By: Elina B. Gilbert, Esq.
Sometimes I hear board members complaining the owners in their communities are “too involved” and they have a hard time conducting association business due to the constant interruptions. I’ve even heard a board president once say that he wished the owners just didn’t care and let the board conduct its business in peace. But, as we know, too much or too little of anything can prove to be disastrous.
The opposite of an overly involved community is an apathetic one. Apathy is defined as “a lack of interest or concern” and can also result in many problems within communities that suffer from this ailment.
Apathy can result in:
-Owners and residents who are uninformed about their rights and responsibilities and who fail to comply with such responsibilities or take advantage of their rights;
-Lack of volunteers to serve on committees;
-Lack of volunteers to serve on the board;
-Lack of interest in the community;
-Inability to impose special assessments when owner approval is required;
-Inability to amend governing documents;
-Strain on the budget; and
-Decrease in property values
Addressing Homeowner Apathy
Recognizing early warning signs of apathy is very important in being able to prevent, or otherwise, address it. Does your community suffer from decreasing attendance at annual and board meetings? Decreasing pool of board and committee candidates? Continued failure to obtain quorum at meetings? If so, these may be indicative of early signs of apathy that should immediately be addressed. Consider exploring the following options to help reduce apathy in your community:
- Newsletters. These provide the association with a direct communication link with owners and residents and can spark interest and vitality when used properly. Bland, uninformative, gossipy, dictatorial, or difficult to read newsletters can be counterproductive. Newsletters can be used to emphasize important rules and regulations in a pleasant manner.
- Community Facebook Page. Nowadays it seems almost everyone is involved in social media and has accounts in place, so why should an association be any different? As long as the community has a strong social media policy in place, social sites such as Facebook can be used to post information about the community, seek volunteers for board and committee openings, as well as communicate exciting news or achievements in the community.
- Social Activities. Associations that host social activities tend to have better spirit and participation. These can include an annual holiday party, barbecue, ice cream social, picnic, or other similar events. Many associations also combine the annual meeting with a social event in order to increase attendance. However, if you plan to serve alcohol at these functions, check with the association’s attorney and insurance agent first.
- Periodic Reporting to the Membership. In communities with a long history of apathy, periodic member meetings, other than the annual meeting, can be used to disseminate information about the community, obtain input, introduce the board members and managers to the residents, solicit volunteers to serve on committees (which may have to be created), discuss the needs and future plans form the community, and otherwise build general support for the community.
- Raise Assessments. Although this may seem like a joke, it is quite a phenomenon how involved owners become if their assessments are increased—even by a little bit. Make sure you consult the community attorney if you are unsure as to the parameters of the board’s authority to increase assessments, but once you communicate the increase, you may be surprised at to all the owners that come out of the woodwork.
If you have any additional questions concerning apathy in your community, please contact a Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999.