Nobody has ever said that serving on the board of directors of a homeowners association was easy. Board members volunteer their time to give back to the community in which they live. In many cases, the board members are required to make difficult decisions to raise assessments, prioritize or postpone repairs, and enforce the covenants. Additionally, although members of a community may come to meetings, express their concerns, comment on what is and what is not getting done in the community, and even thank the board for its efforts, they rarely come out in droves to actually run for the board.
So, what is a board to do when nobody is willing to serve as a board member? Below are some tips for finding, recruiting, and conducting elections to encourage members in the community to serve on the board of directors.
- Educate. In many cases, associations have a hard time finding people to serve on the board because nobody really knows or understands what it takes to be a board member. When seats are up for election or a director is stepping down, the board should prepare with a job description that includes the essential functions of the job such as (i) job duties; (ii) expected time commitment; and (iii) details of high and low seasons and budgeting. This way, a prospective board member will be equipped with accurate information to make a decision. You may also be able to dispel a misconception that it takes all of a board member’s free time to be on the board. This can be done at a number of different points leading up to an annual meeting or a known upcoming vacancy.
- Recruit. Over the course of a year, existing board members should attempt to develop relationships with different members within the community. They should speak with members who attend board meetings on a regular or semi-regular basis, explain the duties of a board member, and make them comfortable with being at the meetings. Existing Board members and managers should also be able to explain upcoming projects for the community, including timing and how they will be handled. Then, when the time comes for an election, the board should be able to identify a number of people that are capable and willing to serve on the board. These recruits will also be able to hit the proverbial ground running.
- Plan, Plan, and Plan. If the board knows it has a potential vacancy, it should get ahead of the situation by starting the recruitment process and distributing the job descriptions early. If the board does this sooner rather than later, the board will be able to identify potential candidates early on. Additionally, the board should reach out to new owners in the community and get them interested in the board by personally inviting them to board meetings to get to know the community.
- The “Nuclear Option.” When boards are not able to obtain sufficient members to constitute a quorum of the board, both the individual board members and the association as a whole are exposed to liability. As a result, all board actions can be over turned, reversed, or halted. This means that the board may not legally pay for insurance, water, maintenance of the common elements, or other essential services. When a community gets to this point, the board must take drastic steps to educate owners to the potential downfalls of not having a full board of directors, including having the existing board request that the association be placed in receivership. A receivership is when the court takes over the operation of an association and makes all decisions for the community through a court-appointed receiver. During a receivership, the individual members lose all say in the operation of the community until a duly elected board is empaneled. This process can be costly and is never in the best interest of the community. By explaining this to the community, the board should be able to avoid placing the association in receivership.
Ultimately, when trying to recruit or encourage members of a community to serve on the board, it is best to education them as much as possible. Let the members know in advance what they are in for, how much time it takes, and what the expectations are. Additionally, and potentially most important, let potential board members know that they are not in it alone. Let them know that they will be supported by management, other board members, and the association’s contractors at all times. Contractors are always willing to lend a hand, attend a meeting, and explain the status of any project to the owners. Serving on a board of directors can be a wonderful experience. The board just needs to share the positives and encourage people to get involved at the most local level of governance.
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