Homeowners all have expectations of their community association’s landscaper. The problems begin when expectations aren’t met. Managing those expectations is a key contributor to a successful and mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
For many homeowners’ associations, landscape maintenance is the single largest line item in the budget. Landscape maintenance is also often the service that homeowners quickly identify as a benefit of paying their HOA assessments and living in the community. So let’s first acknowledge that homeowners having expectations is justified. The key is managing and communicating appropriate expectations.
A Clear Scope of Service:
The first step to managing homeowner expectations is ensuring that the board and the landscape contractor’s expectations of the services to be performed align. All too often we encounter HOAs that have gathered bids for landscape services without a clearly stipulated scope of service. A little work on the preparation of a scope of service will save a great deal of confusion. How frequently is mowing to occur? Does the contract price include pruning? Will shrubs be hand pruned or sheared? Is mulch included in the contract price? In what quantity will mulch be supplied?
A clearly written request for proposal (RFP) will ensure everyone’s expectations align.
Once the board and contractor have agreed to a clear scope of service, the board and its management company can effectively communicate with homeowners about what services have been contracted for, and what have not.
A Clear Schedule of Service:
With a clearly defined scope of service in place, it is next helpful to define when during the calendar year various services will be performed. A specific date is not the point, but a range of a month or two will allow everyone to know when various services are supposed to be performed. Are landscape beds to be edged and mulched in November or February? When will seasonal pruning be performed?
A Clear Channel of Communication:
With your scope and schedule in place, the board and property management company are in a better place to communicate effectively with homeowners. Often misunderstandings about the homeowners association landscape expectations. We have found that most homeowner complaints about landscapers are not about what happened, but about what didn’t. Sharing the scope and schedule with homeowners allows them to be better informed stakeholders. Informed homeowners are better able to align their expectations with the service the association has actually contracted for.
In fact many of our clients share an informational piece annually (See Here) that reminds homeowners of what to expect from the landscaper and when. It also establishes a communication channel for homeowners to follow if they have questions or concerns about their landscape maintenance. Using an agreed upon channel ensures the contractor’s crew is not being regularly interrupted and also allows the board and management to more quickly detect potential performance problems.
A Clear Means of Evaluation:
In following these steps you have set a foundation that will allow the association to effectively evaluate the landscape contractor’s performance. An annual review of the scope of service and homeowner comments provides a means of evaluating whether your contractor is living up to their contracted commitments.
You hold high expectations for the appearance of your landscaping and want a grounds management provider who shares your goals. Following these basic recommendations allows your board and property manager to deliver on the promises that you make to residents and other stakeholders.
Wise Property Solutions is East Tennessee’s only Accredited Association Management Company (AAMC®). As the region’s leader in community association management, the firm is committed to the industry’s best practices and continuing professional development. Wise Property Solutions’ certified and highly trained property managers empower well-organized and efficient communities. The firm maintains offices in both Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.
Tri-Cities, TN-VA: 423-926-7373
While it’s certainly not mandatory, the board of directors for your homeowner’s association (HOA) should think seriously about implementing a code of ethics, which would serve to aid in the management of the HOA, as well as help community members.
What exactly is a code of ethics for an HOA board? Basically, it’s a document that establishes guidelines for appropriate behavior of board members.
An HOA code of ethics is designed to help director’s exercise good judgment in the best possible way. This document can benefit the community as a whole.
A code of ethics should encourage board members to:
A code of ethics should discourage board members from:
A functioning homeowners’ association is crucial to the success of planned residential communities and all HOA’s are only as strong as their board.
Those serving on an HOA board must first be dedicated, wanting only the best for the community. They also need to have a thorough understanding of the community, what’s happened in the past and what the goals should be for the future.
You’re likely to face numerous challenges so it’s vital that you maintain your composure and practice patience when issues and concerns are brought to your attention. Realize you can’t make everybody happy all the time, so your focus must be on what’s best option for the whole community.
HOA board members must strive to be good communicators, as it’s crucial to keep homeowners, as well as fellow board members, informed. Being able to listen, not just to fellow board members but to homeowners as well, is an important first step in successful communications.
It’s imperative for board members to understand how much time serving on the board involves and to have a comprehensive understanding of their position and its responsibilities. They must anticipate they will need to to work with budgets, fiscal policies and reserve funds.
Finally, making certain you’re going to be able to attend meetings as participation is crucial in staying on top of things.
Remember, being asked to serve on your HOA board gives you a voice and an opportunity to take an active role in the future of your community. Take the job seriously and enjoy being able to make a difference!
You’ve likely seen the CAI professional designations, particularly if you’re part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), but what exactly do they mean?
The Community Associations Institute (CAI) is an international membership organization that is dedicated to building better communities and has more than 33,500 members and works in partnerships with 60 chapters.
CAI’s mission is to provide homeowner volunteers who govern communities, as well as those who support them, with information, education and resources. CAI members include association board members and other homeowner leaders, community managers, association management firms and other professionals who provide products and services to associations.
Dedicated members who are responsible for fashioning the future of its ever growing organization, its chapters and the community association marketplace, lead the way for CAI.
Heading up CAI’s governing body is its 15-member Board of Trustees, which includes members from all across the United States. One of them, we are proud to report, is our own General Manager Joe Wise,. Joe, holds the CMCA® (Certified Manager of Community Associations), AMS® (Association Management Specialist) and PCAM® (Professional Community Association Manager).Wise Property Solutions is also East Tennessee’s only AAMC® (Accredited Association Management Company).
The CAI Board of Trustees is supported by three Membership Representation Groups (MRGs), elected members who give their constituencies a voice in crafting CAI policies and work to ensure that CAI provides services and benefits valued by members.
The CAI serves community associations and homeowners by:
The CAI, whose mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership and responsible citizenship, believe homeowner and condominium associations must exceed the expectations of their residents. In order to attain that goal, the CAI is dedicated to identifying and meeting the needs of professionals and volunteers who serve associations, by being a trusted forum for the collaborative exchange of information and by helping members learn, achieve and excel.
If you’ve never served on a Homeowners Association board, it’s important you understand what your duties, responsibilities and obligations are and that you are, in fact, acting as a fiduciary on behalf of your fellow owners.
First and foremost, you must take your responsibilities as a board member seriously, always use good judgment, avoid conflict, be committed and be aware that the interests of the HOA take priority over your own. Being selfless and unbiased is a must.
Confidentiality is crucial. For example, if there’s a conversation about dues or competitive bids during a meeting and the board member tells someone outside of the board about it, they’ve potentially violated policy.
It’s important to be sensitive to potential conflicts of interest as they too can cause issues regarding your duty as a member. If something is being discussed in front of the board that a board member might have other involvement or interest in, it’s imperative that they disclose this and recuse themselves.
Remember too, that as a board members of the HOA its interests and well being come first and it’s important to think things through, while using common sense and sound judgment.
Communication with fellow board members, homeowners and the management company is also key to being effective in your role.
As a board member paying attention to the “little” things, like attending and participating in meetings, voting even when confronted with difficult choices, participating in community events, obeying deed restrictions, being financially responsible, treating everyone with courtesy and respect and passing responsible budgets in a timely fashion.
In the end, it’s quite simple. If all HOA board members maintain core values, do the job they signed up to do and use their heads, you’ll end up with a well run association.
It can be frustrating to be part of a meeting that’s disorganized and seems to go on and on. It’s not difficult to run an effective HOA meeting – all you need to do is follow these simple guidelines:
Remember, your HOA board meeting is a business function, so treat it as such. Be prepared, don’t stray from the agenda and make it interesting. Trust us, your meetings will be more productive – and participation will improve!
Most of us wear many different hats in our daily lives. Perhaps you juggle the hats of a spouse, parent, worker, friend, HOA Board member, neighbor, etc. Keeping your personal and professional lives separate is challenging. Many HOA Board members find it even more difficult to separate Board responsibilities from simply being a homeowner. If you’re spending too much personal time handling Board business, here are some ways to reclaim your “good neighbor” status.
Getting to know your neighbors fosters better relationships. Informal social gatherings or enjoying community amenities are good ways to meet neighbors. Keep conversations focused on general topics about each other. When neighbors know you, they see more than just your Board hat. You are a neighbor.
Because you’re on the Board, you’re aware of your neighbor’s financial difficulties. If a friend is delinquent in assessments, it can be awkward or uncomfortable because your friend knows you know. Overcome discomfort by avoiding association business discussions outside of Board meetings. Don’t share with family, friends or even other Board members. Neighbors respect that you keep HOA business confidential.
Do you field HOA questions when you’re walking through your neighborhood? Community events? The pool? Seeing a Board member triggers ideas and/or issues that homeowners want to share. Instead of taking action, redirect the comments. Explain your Board’s process for capturing input, and provide the email or number to the resident. If your Board doesn’t have a contact protocol for non-urgent issues, establish one.
Board decisions aren’t always met with unanimous support. Some homeowners can be extremely vocal when disagreeing with a decision. HOA Board members have to live side-by-side with angry neighbors. So, you can’t go to the mailbox without someone catching you. Consider creating opportunities for homeowners to make comments and suggestions give homeowners an opportunity to express themselves. Making people feel heard goes a long way in diffusing anger.
Although your Board members may strive to enforce rules fairly, some homeowners will take it personally. One of the benefits that a property management company offers is to shift the viewpoint from personal to business. Delegating some of the daily tasks to the management company removes you from on-call duty. This will allow residents to see your “neighbor” hat more than they see your “Board Member” hat.
Distinguishing between being a neighbor and a Board member can be tricky. It’s up to you to achieve balance so that you can enjoy your neighborhood. Make the effort to retain or reclaim your “good neighbor” hat. You’ll be glad you did.
Homeowners choose to buy a home in a managed association for a combination of reasons. They like the standards that maintain property appearance and values. They have access to amenities they might not be able to afford on their own. They lack either the time or skill needed to address exterior maintenance and repairs. Homeowners have high expectations of their HOA Boards. How does your Board rate among the ten things homeowners wish you knew?
Board members come together from vastly different backgrounds to focus on the common goal of serving their community. Some are inclined to research the smallest decision while others make decisions based on experience. This diversity helps bring different perspectives to the table for better decision-making. Regardless of their approach, Board members should share some core values and expectations.
Participate in HOA Meetings: You need to attend and actively participate in HOA meetings. You can’t contribute ideas when you aren’t there. Making decisions is one of the main responsibilities associated with being a board member.
Manage Finances: HOA Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain and protect the value of the community property. This means taking care of association finances by managing assessments, annual budgets, reserve studies and maintenance schedules.
Maintain Confidentiality: Don’t discuss association business with family and friends. Conversations containing confidential information should be confined to Board meetings.
Enforce Rules: Fairly enforcing rules and regulations is vital to a community. Rules apply to every homeowner—Board members, family and friends. If your community has old rules or regulations that are no longer relevant, it’s important for Board members to review and work to amend the documents.
Respect Others: The best decisions are made after understanding different viewpoints. Listen and respect the opinion of others. Whether or not you are in favor of the final decision, you should support the Board’s decision within the community.
Communicate Effectively: An HOA Board needs to work as a team, negotiate with vendors and speak with homeowners. You need to be able to communicate effectively in person and in writing.
Distribute Duties: No one Board member can fulfill all the association duties. Distribute duties among all Board members. Reach out to committee members or engage a property management company. It’s simply the nature of some people to wait until called upon. More hands make lighter work.
Maintaining clear expectations will improve your collective experience as HOA Board members. It leads to better relationships and community decisions. When everyone is on board with expectations, you create a community that truly shines.
Many HOA Board members don’t fully understand the legal obligations that come with serving their community. You rarely see one document that completely lists all responsibilities. State law may determine some. Governing documents outline others. And other regulations can further complicate the question. It’s little wonder that a lot of confusion surrounds legal obligations. Here’s a way to look broadly at your duties.
When you accept an HOA Board position, it’s a legal commitment. You agree to the responsibility to manage your association well. You take on the duty of keeping the HOA fiscally sound. You are responsible for maintaining common areas and property values. You plan for the future. All these hats fall under the legal duties of the “Three D’s”.
HOA Boards have a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the association’s finances. This goes beyond simply balancing and reviewing monthly expenditures. The Board is responsible for developing an annual budget, establishing assessments and collection policies. Individual officers breaching fiduciary duty can be held liable to the association for resulting damages.
Board officers are responsible for setting association priorities and policies. They establish the guiding management plans for the association. Typically, Board officers can’t do all the work themselves. Professional community association management companies often carry out daily processes required to support the board’s policies and priorities. However, the Board retains legal responsibility for all actions.
As you can see, legal responsibilities span a wide range of areas. While officers may strive to follow all the legal duties, disagreements and lawsuits can happen. An association’s general liability insurance typically doesn’t cover legal expenses and damages for Board members. As an added precaution, be certain to protect your Board members with Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance.
Understanding your obligations as a board member is key to serving your community successfully. Playing an active role in your HOA is both challenging and rewarding. Don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to serve to positively impact your community.