In a perfect world, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) would be models of efficiency and effectiveness.
They would resolve any disputes that arise fairly and quickly, maintain a high level of quality in the neighborhood’s appearance and public spaces, keep informed about relevant legal developments, and properly account for all money collected from their members.
Unfortunately, it takes far more than good intentions to put together an effective HOA board.
Bad management is surprisingly common – so common that experts estimate HOAs may have as many as one million disputes annually, leaving thousands of people miserable about living in their communities.
While no one wants to live under poor HOA management, unfortunately, there are warning signs that lead to this outcome all too often. What can you do to spot these early warning signs, and take action before too much damage is done?
Keep reading to see all the warning signs and early symptoms you need to watch out for!
1. Lack of Assignments to Committees
One of the most common complaints about HOAs, in general, is that they are inattentive or poorly managed. This can lead to disputes between board members in which expensive legal counsel has to be hired. While everyone on an HOA board should have something they’re passionate about, each member must commit to a task when they join.
Without assignments handed out by the board president, no one will have clear responsibilities or tasks, leading the entire organization astray.
2. Frequent Incidents Involving Law Enforcement
Again, no one wants an HOA-controlled community where crime runs rampant. But problems can arise when the HOA board fails to set and enforce rules about what sort of behavior is acceptable. Lax enforcement or a lack of clear guidelines about expected conduct can lead to frequent incidents with law enforcement – which could end up causing the HOA more problems down the road.
3. Property Issues at Board Discretion
The duty of an HOA board should not be to let member complaints dictate its actions. However, if every time a homeowner complains about something like noise, parking violations, or safety issues, their plea automatically results in action by the board – without any other consideration – you may have a problem on your hands.
Even if everyone agrees that there’s a problem, it may indicate that your organization just doesn’t have the insight to make the best decisions.
4. Conflict of Interests Among Board Members
Everyone in an HOA board should be committed to the success of the organization. No one should have a vested interest in anything that negatively impacts their neighbors, and no one should be allowed to vote on matters involving themselves personally. If you notice any sign that this is happening, it can cause problems for your entire organization.
Every board member must be able to act in good faith when voting or making decisions on behalf of everyone in your community, without fear or favor.
5. Your Association Doesn’t Have an Active Social Media Presence
One way boards show they’re committed to efficient communication with their residents is by maintaining a strong social media presence. If you’re not seeing your HOA get involved with maintaining a page on Facebook or Twitter, it might be a sign that your board isn’t interested in reaching out to the community.
If you already feel you need to, here’s some information about firing your HOA company.
6. The Board Doesn’t Communicate With Town Staff or Other Boards in Your Area
If a board neglects to communicate important information with the town staff and other boards within their municipality, they could be making sweeping decisions without receiving all of the necessary information. Sometimes boards make mistakes because they lack access to vital resources.
If associations find themselves going directly up against town ordinances or even state laws, it’s usually a sign that they need to better communicate with their local government representatives. That’s not a sign of good management.
7. The Board Won’t Return Phone Calls
If your HOA won’t even return phone calls, they’re likely making decisions without input from the community. If you feel like your board is not engaged and is neglecting to communicate with homeowners, it could be time to address the issue and hold a meeting.
8. The Board is Reluctant to Engage In Debate
On boards, there’s always debate about plans for neighborhood development. If meetings are composed of little more than announcements from staff members, you might have a problem on your hands.
9. There Are No Meetings Scheduled For Next Quarter
Because most associates operate on an annual budget that spans three months at a time, it’s important that they meet at least once per quarter – or risk not communicating important information for homeowners. More than anything, this is a sign that your board isn’t taking its role as seriously as it should be.
Signs That Show Your Community Needs Good HOA Management
Beware of HOA management with long-standing problems with financial management, enforcement, disputes between members, claims of misconduct by board members, or conflicts of interest. No matter how much you love your home, the organization representing it must be acting in everyone’s best interests.
If any of these symptoms apply to your community, now might be a good time to bring in new leadership and change the way things are done.
How Does This Help Me?
Of course, if you own a home in an HOA and don’t want to go through what many others have – including claims of mismanagement – you should keep your eyes open for these symptoms so you can spot early warning signs before they escalate into major issues. Then, take action as soon as possible to ensure that everything will work out for all involved.
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