Bored? Consider joining a Board

Sunday, June 15, 2014

If you’re an enthusiastic new resident in St. Charles or someone who’s lived in the community for years, the idea of attending a condominium or homeowners’ association (HOA) meeting may not seem like the most exciting way to spend your time, but plenty of your neighbors have found getting involved in their association to be rewarding volunteer work. Attending a board meeting can be a first step to joining a committee that needs your expertise and energy to make your community a better place for you and your neighbors. For many residents, their first encounter with a condo board or HOA can be a negative experience. You might find out that a home improvement you thought was allowed doesn’t meet the community guidelines or it could be as simple as getting a past-due notice for your HOA dues. Understanding how a condo association or an HOA works can go a long way toward feeling more positive about its activities. Essentially, an association board is in place to make decisions about the community and how its run and to review the budget so that funds are available for necessary expenditures that can maintain and enhance the value of your home. Community events get planned and those who are active on the board or various committees get to have extra input into which community-wide projects take priority.

Pros of getting involved in your HOA or condo board
There are multiple reasons to consider joining your board, but the first step should be to attend a board meeting or two to get a feel for how the group functions. Typically you can volunteer to work on different committees, but board members and officers are usually elected by the community. Benefits of board involvement: • You’ll know more about what’s happening in your community.

  • You can influence decisions about things like repaving a parking lot or planting more trees.
  • You’ll understand the budget and the need for a reserve fund and you can even apply what you learn to your work or home budgets. • You have more control over the community’s financial priorities.
  • You can influence community rules and requirements.
  • If your community hires a management company, you can help choose the company or improve the working relationship between the company and the board.
  • You’ll meet other neighbors who share your interest in the community.
  • You can take pride in knowing that you have participated in community activities.
  • Your neighbors will appreciate your efforts on their behalf.

Disadvantages of board membership
Despite the benefits of being involved with decisions that impact your community’s finances, appearance and home values, board involvement isn’t always a pleasant experience. Here are a few reasons some residents opt out of volunteering for their condo board or HOA:

  • Unpleasant interactions with other residents. If your name is on the list of board members and a resident gets angry about something like an increase in HOA fees or a community rule against building a fence or parking a pick-up truck, that resident can take it out on you personally. Usually this is limited to an annoying email exchange, but occasionally this can become an issue that needs to be turned over to the management company to resolve.
  • Some residents don’t always remember that board members are volunteers and not paid staff, so you may need to remind them that you’re not their employee and that it’s not your responsibility to help them find a contractor or to handle a parking dispute.
  • You may find yourself taking on more responsibilities than you planned if your neighbors don’t also step up and join the board. Regardless of the potential drawbacks, most people who decide to volunteer for board duties after attending a few meetings feel that it’s a great way to get to know your community and the people who live there.