What to Know as a First-Time Board Member

Becoming a board member of an HOA or community association is an exciting move. But with a newfound position comes potentially unfamiliar responsibilities. Let’s explore the essential things you need to know to be a successful first-time board member! 

Your primary role as a board member is to preserve, protect, and enhance the community’s value. Generally speaking, you’re tasked with maintaining the investment of each owner. Why would people want to belong to a community where the property is not in good shape and capital repairs aren’t regularly made to maintain and increase home values? 

Coordinating board training with your management team will help to establish goals and expectations for conducting community business, as well as create a mutually beneficial relationship between board members and management. If there is not one in place, develop a strategic plan for the board to follow.

Being a community leader means listening to those you serve. By supporting residents and hearing their concerns, you can create purposeful relationships that should always remain transparent in nature. Because most violations that arise will stem from a lack of knowledge or understanding, there should be a solid balance in governance that stands firm, yet encourages community input. 

Because you have no authority separate from that of the board, you must become acquainted with the parliamentary procedures specific to your association. Keeping clear lines of communication with other board members is crucial, but it remains important not to govern in secrecy. You must become acquainted with the Board’s insurance agent, as knowing you are covered is not enough – you must know the ins and outs of directors’ and officers’ insurance. Similarly, you must familiarize yourself with the bylaws, code of conduct, management agreement, and capital plans which may include a reserve study. 

If the board does not have a capital plan or reserve study, it is imperative that you obtain one. Reserve studies act as a proactive capital planning tool for boards, providing an equitable and reliable financial plan for the future.

The reserve study is a non-invasive inspection of all association-maintained assets. The reserve study report will take into consideration the current amount in reserves, and outlines a 30-year financial plan that supports paying for capital projects when the time comes. 

This information is paramount in fulfilling your fiduciary duty of care and acting in good faith. After all, a board can not say they fulfilled their fiduciary obligations if they were aware of issues and did not take action. An inspection and capital planning tool, reserve studies generally make the life of a board member easier and help to fulfill their fiduciary obligations to the community.

As a first-time or tenured board member, it’s extremely important to make informed decisions, avoid conflicts of interest, and act within the breadth of your jurisdiction. If you’re unsure about any rules, regulations, vendors, or documents, become informed prior to acting. Become and remain loyal to the community you serve, as you have a fiduciary obligation to do so. 

Becoming a first-time board member is a big step to take, but can be an extremely rewarding experience. By following the rules of conduct, maintaining all legal and association documents, fulfilling your fiduciary responsibilities, and caring for your community, your hard work is bound to pay off. 

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