Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

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miamivice
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Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by miamivice »

Just recently, I was invited to join the HOA board. I had put together a presentation of some concerns around our neighborhood, it impressed the board, and they decided that maybe I should join. They apparently had someone recently step down and need to backfill the position.

For those folks who have served on the board, I am wondering what the pros/cons of board membership are? For what reasons might this be a good or bad thing?
wolf359
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by wolf359 »

Pros:
- You get to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.
- You get input on how the HOA will react to things going on in your neighborhood.
- You get to know and connect with your neighbors.
- You get to prevent the HOA board from being to strict or too lenient on matters that you care about.

Cons:
- You don't get paid.
- You are liable for certain actions. Make sure HOA board has insurance to cover for those items.
- Some homeowners will treat you like their employee. (See unpaid.)
- HOA boards are always trying to find new members. Most people are too lazy or don't care to join. That means it's hard to quit or stop being on the board.

Personally, I've always been a board member wherever I go. The pros outweigh the cons. Some HOAs can be real pains to deal with. If you're on the board, they know you personally and you can be in a position to do something about it.
HomeStretch
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by HomeStretch »

Good summary in prior post. Be prepared for other owners to knock on your door/call/email/stop you when outside about HOA issues. Develop a way to deal with chronic complainers.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by RickBoglehead »

We have lived in two HOAs, one starting in 1996, one starting in 2007. I served on the board of the first one for 3 years as President.

My advice is to RUN, RUN, AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

Let me explain why. HOAs are horrible, IMO. They are bastions of strife, where maybe 10 - 20% of the residents care about what's going on, and the rest don't. And many of the rest violate the rules that are designed to make the community a nicer place. I can list example after example, but that's not your question.

Those that serve on HOA boards fit several profiles. The first profile is the lawyer/wannabe lawyer that wants to make legal pronouncements on every matter brought before the board. Good chance this lawyer/wannabe lawyer hasn't even read the documents governing the community.

Another type is the agenda-driven member. This person wants to accomplish something, one thing, very badly. They'll push and push this one agenda item until it's approved, or until it's disapproved. Then they'll cease to participate.

Another is the former SVP that is now retired and wants to do everything the way his/her big corporation did.

A further type is the volunteer, the person that volunteers for everything and is totally clueless.

What you'll find is that on a 5 person board, 1 or 2 people do all the work. Or they hire a professional management company and pay them too much to do too little.

And, it's a thankless job. You will tick off 50%+ of the community no matter what you do.

I became President in our first community when there was constant turmoil and the upkeep was lacking. 4 homes refused to pay dues. I took over in a sweep of the board, all but 1 member replaced. We then did all the maintenance items, got the 4 homes to pay their dues current (or I'd file a lien), forced a bank to upkeep a property they took over, etc. By the end of year 2 I wasn't having fun. At the end of year 3 I didn't stand for re-election. And we moved soon thereafter to another state.

In our current community, last year we didn't have a quorum at the annual meeting. Rules say to adjourn and reschedule. Lawyer/President said "let's have an unofficial meeting and I'll consult with our attorney later to see if it's legal". Of course minutes don't reflect any commitment to consult, and at the non-meeting we "elected" two officers.

Today, you couldn't get me to serve on an HOA board for a huge amount of money. In addition, as we consider relocating for retirement, NO HOA is top of our list of features. While I MIGHT consider an HOA community if we hit all the other hot buttons, it will only be after close examination of the by-laws, the legal obligations (i.e. property owned), the history, etc. I would rather none.

If you still decide to serve (forum rules don't permit me to say that less nicely...), make sure you verify that the association has in place significant director/officer liability insurance, and check with your homeowner's insurance regarding coverage if sued.
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Summit111
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Summit111 »

My wife served on our HOA board for a short period. Once we verified they carried no liability insurance fo the board members, she quietly resigned her position. She is still unofficially involved, but not as a named board member.

This was per our attorneys advice. I won’t serve on any board or commission without proper liability coverage also...

Summit
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nedsaid
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by nedsaid »

I have served on my HOA Board twice. First time I was Secretary and took the minutes. Second time, I was the Treasurer. It was a rewarding experience but I took 2 1/2 years in between my terms as a break. It does wear on you after a while and I have no aspirations to make service on the Board as a career. I learned an awful lot and formed some good relationships.
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lthenderson
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by lthenderson »

RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am You will tick off 50%+ of the community no matter what you do.
+1 This is a huge con and the number one reason why I wouldn't want to serve on a HOA board.
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Shackleton
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Shackleton »

A lot of this will depend on the type of HOA. Some HOAs are all about forcing conformity of all homeowners to their ideal "perfect" visions (see X-Files "Arcadia" episode https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcadia_(The_X-Files) for reference.) Other HOAs are really limited in their scope. I've been in one where the sole purpose was to maintain the private road for the community (the HOA had only 6 properties total) and currently live in an HOA that has a sole purpose of maintaining our "Firewise" (https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/F ... rewise-USA) certification and help homeowners with the cost of fire mitigation by getting grants from local public agencies (this is a heavily forested area with about 40 properties, each about 3 acres.) For both of those HOAs, being on the board is a small inconvenience for something that provides great value to the community. But if it's the first type of HOA, then yes, run fast and run far.
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nchowrin
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by nchowrin »

wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:06 am Pros:
- You get to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.
- You get input on how the HOA will react to things going on in your neighborhood.
- You get to know and connect with your neighbors.
- You get to prevent the HOA board from being to strict or too lenient on matters that you care about.

Cons:
- You don't get paid.
- You are liable for certain actions. Make sure HOA board has insurance to cover for those items.
- Some homeowners will treat you like their employee. (See unpaid.)
- HOA boards are always trying to find new members. Most people are too lazy or don't care to join. That means it's hard to quit or stop being on the board.

Personally, I've always been a board member wherever I go. The pros outweigh the cons. Some HOAs can be real pains to deal with. If you're on the board, they know you personally and you can be in a position to do something about it.
I too served on an HOA board for many years and all of your points are good ones. I hated being on the board but hated not being on the board more for the very reasons you've noted.

Yes, some homeowners treat you like an employee and are always making some requests, some quite inane. I found the best way to deal with them was to agree to form an ad hoc committee to look into whatever complaint they had and for them to chair such committee. That always ended the complaint or concern.

It's also true that all, or nearly all homeowners are too lazy to both serve on the board, or even read the CC&R's, or the bylaws. Once on the board, it can be hard to get off if you feel it's your responsibility to serve when no one else will. I didn't manage to get off until I sold my home and move.
wolf359
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by wolf359 »

Summit111 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:20 am My wife served on our HOA board for a short period. Once we verified they carried no liability insurance fo the board members, she quietly resigned her position. She is still unofficially involved, but not as a named board member.

This was per our attorneys advice. I won’t serve on any board or commission without proper liability coverage also...

Summit
Resigning quietly isn't a good solution. Highlight the personal risk that every board member who is facing if they continued to serve without getting any liability insurance. That usually gets them to correct that flaw. If the HOA gets sued and loses, then the HOA itself can go bankrupt, and the judgements get assessed against the individual homeowners (even if they're not on the board.)

If you buy into a community with an HOA, it's better to help steer it by joining the board. The only alternative is to buy into a community without an HOA.

If you do join the board, try not to be the President. That's a thankless job.
runner3081
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by runner3081 »

nchowrin wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:36 am
wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:06 am Pros:
- You get to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.
- You get input on how the HOA will react to things going on in your neighborhood.
- You get to know and connect with your neighbors.
- You get to prevent the HOA board from being to strict or too lenient on matters that you care about.

Cons:
- You don't get paid.
- You are liable for certain actions. Make sure HOA board has insurance to cover for those items.
- Some homeowners will treat you like their employee. (See unpaid.)
- HOA boards are always trying to find new members. Most people are too lazy or don't care to join. That means it's hard to quit or stop being on the board.

Personally, I've always been a board member wherever I go. The pros outweigh the cons. Some HOAs can be real pains to deal with. If you're on the board, they know you personally and you can be in a position to do something about it.
I too served on an HOA board for many years and all of your points are good ones. I hated being on the board but hated not being on the board more for the very reasons you've noted.

Yes, some homeowners treat you like an employee and are always making some requests, some quite inane. I found the best way to deal with them was to agree to form an ad hoc committee to look into whatever complaint they had and for them to chair such committee. That always ended the complaint or concern.

It's also true that all, or nearly all homeowners are too lazy to both serve on the board, or even read the CC&R's, or the bylaws. Once on the board, it can be hard to get off if you feel it's your responsibility to serve when no one else will. I didn't manage to get off until I sold my home and move.
+1

This is very true. I am in the same boat (hate being on board, hate not being on board). Have been on boards for almost 10 years now, including president of my current board. However, I will say it depends on the type of community. Condo setting with attached buildings and significant common area assets (roofs, walls, plumbing, pools, elevators) can be a nightmare. Now, I am in a 200 home community, no attached walls, only common areas are private streets, grassy flood basins and a small play area. Our biggest issue comes down to weeds and parking.

We do have liability coverage for board members.

I would be afraid of self-serving or clueless members joining if I was not there. This could lead to lawsuits and significant assessments, etc.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by AlphaLess »

wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:06 am Pros:
- You get to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.
- You get input on how the HOA will react to things going on in your neighborhood.
- You get to know and connect with your neighbors.
- You get to prevent the HOA board from being to strict or too lenient on matters that you care about.

Cons:
- You don't get paid.
- You are liable for certain actions. Make sure HOA board has insurance to cover for those items.
- Some homeowners will treat you like their employee. (See unpaid.)
- HOA boards are always trying to find new members. Most people are too lazy or don't care to join. That means it's hard to quit or stop being on the board.

Personally, I've always been a board member wherever I go. The pros outweigh the cons. Some HOAs can be real pains to deal with. If you're on the board, they know you personally and you can be in a position to do something about it.
In the condos I have lived, most homeowners treated the board members with respect.

Not only they did not treat the board as employees, but many of them stood up and thanked the board at every meeting.

I certainly respect the board for the time and effort they are putting in. I don't have the time, nor the patience, so someone doing that job is a value added for me.
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Summit111
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Summit111 »

wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:45 am
Summit111 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:20 am My wife served on our HOA board for a short period. Once we verified they carried no liability insurance fo the board members, she quietly resigned her position. She is still unofficially involved, but not as a named board member.

This was per our attorneys advice. I won’t serve on any board or commission without proper liability coverage also...

Summit
Resigning quietly isn't a good solution. Highlight the personal risk that every board member who is facing if they continued to serve without getting any liability insurance. That usually gets them to correct that flaw. If the HOA gets sued and loses, then the HOA itself can go bankrupt, and the judgements get assessed against the individual homeowners (even if they're not on the board.)

If you buy into a community with an HOA, it's better to help steer it by joining the board. The only alternative is to buy into a community without an HOA.

If you do join the board, try not to be the President. That's a thankless job.
She, along the boards Attorney, suggested obtaining liability insurance. It was voted down. So, without making a big deal about it, she resigned her official position, an continued as a volunteer....

Hope that explains it better...
Summit
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wolf359
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by wolf359 »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:25 am
RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am You will tick off 50%+ of the community no matter what you do.
+1 This is a huge con and the number one reason why I wouldn't want to serve on a HOA board.
Most issues aren't of this nature.

When an issue comes up that might divide the neighborhood, we take it to the annual meeting and have the community as a whole vote on it.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by RickBoglehead »

wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:14 am
lthenderson wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:25 am
RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am You will tick off 50%+ of the community no matter what you do.
+1 This is a huge con and the number one reason why I wouldn't want to serve on a HOA board.
Most issues aren't of this nature.

When an issue comes up that might divide the neighborhood, we take it to the annual meeting and have the community as a whole vote on it.
Don't agree, and I say that from experience.

First, you never know what people's hot buttons are. They complain about unlimited things.

Second, while you may choose to take an issue to a vote at the annual meeting, your by-laws may dictate that the board is supposed to do that. When that vote is taken and the issue is voted down, a person not liking that decision could then say the board isn't doing their duty, per the by-laws, to run the community.

We needed a new sign. Board decision. I said let's SURVEY the homeowners and seek INPUT, noting to them that it is OUR DECISION. Asked two questions - size (a or b), and color (red or green). You could not believe the number of people that wanted to argue about it, come up with different variables, etc.

Speed bumps were voted IN before we moved in. Had to be redone multiple times, at great cost, due to the incompetence of the board that didn't understand the differences in speed bump design and purpose. Caused great strife in the community.

We had a small group wanting to gate the community. Since that would change the nature of the community, by-laws says that 2/3rds of homeowners had to vote for it. Not 2/3rd of people who voted, but 2/3 of all homeowners. By-laws clearly state that not voting is a "no". This went on for 2 years, with presentations, blah, blah, blah. Board kept ignoring requests to state publicly that 2/3rds of homeowners would have to vote yes. After wasting all the time, 23% voted yes. Could have saved all that time by stating, up front, that there had to be 2/3rds yes vote. Just one example of many of the dysfunctions of an HOA.
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WhyNotUs
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by WhyNotUs »

Cons
To do it well requires a commitment of time that will vary with the number of issues/projects at hand
Night meetings
You might learn things about neighbors that you wish you did not know

Pros
Can potentially benefit the neighborhood
Someone has to do it and everyone needs to take their turn
Can meet neighbors
Might learn ahead of time if you need to sell and get out of there :wink:
miamivice wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:56 am For those folks who have served on the board, I am wondering what the pros/cons of board membership are? For what reasons might this be a good or bad thing?
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zengolf2011
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by zengolf2011 »

RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am

My advice is to RUN, RUN, AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

I'm afraid your advice is right on the mark. Your experiences mirror my two terms as board president. You will see humanity at its most tawdry, both in the behavior of your neighbors and fellow board members.

That said, I don't share your dim view of communities with HOAs. I look for a community with sensible rules that protect quality of life and property values. I guess that can lead to a dilemma. If you want these qualities and your current board isn't providing them, you face the decision of whether to run for the board to change things. But, be warned, it will exact a personal toll.

The key is to perform due diligence and select a great community in the first place. Then, I guess, hope for the best.
FeesR-BullNotBullish
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by FeesR-BullNotBullish »

My previous HOA was headed towards bankruptcy when I moved in (ALWAYS LOOK AT FINANCIALS BEFORE YOU MOVE INTO AN HOA COMMUNITY!!!).

When I joined the board, with the help of a mentor, we replaced the incompetent management company and the overpriced landscaping company. Within a few months we were bringing in more than we spent. When we got some cushion in our reserves we trimmed the trees, and we remodeled our pool to bring it to code. I eventually spearheaded a special assessment to pave our gravely roads. I learned how not to win a campaign and how to win a campaign. Overall it was a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Contrast that with my current HOA. I should attend more meetings to learn how my dues are invested. However, it is a well run community. If I were to join the board I would be obligated to attend meetings, approve paint colors, and hold back my eye rolls for yet another dog poop complaint. I'd feel like just another cog in the wheel.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Clever_Username »

I have been on an HOA board twice.

My former former (two ago, not "no longer former") was a condo in a building of over 200. We had an HOA board that did nothing productive -- common areas not maintained, etc. They were all to happy to fly into town for HOA meetings where nothing happened, have great dinners and stay at a nice hotel, and claim this was an HOA expense. They probably checked on their rental units in the process but who knows. So some friends of mine and I put together and ended up taking over the board in the next election. We went back to maintaining the common areas, fixed up some things, and pretty much only dealt with rules enforcement when it was infringing on other units, although that's a step up from "never." By analogy, if we were a community with front lawns, we'd never measure your grass height until the USGA came by to ask if they could harvest it for US Open rough, at which point we'd ask you to do something about it. Incidentally, we did find out that two former board members' rental units had over-occupancy (two-bedroom condos with 8-9 renters) and dealt with that, in part because we had common utility bills. We would have cut HOA dues, except the previous boards had spent the reserves down (very unnecessarily, imo) so we built those back up. By the time I left, the reserve fund was at something like 70% and a friend who is still on the board there told me it's now over that, and they've cut dues too.

I eventually sold that place when I moved across town and ended up buying my now-immediately former place. The HOA board had dwindled down to one person (there were three spots total) prior to my move-in. When election time came, the sole remaining member asked me to put my name in so he could get some help officially. Election ballots came and there were three names on the ballot, none of them his. He had done the same to two other neighbors too. We all thought it was pretty funny. He had done a good job on the board, but it really was a three-person job not a one person job. It was mostly maintenance of common areas and dealing with a nearly useless property management firm.

I think it largely depends on your community. The only hate I got in the first spot was from renters who wanted to turn the building into Animal House (we were near a major university and had a sizable fraction of units being held as rentals) and from a few owners who didn't like that they had to deal with telling rowdy occupants they were getting fined for waking up the building at 3AM or that they couldn't play sardines with their tenants. I think I got exactly zero hate in the second spot, but it was a much smaller neighborhood and the renters were primarily families with small kids.

The first experience also taught me how to read HOA financials. I didn't do due diligence before moving in there, but for the second place, I knew terms like "reserve study" and was impressed that the reserve was well funded. That affected my decision to buy.

So should you? I don't know the specifics of your community. I also might be one of the few younger people who has had an overall net positive experience with HOAs.
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Mr. Rumples
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Mr. Rumples »

I have lived in two HOA's (condo buildings, not townhouses) either myself or my husband always served on the board. On the first board, there was discord and we moved into a house, so that ended that. In the second, the board discussed, disagreed, but once a decision was reached, we stood by it. The president carried the most weight since few wanted that extra responsibility. I was always either the treasurer or the member at large. Our HOA was different perhaps since we did not have the discord found in some.

Since you have been asked to fill and unexpired term, serve it and see how you like it. If you don't like it, then don't run for a full term. If you like it, then run. If you don't, you will have stepped up to the plate, where many owners don't, and my guess is you will be listened to in the future.

Be sure they have D&O insurance and comply with all the state's openness laws otherwise the decisions of the board may not be covered by D&O. We did have wanna be lawyers and we eventually had an attorney on retainer - it wasn't really expensive. We may have had a question once or twice a month; the attorney knew the answer usually right off which saved us a lot of time and grief especially if it was something going against a homeowner. :)

We had all of our committee meetings open to owners and all of our board meetings open to owners. We had an open forum before every board meeting and hence, we had a lot of participation by owners and even long term renters. We solved the problem of poorly attended annual meetings easily: each annual meeting was for owners only. The meeting was held, the doors opened and then there was a catered party with beer and wine paid out of voluntary contributions. Renters were invited. It was something everyone looked forward to every year.
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:48 am, edited 3 times in total.
runner3081
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by runner3081 »

One other note, a strong property management company (and strong account account manager) can really make life simple for the board members.
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Watty
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Watty »

wolf359 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:06 am Pros:
- You get to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.
- You get input on how the HOA will react to things going on in your neighborhood.
- You get to know and connect with your neighbors.
- You get to prevent the HOA board from being to strict or too lenient on matters that you care about.

Cons:
- You don't get paid.
- You are liable for certain actions. Make sure HOA board has insurance to cover for those items.
- Some homeowners will treat you like their employee. (See unpaid.)
- HOA boards are always trying to find new members. Most people are too lazy or don't care to join. That means it's hard to quit or stop being on the board.

Personally, I've always been a board member wherever I go. The pros outweigh the cons. Some HOAs can be real pains to deal with. If you're on the board, they know you personally and you can be in a position to do something about it.
Great summary.

One pro that you didn't not mention is that by you being on the board that is one seat that will not be taken by someone that might be clueless or a jerk.

I was on our large HOA board for a large subdivision two years, here are a few tips;

1) Be sure to actually read the bi-laws for the HOA. A lot of times what the HOA can actually be do is a lot more limited than you might think. Over time build up a list of who people should contact for problems that he HOA does not deal with like barking dogs, parking, streetlights, code violations, etc. The procedures in the bi-laws need to be followed(or revised) since if you don't follow those procedures people can object or in extreme case sue the HOA.

2) If they do not have it already be sure to make and follow a long term budget with sinking funds for predictable large expenses. For example our subdivision has a pool and small clubhouse so things like roofs, pool covers, furniture, resealing the parking lot, ect will predictably need to be done on a regular schedule. These are all in a spreadsheet that goes out 20 years and funds are set aside for these each year so they are available when needed. This was set up decades ago by someone that really knew what they were doing and it has really helped prevent any surprises. Once it was set up it was easy for future people to follow and keep up to date.

3) Even in a mid-range subdivision there may be more people than you realize that go through bankruptcy and foreclosure and having the lien on the property will help the HOA still collect the dues. If people are having financial problems and having problems paying their dues it is fine to work with them but some people may not pay their dues just because they don't want to and just ignore the bill. You may need to revise the bi-laws but have a set policy that when someone is X months behind in their dues that they have a lien put on their house and they will be also be charged the legal fees and interest. If you send them several notices before you actually put the lien on the property most people will pay the back dues.
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flossy21
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by flossy21 »

I encourage you to join the board but not as President on your first go round. I was Treasurer on my HOA board for 13 years and we did a lot of good things during that time including growing our reserve fund. We did all this without once raising annual dues or having a special assessment. You will gain a lot of good experience in working with people and how to navigate tricky situations.

Everyone should serve on the board at some point in their life. It helps people walk a mile in the board's shoes.
shawndoggy
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by shawndoggy »

It's the kind of job where nobody will ever thank you. If things go well, nobody will notice (that's how it was supposed to be, right?), and if things go badly (even if not your fault) people will complain. So all you can really do is disappoint your neighbors.

One other thing that I've noticed in working with HOAs is that the people who gravitate to serving seem to always be petty tyrants to one degree or another. You know, the garbage can police.
bob60014
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by bob60014 »

HomeStretch wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:11 am Good summary in prior post. Be prepared for other owners to knock on your door/call/email/stop you when outside about HOA issues. Develop a way to deal with chronic complainers.
Use a Google number or similar to filter HOA calls.
SevenBridgesRoad
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by SevenBridgesRoad »

flossy21 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:53 am
...Everyone should serve on the board at some point in their life. It helps people walk a mile in the board's shoes.
I agree with this.

"People get the government they deserve." This applies to HOA boards as well. If normal homeowners won't step up and participate, you get only the personalities mentioned in other responses here.

We had an out-of-control board (and terrible management company). It took a number of reasonable people to run for board posts to turn the situation around. We changed management companies and it made a big difference.

You can avoid getting involved and complain about things, or you can participate and help make things better.

I also agree with the responses re insurance. Confirm the board carries D&O insurance as well as liability insurance. I asked for and received declaration pages to confirm the insurance was in place and current. Make sure any contractors (common area maintenance, snow removal, etc) have insurance and required licenses.

I encourage you to participate.
Pilgprog
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Pilgprog »

Suggest you look at the recent thread (at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=290419&p=4749792#p4749811) in which the original poster posed a problem of plumbing bid analysis for his HOA. It illustrates what board members have to deal with - sometimes deal with with little or no personal experience to qualify them to deal with such problems. It illustrates the essential requirement that the board members MUST be protected by qualified consultants (Plumbing in this case), and by Liability Insurance. A key question you must answer for your decision process is “Does the Board takes its role seriously and professionally”, or is it more of a “good fellas” honorarium?

Allen (Pilgprog)
bigred77
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by bigred77 »

I serve as Treasurer on my very small residential HOA.

It's a pain, a thankless job, and probably costs me a couple hours per month of my ever dwindling free time. But I do it because I plan to stay in the same house for the next decade plus and I want to have my say in decisions, capital projects, enforcement, etc.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Mr. Rumples »

That was me on the plumbing link. On the plus side, I know more about risers, flat roofs, shut off valves, swimming pool drainage design, soft sedintary bedrock on the Colorado front range, rebar in balconies than I ever thought possible. As long as the board has the resources both within the membership, the management company or the budget to hire engineers, it is manageable. But if there are some folks who object to spending money on important items, but want to spend it on silly things (for example, putting a mansard roof on a high-rise) its important to have sensible folks on the board.
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Steelersfan
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Steelersfan »

I've been on the board of my HOA for the last 10 years. It's a 44 unit condo association. When I arrived the HOA was in bad financial shape, having required two special assessments in the previous 4 years just to pay monthly utility bills. Their goal was to keep monthly dues as low as possible - bad idea. Over the years we raised monthly dues to reasonable levels and have a 6 figure reserve fund. We have an outstanding management company and account manager - that helps a lot. We have directors insurance so that's not a concern. Without it I would not be on the board

I'd say overall it's been rewarding and I've experienced none of the bad feelings from other members of the association that others have reported, even though:

1. We made one special assessment of $1200 to replace garage doors. We got zero negative reaction and all positive reviews after the work was completed
2. We pushed through what some thought would be a controversial decision to restrict owners from having renters other than their family. It passed with a 79% vote in favor, including a majority of current owner/renters. We eased that in by grandfathering current owners, but it has resulted over several years in a reduction of pure rental units by 75%. And a better place to own and live.

I'm sure there are lots of bad HOA board situations, but some can be good. And a few people can make a big difference.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Nestegg_User »

....another consideration: you may also need to be covered by insurance if you serve on committees of the HOA. In a prior location, one (group of) disgruntled members sued both the officers of the HOA and members of some committees of the HOA (budget, etc) and only the officers were covered by the policy. It resulted in major difficulties for those (not every (in fact few) umbrella policies cover even non-paying volunteer positions) and afterwards, understandably, no one wanted to volunteer for positions on committees of the HOA.

of course, the petty lawsuits also caused rates for insurance to go up in addition to the cost of copays on the policy that the HOA had to pay.

I had declined going for the board even prior to the latest craziness, having been approached by the board president; the group had a bit of a history of continued harassment of individuals even after they left the board.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by alex_686 »

bigred77 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:40 pm I serve as Treasurer on my very small residential HOA.

It's a pain, a thankless job, and probably costs me a couple hours per month of my ever dwindling free time. But I do it because I plan to stay in the same house for the next decade plus and I want to have my say in decisions, capital projects, enforcement, etc.
Vice president of a 36 unit condo building. Exactly the same boat. I would urge that you serve for at least 2 years. Gives you a better depth of understanding in your community, and communities tend to only as good as people put effort into them.
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Kenkat
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by Kenkat »

Watty wrote:Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:41 am 3) Even in a mid-range subdivision there may be more people than you realize that go through bankruptcy and foreclosure and having the lien on the property will help the HOA still collect the dues. If people are having financial problems and having problems paying their dues it is fine to work with them but some people may not pay their dues just because they don't want to and just ignore the bill. You may need to revise the bi-laws but have a set policy that when someone is X months behind in their dues that they have a lien put on their house and they will be also be charged the legal fees and interest. If you send them several notices before you actually put the lien on the property most people will pay the back dues.
I am the Treasurer of our small residential HOA (19 houses). No one else really wants the job. We have one house who has not paid their association dues for a couple of years now (only $200 per year). Strange family and a long story - the house was built new and then not occupied for a few years, husband died, older wife had special needs son and deadbeat son, kids come and go along with son’s current girlfriend, house was up for sale for awhile, unpaid property taxes, etc.

What process did you have to go through to get a lien placed on the house? I don’t necessarily want to become the neighborhood collection agent and bad guy either for this unpaid and mostly thankless job given the strange neighbor situation.

I have had real estate closing agents contact me when a home in the neighborhood has sold and asked if the association dues is current, so I think it is likely that we will eventually recoup the money, but it would be nice to have it recorded.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by JoeRetire »

miamivice wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:56 am Just recently, I was invited to join the HOA board. I had put together a presentation of some concerns around our neighborhood, it impressed the board, and they decided that maybe I should join. They apparently had someone recently step down and need to backfill the position.

For those folks who have served on the board, I am wondering what the pros/cons of board membership are? For what reasons might this be a good or bad thing?
Have you attended Board Meetings in the past, so that you have a sense of how your particular board works together? Why did one member step down?

I had been looking for ways to help our community since we moved here over 7 years ago. Shortly after getting here, I created our HOA's website and I still run it. I took over our HOA's Treasurer role for the past few years. Earlier this year I was asked to run for a seat on the board. I ran and got elected. We have an interesting cast of characters currently on the board.

For me, it's been pretty much all good. I get to help our friends. People seem to appreciate it. Things get done. I enjoy it. I tend to be of the "if you want things right, do them yourself" mindset.

It is a bit more work, but not a big deal for me. Our HOA is pretty small (34 units), and the work isn't huge. Sometimes issues come up that require a difficult/awkward conversation with one or more homeowners. But nothing we can't handle so far.

Give it a try and see what happens. You might well enjoy it.
Last edited by JoeRetire on Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by JoeRetire »

RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am Those that serve on HOA boards fit several profiles.

- The first profile is the lawyer/wannabe lawyer that wants to make legal pronouncements on every matter brought before the board. Good chance this lawyer/wannabe lawyer hasn't even read the documents governing the community.
- Another type is the agenda-driven member. This person wants to accomplish something, one thing, very badly. They'll push and push this one agenda item until it's approved, or until it's disapproved. Then they'll cease to participate.
- Another is the former SVP that is now retired and wants to do everything the way his/her big corporation did.
- A further type is the volunteer, the person that volunteers for everything and is totally clueless.

I became President in our first community
So which of the several profiles fit you?
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GT99
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by GT99 »

RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am We have lived in two HOAs, one starting in 1996, one starting in 2007. I served on the board of the first one for 3 years as President.

My advice is to RUN, RUN, AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

Let me explain why. HOAs are horrible, IMO. They are bastions of strife, where maybe 10 - 20% of the residents care about what's going on, and the rest don't. And many of the rest violate the rules that are designed to make the community a nicer place. I can list example after example, but that's not your question.

Those that serve on HOA boards fit several profiles. The first profile is the lawyer/wannabe lawyer that wants to make legal pronouncements on every matter brought before the board. Good chance this lawyer/wannabe lawyer hasn't even read the documents governing the community.

Another type is the agenda-driven member. This person wants to accomplish something, one thing, very badly. They'll push and push this one agenda item until it's approved, or until it's disapproved. Then they'll cease to participate.

Another is the former SVP that is now retired and wants to do everything the way his/her big corporation did.

A further type is the volunteer, the person that volunteers for everything and is totally clueless.
You forgot one of the most important ones to watch out for. The person who has a desire for a feeling of power, and being on the HOA board gives them a bizarre sense of power. I spent 5 years on an HOA board. The last 2, I stayed on solely because someone needed to fight a person who fit this description and was a fantastic spinmeister - just great at spinning believable lies that were difficult to really nail down.

Overall, my time on the board made me hate living in the community. To be fair, I was one of the youngest owners in an older townhouse community that had a lot of retirees who seemed to have nothing better to do than find things to complain about. I'd consider it in my current neighborhood. But I'd never be president - that person becomes the neighborhood issue order taker.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by JoeRetire »

nchowrin wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:36 am Yes, some homeowners treat you like an employee and are always making some requests, some quite inane. I found the best way to deal with them was to agree to form an ad hoc committee to look into whatever complaint they had and for them to chair such committee. That always ended the complaint or concern.
LOL!

I found the best way was to remind them that they can always come to a board meeting and speak about their requests during the "Homeowner's Input" period.

Almost nobody can be bothered to do that.
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NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by NotWhoYouThink »

miamivice wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:56 am Just recently, I was invited to join the HOA board. I had put together a presentation of some concerns around our neighborhood, it impressed the board, and they decided that maybe I should join. They apparently had someone recently step down and need to backfill the position.

For those folks who have served on the board, I am wondering what the pros/cons of board membership are? For what reasons might this be a good or bad thing?
Yes, some homeowners treat you like an employee and are always making some requests, some quite inane. I found the best way to deal with them was to agree to form an ad hoc committee to look into whatever complaint they had and for them to chair such committee. That always ended the complaint or concern.
Sounds like it might work in this case.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by alex_686 »

Kenkat wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:52 pm What process did you have to go through to get a lien placed on the house? I don’t necessarily want to become the neighborhood collection agent and bad guy either for this unpaid and mostly thankless job given the strange neighbor situation.
Varies by state. Generally, you hire a lawyer and they will file the lien for the association after sending out a warning letter or 2. Laywer's fees gets billed to the resident.
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fortfun
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by fortfun »

miamivice wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:56 am Just recently, I was invited to join the HOA board. I had put together a presentation of some concerns around our neighborhood, it impressed the board, and they decided that maybe I should join. They apparently had someone recently step down and need to backfill the position.

For those folks who have served on the board, I am wondering what the pros/cons of board membership are? For what reasons might this be a good or bad thing?
If it is anything like my HOA, I'd run for your life!
squirm
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by squirm »

GT99 wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:11 pm
RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am
You forgot one of the most important ones to watch out for. The person who has a desire for a feeling of power, and being on the HOA board gives them a bizarre sense of power. I spent 5 years on an HOA board. The last 2, I stayed on solely because someone needed to fight a person who fit this description and was a fantastic spinmeister - just great at spinning believable lies that were difficult to really nail down.

Overall, my time on the board made me hate living in the community. To be fair, I was one of the youngest owners in an older townhouse community that had a lot of retirees who seemed to have nothing better to do than find things to complain about. I'd consider it in my current neighborhood. But I'd never be president - that person becomes the neighborhood issue order taker.
This is why my wife and I decided never to move into a HOA community.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by TallBoy29er »

This post has re-affirmed my decision to never live in an HOA community. I live next to a dilapidated house in the inner-city today, to an extent you would find difficult to believe. It doesn't bother me, or the neighbors. Move on, live life, avoid nosy neighbors telling us what we can and can't do.
jaydub71
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by jaydub71 »

RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am
Those that serve on HOA boards fit several profiles. The first profile is the lawyer/wannabe lawyer that wants to make legal pronouncements on every matter brought before the board. Good chance this lawyer/wannabe lawyer hasn't even read the documents governing the community.

Another type is the agenda-driven member. This person wants to accomplish something, one thing, very badly. They'll push and push this one agenda item until it's approved, or until it's disapproved. Then they'll cease to participate.

Another is the former SVP that is now retired and wants to do everything the way his/her big corporation did.

A further type is the volunteer, the person that volunteers for everything and is totally clueless.

Having been the developer for several communities creating and turning over HOAs, I can say this is typically very true especially the agenda-driven member or as I call them the "single-issue" member. Go in eyes wide open and you will be fine. I have had excellent boards members and those who were absolutely miserable people. Nobody calls an HOA Board Member or Association Management company to tell them what a good job they are doing; they only get complaints. As the developer, we were always considered the villain but once a homeowner was put on the Board they always realized that wasn't the case.

You know this Board better than anyone. If they seem like kind and reasonable people, it will be okay. If they always seem to have an ax to grind or want to yield power and influence, run.
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telemark
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by telemark »

Pros: in a few years you will have some great stories to tell.

Cons: it won't feel that great while you are living through them.

I was on the board for a small HOA (21 units) for several years and president when we did an assessment to replace the roof. One homeowner became convinced that we were in some sort of criminal conspiracy, although she was never able to explain how it was supposed to work. Happily, she eventually changed her mind and apologized, but it was an exciting time for a while, with the contractor needing to be paid and members refusing to pay their assessments ("Why should I pay to fix the roof when I live on the ground floor?" I am not making this up).

I agree with previous comments that the best reason to be on the board or at least attend meetings is to stay informed and protect your own interests. Most people don't want to be bothered, which is one of the points of living in a condo, but it means that a small number of people can easily hijack the process. We had problems with what I would describe as pump and dump owners: they'd buy a few units, get on the board, and then spend down the reserve fund making cosmetic improvements to boost the resale price. Which seems OK until a major repair comes due and the reserve fund won't cover it.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by meebers »

After most, and finally all left the HOA board (moving away, etc) I ended up being the President, VP, Secretary, ACC and Treasurer for 13 years total. Nobody wanted to be a member, let alone help, comment etc. All of our meetings had less than 25% attendance. Our HOA Lawyers secretary commented to me that there is a special place in Heaven for HOA board members. :) Some houses were foreclosed on which left company's buying them and renting them out with non compliance from most renters. One house was bought and turned into an assisted living center, all very legal by the State of Florida. Our bylaws did not allow any business operations, but that could not be enforced. Called an Emergency meeting, told them we were having an election and handed in my resignation along with a 1 week old CPA audit report. YMMV!
scottgekko
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by scottgekko »

If you want to see how crazy your neighbors are join nextdoor.com. People argue over the most inane stuff. It gets pitiful after a while.

That being said, I would recommend to join the board. I served on the HOA in our old neighborhood of 700+ homes that included a clubhouse, golf course, tennis, pool, etc so lots of expenses and maintenance. I found it was better to be on the 'inside' and know what was going on than to be on the outside knowing nothing. It opened my eyes to how hard our board worked and it was actually a rewarding experience. The ones who complain the most are the ones who contribute the least so I took pride in 'doing my duty' in the neighborhood.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by RickBoglehead »

Our HOA joined NextDoor. We chose not to.
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baliktad
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by baliktad »

Board member for 12 years, president for 5. Like other posters above, better to be on the board and know what's going on than to not be on the board and have the seat filled by someone clueless or worse, someone with an agenda.

A HOA is a Property Management company. Not the Neighborhood Police. Not the Neighborhood Court System. A Property Management company that exists to take care of specific property in perpetuity, that happens to operate as a volunteer not-for-profit corporation rather than a for-profit business. Many owners don't understand this, and treat the HOA like any other utility: pay the bill every month, complain when rates go up, but otherwise don't think about it much until something is broken. Do you thank (or even think about) the board of commissioners who run your local water/sewer district? Do you know their names or what they do, or how well the water treatment facilities are running, or whether the water district will have enough money for a new holding tank when the time comes? This is how many people treat HOA board members. "Not my life, not my problem." Be prepared for this.

Running a HOA is work. Running a HOA effectively is very hard work. Running a HOA effectively after it has been mismanaged for years or decades is nigh impossible, but it can be done.

The first step is to Get Help. It took me years to realize that my HOA's problems weren't even the slightest bit unique. Every problem your HOA has, has happened many times before in very similar circumstances. People don't pay their dues, people complain about pets pooping, people complain about where their neighbors park, or the noise, or the smell, or anything else that happens when people live in close quarters. All of these seem like local, my-HOA-specific problems when you see them from your seat on the board, but these are all common circumstances and there's lots of thought and experience from others in identical situations you can lean on. Join CAI for access to a bunch of resources: contacts, vendors, reference materials. The CAI Board Member Toolkit is a great place to start reading to get your bearings.

After many years of board service, I've boiled down our board's priorities to these 2 goals:
  • Protect the Property (know what the HOA is responsible for, keep things in good repair and working order, do the required maintenance before stuff breaks)
  • Protect the Money (collect dues on time, obtain & understand a reserve study, save properly for future expenses, reduce costs where possible)
It's amazing how everything falls into perspective when you really focus on these 2 points. Everything the HOA does should accrue to one of these goals. Everything else: the neighbor squabbles, the nitpicking, the gossip, the complaints, the garbage cans, everything else will fall to the wayside if you can concentrate on just those two. (This doesn't really reduce the work, but it can help you recognize what work is important and what's not.)

Some other resources:

/r/HOA - Younger crowd and a lot of "Can my HOA really do this?" but useful engagement
HOATalk forums - Largely volunteer board members, mostly good insights with a few jaded tyrants seeking validation
Your HOA's CC&R's - This is your HOA Bible, have a copy and try to at least skim it so you understand the rules everyone has already agreed to
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by SevenBridgesRoad »

RickBoglehead wrote: Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:24 pm Our HOA joined NextDoor. We chose not to.
You are wise. Lots of busy bodies and even some trolling there.
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Re: Invited to join HOA board. Pros/cons?

Post by whodidntante »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:25 am
RickBoglehead wrote: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:16 am You will tick off 50%+ of the community no matter what you do.
+1 This is a huge con and the number one reason why I wouldn't want to serve on a HOA board.
Meh. I'm tired of hearing about their above-average children anyway. Crush dissidents.
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