One of the main complaints of owners in HOAs is lack of communication by the association. For example, owners who are not kept well informed will balk when it becomes necessary to raise additional funds. Even if the board has discussed the need for these funds at its previous ten board meetings, owners who did not attend those meetings may still be unaware. It is extremely important, therefore, for a board of directors to keep owners informed of issues involving the association.
One thing to remember is that board members are also owners. They are, however, more informed owners because they are involved in dealing with the issues facing the association. All owners within the community, however, should be aware of the issues facing the association.
While owners are generally authorized to attend most board meetings, many owners are unaware of or do not exercise this right. Owners should be encouraged to attend the association’s meetings. Newsletters and websites can be extremely important educational and informational vessels in associations. They can inform owners of upcoming meetings or issues facing the association; they can remind owners of key rules or regulations; they can make owners feel part of a community; and they can even generate a small amount of revenue for the association (if ads are sold to local businesses).
Newsletters and websites do not have to be a burden. A newsletter or website committee can be formed with owner volunteers to do most of the legwork. The board should always strive to review information presented in its newsletters or on its website to ensure accuracy and to avoid potential liability for libel or harassment. Often property management companies will offer newsletter or website services to associations. Associations who do not have volunteers should take advantage of these opportunities. As indicated above, the newsletter or website does not always have to be a cost to the community. Oftentimes, local businesses will pay to advertise within the association’s newsletter or on its website. The funds generated through these advertisements can be used to offset the costs or even to generate revenue.
Newsletters and websites are not the only manner of communicating with owners. For large issues facing an association, the board should send special mailings to the owners to keep them informed. Sending out notices of issues before they require a vote of the membership will often lessen the chance of negative backlash where owners believe that the decision was sprung on them without notice.
Other ways of providing notice to owners can occur at social events. Some associations have line items in their budgets for social events to encourage a sense of community. Other associations will use excess funds from their operating accounts at the end of the year to host a community event. When owners are brought together, they often discuss issues facing the association. If board members attend these functions, questions can be answered in a less formal setting. The board members should take care, however, not to conduct business at these informal social events to avoid potentially violating local laws requiring open board meetings.
Communication is extremely important to maintaining a happy and healthy community. Boards often become so wrapped up in the day-to-day issues of the association that they will forget about the other owners and the community as a whole. Without the owners, there would be no community. The board should always strive to keep the owners informed about the issues facing the community in some way, shape or form. There is no “correct” way to keep owners informed, so long as it is done!