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...
Must We Accept Mary Jane in Our Building?

Must We Accept Mary Jane in Our Building?

Kelly, Our condo association started a “no smoking” policy, but one owner continues to smoke marijuana often. The HOA sent a notice to stop and called him to a hearing. He had an attorney send a letter stating he is “disabled” and alleging the HOA is discriminating against him. The owner continuously denies he is smoking anything, but continues to smoke. His unit is adjacent to mine and I smell marijuana often as it permeates through his walls into my unit. The HOA instructed me to keep a log of all this owner’s violations of the rule and I have. But they tell me we need still more evidence. Is this a normal process? It’s my word against the other owner’s. My clothes reek of smoke for days. Should I have an attorney write a letter to the HOA stating the smoke smell gives me headaches and I have to open all my windows and turn on ceiling fans to get air to circulate? J.V., Oceanside Dear J.V., Has anyone noticed the neighbor has contradicted himself? If he denies smoking marijuana, why would he claim a disability? Fortunately for people who truly need marijuana for medical reasons, there are a number of delivery systems other than smoking. Edible forms and vaporizers may be available. Disabilities do not give neighbors carte blanche to do what they wish – the association is only required to make “reasonable” accommodations. If the disabled neighbor creates a nuisance for neighbors, that accommodation may become unreasonable. Neighbor-to-neighbor complaints are always touchy for HOAs – who do they believe? In your case, if your clothing and unit remain...
Before Amending CC&Rs, Avoid “Ready, Fire, Aim!” [10 Tips]

Before Amending CC&Rs, Avoid “Ready, Fire, Aim!” [10 Tips]

First, check with the members Amending CC&Rs usually takes a supermajority (i.e. more than simply a majority of the quorum), so strong membership support is essential. Drafting a great amendment is meaningless if the homeowners will not vote for it. Avoid controversial amendments Amendments changing assessments so that some members pay a higher or lower amount or unpopular use restrictions should be avoided. Some amendments do not require a membership vote Under the Civil Code, amendments deleting developer marketing provisions (Section 4230) or removing illegal discriminatory restrictions (Section 4235), or simply changing the old Civil Code references to the current (Section 4235), are all amendments which can be adopted by the board of directors in an open meeting. Get out the vote Explain to the members that the failure to vote (abstaining) is the same as a “no” vote. Divide up the community into sectors and divide those sectors among volunteers. CC&R amendments are not often very interesting, and apathy is usually their greatest enemy. Missing supermajority If you cannot meet the supermajority required by your CC&Rs, Civil Code 4275 allows the HOA to file a court petition to seek judicial approval – however, to petition, more than 50% of all members, not just a majority of the quorum, must vote in favor. These petitions really should be viewed as a last resort, due to the legal, mailing, and copying cost involved. Verbatim The EXACT text of the amendment must be sent out with the ballots – even if it was already previously distributed. This is required by Civil Code 5115(e). When sending amendments to members, help them by...

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...
Recipe for Reasonable Rules

Recipe for Reasonable Rules

One important board responsibility is to adopt and enforce community rules. Developers, when creating common interest communities, provide CC&Rs and Bylaws (usually boilerplate), but typically do not create rules. So, it is up to the volunteer boards to create necessary and reasonable rules for their communities. Rules can cover many important topics, such as parking, community room use or architectural and landscaping standards. Rules should be tailored to the needs of each community. However, the Civil Code does require each association to have certain rules. These required rules are: Internal dispute resolution procedures, election rules, delinquency enforcement policies, architectural modification application rules, and a schedule of fines. Rules must be written, per Civil Code 4350(a) From time to time, an association will describe to me “house rules” but cannot point to any place where the particular rule is written. Unwritten rules are traditions, not “rules,” and are unenforceable. Also, rules must be adopted per the process in Civil Code 4360. Keep it simple Draft rules in straightforward language. Rules should be clear and concise. Avoid overly complex rules, because most likely the manager, board and homeowners will not remember all the technicalities in a complicated rule set. Consider starting each rule section with a positive introductory statement Beginning a section of rules with a short explanation about the purpose of the rules makes a more positive statement to the community, and hopefully increases community compliance by the residents. People do not like being told “because I said so”, regardless of age, and explaining the importance of the rules shows respect. Avoid having separate rules for kids Rules cannot single...