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If you can't beat them, join them: become an HOA board member

A lot of people complain about their HOA rules, either because they didn't do enough research before moving in to know exactly what to expect or because the regulations were changed after they decided to join the community.

One way to make sure the Homeowners Association you belong to sets reasonable rules is to join the board. But before doing so, you have to have two things in mind: the interests of the community will always trump individual interests and you have to set aside some hours during the week to perform your duties. The time you volunteer to your HOA will depend on the size of the association.

The main goal of an HOA board is to enforce the governing documents of a community which usually are pertinent to common areas and amenities such as security and maintenance personnel, pools, playgrounds and fitness rooms.

Board members are elected by a vote of other homeowners of the community, so harmonious relationships with your neighbors is a good place to start. One way to do that is regularly attending your association's board meetings and to be active in them, without being annoying. Also, make sure to pay your assessments on time and obey all association rules.

The Community Association Institute offers some ethical guidelines for potential board members that include sound judgment, respect for the boundaries of their authority, open mind, and lack of bias. There are no specific hard skills requirements to be part of an HOA board but is almost mandatory to read your association's governing documents which include the bylaws, rules, and declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions. You should also take a look at the contract with the property management company that serves your community and any other existing contracts so that you are fully informed about the rights and duties of both parties.

You should also check the sections of your state law that apply to homeowners associations or the state statutes on condominiums if you live in one.

Once you are elected, one of the duties is to appoint board officers, such as the president, secretary or treasurer of the association. These positions are usually held for one year and require a bigger commitment of time and effort that being a non-officer member. Among the functions the officers and the board must perform, are establishing budgets, sign contracts and hire the property management firm.

It is true that the election of an HOA board can become a very contentious process, but you must keep in mind that the goal of an HOA is after all very practical: determine what fees are due from what members, organize repair work, and ensure that common areas are well maintained. Because they are democratic institutions, if the HOA feels that the board or specific members fail in their duties, they can be replaced in an election.

Each homeowner association has its own rules for board election and you can consult them on EasyMGT database of thousands of HOAs governing documents.

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