What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 1] – Attitude

What Makes a Director Outstanding [Part 1] – Attitude

A community association is no better than the board of directors which leads it, and excellent associations require excellent volunteer leaders. Truly exceptional volunteer governance is not a happy accident, and it often has little to do with a volunteer’s background, training, and experience. Instead, it is the result of hard work and the pursuit of proper values, foundational understandings, and perspectives. This week launches a four-part series regarding what makes (or should make) a volunteer director truly outstanding. Attitude makes the difference All the knowledge in the world and the best experience means nothing if the volunteer has the wrong attitude regarding the position of HOA director. Look for people who demonstrate the attitudes described below. Excellent board members understand that their position is one of service rather than control. They serve their neighbors; they don’t supervise them. A service-forward attitude fosters a less defensive perspective in which new ideas and opinions are welcomed and not perceived as insults or threats. The best leaders know that board service is not an accomplishment or distinction to be defended and preserved. Directors seeing the position as an achievement will be less likely to receive criticism and new ideas in a healthy manner, may be less willing to listen to the advice of others, will be threatened rather than encouraged by new ideas, and will be more deeply offended by disagreement. Directors concerned about their status may be prone to overly attend to protecting their reputation rather than the association’s welfare. Directors must understand their limitations The best accept that they do not know everything; they rely upon managers, consultants, and...
Candid Cameras in Our Association

Candid Cameras in Our Association

Mr. Richardson, Can the HOA install a camera in one garage area but not others? The HOA also installed a camera in the pool in order to catch one person’s possible violations. Is this legal? K.Y., San Jose Mr. Richardson, We are fans of your weekly column. Have you written about security cameras? Can you offer any direction as to legal issues and sound policy? Thanks so much, B.D., San Diego Hello Kelly, I would like to find out if installing a camera with audio in the parking area is legal in California. Please advise. Thank you, C.R., Encinitas Dear Kelly, Our complex has had a number of trespassers who have hopped locked pedestrian gates or tailgated resident cars through garage gates into resident parking areas. The board refuses to circulate images of these trespassers captured on surveillance cameras. Many of us want this video/image information in case we see the intruders or their vehicles in the future. We strongly believe this is a personal safety issue. The board says this is a possible liability issue.  Can the board appoint a volunteer committee of residents to review the surveillance videos, with the committee deciding whether to circulate the trespasser-related images to all residents? Thanks, B.A., Newport Beach  Dear K.Y., B.D., C.R., and B.A., As the affordability and technical quality of surveillance increases, cameras are increasingly considered by associations. However, cameras are not an answer to all HOA problems, and can create more problems. For example, placing a camera only to surveil a single resident will almost certainly offend the resident and create a possible claim of privacy invasion. If surveillance...

New Year’s Resolutions [Part 2] – The HOA Member

I, the HOA member, resolve to: Number one: Follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. My attitude: Not refer to the HOA or board as “they,” since it is all “us.” The directors are also members who pay assessments and give their time to benefit us all. Be neighborly, because shared ownership fails without cooperation. Assume our directors are doing their best as volunteers, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Not first assume the board is incompetent or dishonest when I believe it is overspending. Avoid the “my home, my castle” attitude. We share the benefits of common interest ownership, which means we also agree to share the control of our property. Ask questions before making statements, criticizing, or even accusing. Acknowledge the board may have more information than me. This doesn’t mean the board is right, but it does mean my opinion might not be fully informed. Take the long view of our association property, supporting growth of our capital reserves fund and maintaining our buildings. Be knowledgeable: Read the information the HOA sends to me. Be familiar with the CC&R’s, bylaws, and rules. I will reduce confusion and disputes by understanding the use restrictions and rules. Read the association budget and reserve study. I will ask informed questions, particularly about deviations from budget. If I ask to review financial documents, I will not ask for “everything,” and request only documents which I really need, acknowledging my manager is not a librarian. Help board meetings: Insist the board follow the Open Meeting Act, and only handle in closed session the...

Ten Damaging HOA Myths

Some myths are not only wrong, but harmful. Here are ten HOA myths which create problems for communities: 1. Governing documents are boilerplate Most HOA homebuyers carefully read their purchase contract, and ignore the CC&Rs, bylaws and rules. However, those documents are binding whether or not the owner reads them. Avoid surprises – read the documents! 2. It’s my balcony In condominium associations, balconies are usually exclusive use common area. It is not “MY balcony; because it is “OUR balcony.” The owner has the exclusive right to use it, but the HOA still controls how it is used and maintained. Owners often misunderstand that exclusive use areas are owned in common and therefore still under association jurisdiction. 3. If the association is off course, I can withhold my assessment payments This is a potentially disastrous myth. Members cannot withhold or offset claims against the HOA as a defense to their assessment delinquency. Withholding assessments will result in late fees, collection costs and attorney fees increasing the problem. The better approach is to follow Civil Code 5658, by paying the disputed amount and then filing a small claims court claim seeking a refund. 4. If it’s inside my home, the HOA has no say Most (but not all) condominiums are defined by a subdivision map or condominium plan describing the unit as “airspace.” This means the member often owns the carpet on their floor and the paint on their walls while everything underneath is common area, requiring HOA permission to alter. Before opening a new doorway, check the condominium plan and CC&Rs to see if HOA permission is needed. 5....

Adding More Directors: Fees at Time of Sale

Dear Mr. Richardson, At our HOA meeting last night – it was announced by the board that they are adding a 6th member, a 2nd member at large! I’m perplexed! Can they do that? Can you please shed some light on this! D.B., Reseda Dear D.B., The number of authorized directors normally is found in the bylaws. The most common number of directors is five, but what is important is what your bylaws say, not what most associations do. If the bylaws only authorize five directors, the sixth is not a director. What the bylaws say is more important than what the board says. The board normally may appoint to fill a vacancy caused by resignation or disqualification, but the members vote on vacancies caused by a term expiring or because of recall. So, I would need to look at your bylaws to be sure, but the sixth person is most likely not a director, and not entitled to vote or attend closed sessions meetings. If your board needs more help, rather than create a new “director” position, perhaps create a committee. Committees can help the board, and also help to discover potential future directors. Committees should have a defined scope, noted in the motion creating the committee, and recommend actions to the board within the committee’s scope of responsibility. Perhaps this sixth person would be a great committee chair. Have people serve on the committee and advise the board on topics within the scope of the committee. Regards,Kelly Kelly, I am in a large scale HOA. In the beginning, the developer charged a [significant] transfer fee to all...