Should You Join Your Condo’s Homeowners Association Board?

If you've recently purchased a condominium or townhouse, you may be subject to the rules and regulations of a homeowners association (HOA) for the first time. HOAs are designed to help fulfill the needs and maintain order in a close-knit community involving shared walls, and most are governed by an elected or appointed HOA board. These boards can wield a great deal of power, from dictating the length of your townhouse's grass to requiring you to paint your trash cans a certain color. Should you join your HOA board to have more of a voice in how your property is managed? Read on to learn more about the powers and duties of an HOA board to determine whether running for office would be a good choice for you.

What do HOA board members do?

Although each HOA board manages itself slightly differently, there are some commonalities when it comes to duties and responsibilities. Reviewing your HOA's conditions, covenants, and restrictions (CCR) document should help you learn what is required to run for office in your HOA, from election procedures to minimum residency requirements.

HOA board members are often responsible for setting the annual budget (including maintenance expenses like snow shoveling) for the entire complex and determining whether the reserves and projected receipts will be enough to keep your books in the black. HOA board members can also introduce, vote on, and enforce new regulations that apply to all the unit occupants in your complex. In addition, if two neighbors are having a dispute about property boundaries or loud noise, you and your fellow board members may be asked to mediate or intervene in this discussion.

What can you do to increase your odds of being elected or chosen?

Whether your HOA members vote in a democratic election or the existing board chooses appointed positions from among those who have shown interest, there are a few techniques that can help you craft your message in a way that gets through to those who have the power to put you into office. 

First, you'll want to do your research. Pull meeting minutes or other documentation from the last few years of board meetings (to the extent these documents are published to the entire HOA community) and review these minutes to get a good idea of what your HOA was dealing with before your arrival. Knowing that there was a dust-up over a new assessment or that only half the complex has been re-roofed following a storm can help you avoid any potential political pitfalls that might not be as readily apparent to a relative newcomer. 

Next, you'll want to pitch in and get your name out. If you're to be elected to office by your neighbors, showing them you're affable, well-informed, and willing to pitch in when needed (whether organizing a movie night or helping clear the parking lot on a day so snowy the plows clan't make it) can lead them to believe you're the type of person they'd like representing them on the HOA board.