association can only accomplish so much without robust funding and strategic budgetary planning. From being unable to keep a well-stocked reserve fund to failing to collect HOA dues in a timely, diligent manner, much of an Association’s other issues can stem from financial woes.
Solution: Set clear financial practices and policies — then stick to them.
As awkward as it may be to discuss finances with the board and community residents, addressing this issue directly is the best way to land on a solution that will be most effective and long-lasting. Board members need to understand what the community needs to budget for, as well as how much should be budgeted toward each expense, and clearly communicate all of this information to residents. This can help residents understand how their money is being used to maintain and improve community living. Additionally, the board needs to set a clear collection policy for Association dues, once again making sure that the entire community is aligned behind amounts, due dates, payment methods, and other key aspects of the policy. To make these fees feel less like a costly nuisance, consider sending brief “thank you” messages or specific, ongoing updates on what projects or initiatives those residents’ dues are helping to fund.
Just because an Association has unique problems doesn’t mean that the Board of Trustees is unable to solve them. With some thoughtful, proactive problem-solving strategies, an Association can overcome their issues and become stronger in the process.