Tips Regarding HOA Committees

Tips Regarding HOA Committees

Most associations find committees helpful. Here are some tips to maximize their value to the HOA: 1. Committees can be “ad hoc,” i.e., temporary, or ongoing Committees typically address a major ongoing area of concern or take on the study of larger or complicated issues. 2. A committee is a group A committee should have at least 3 or 4 members. When a committee dwindles down to one or two persons, it is no longer a committee and should be restocked with volunteers or disbanded. 3. Appointments in the open Committee appointments (or removal) should occur in open meetings. Committee members are not “personnel” and so discussions about committee rosters are not eligible for closed session. 4. Committee service not perpetual Committees normally serve at the pleasure of the board. If a committee is not performing well, committee members can be replaced, and if the committee is not required by the governing documents, it can be disbanded by board vote. 5. Have committee charters Each committee should have a clear written charter adopted by the board. A clear charter informs the committee (and potential volunteers) what is the committee’s role, helping keep the committee on target. A charter also can indicate the minimum and maximum number of members. 6. No interference with vendors or management Committees and their chairs often need to be reminded that decisions are made by the board, that committees make recommendations, and that the committees and their chairs are not authorized to instruct management, association vendors, or other residents. 7. Have directors on committees if possible, but not too many One director on committees helps...
Preparing for and Dealing with Disaster

Preparing for and Dealing with Disaster

An unfortunate reality is that occasionally communities can be confronted with disaster, when earthquake, wildfire, or other calamity can transform a community within a few hours. Planning for the unthinkable can improve the association’s recovery prospects. Preparedness: Enhance communication. Embark upon an aggressive campaign to build email contact points for every association resident or owner. The ability to flash bulletins to owners is critical in emergencies and saves labor and postage and increases communication in normal times. Check the association insurance. Does the association have replacement cost or code upgrade coverage? What is covered? Some years ago an association sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars of landscaping and irrigation equipment destroyed in a major brush fire. Fortunately, their policy covered landscaping and the insurance paid to restore common area hillsides. Does the association have earthquake coverage? Check the deductible and inform members of the amount that will be association responsibility in the event of major seismic damage. A meeting with your broker may reveal gaps or inadequacies in the association’s insurance protection. Create emergency policies and plans. The manager should be empowered to respond to emergencies, and each director should know association policy regarding who makes emergency calls to vendors if the manager is not available. Risk management. Is the association adjacent to any hillsides or other brush areas? When was heavy vegetation last cleared from the association perimeter? Your local fire department or a consultant may provide a risk assessment. The Emergency: Immediate Actions. Call first responders. Call management. Issue an update via email and bulletin board, avoiding unsubstantiated reports or anything promoting panic. If evacuation is not...
California Now Has Fair Housing Regulations: Sexual Harassment is Illegal

California Now Has Fair Housing Regulations: Sexual Harassment is Illegal

The federal Housing and Urban Development Department (“HUD”), adopted regulations in September 2016 which for the first time prohibited sexual harassment within housing accommodations. “Housing accommodations” in this context includes homeowner associations. These regulations have thus far not received widespread attention, but in California this will change soon. In August 2018 the California Fair Employment and Housing Council approved Fair Housing regulations, providing the first written enforcement guidelines to help associations comply and avoid exposure to state or private discrimination claims. The new state regulations will take effect on January 1 or April 1, 2019, after some further rule-making process, and will be found at California Code of Regulations 12000-12271. The inaugural regulations do not address all Fair Housing issues but are informative regarding accommodation of disabilities and assistance animals, and also bring a new requirement by echoing the HUD regulations (as California must) by requiring housing providers to reasonably respond to sexual harassment against residents. Sexual harassment was previously considered only as an employment issue, and its two varieties – unwanted sexual advances and hostile environment- have both long been illegal in the workplace. Under the new regulations, associations must protect residents from unwanted advances not only from vendors or management, but also from other residents. If a resident complains against a neighbor, what should associations do, since they can’t relocate or evict residents? Kevin Kish, Director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said “an HOA can’t be liable for failure to take an action it doesn’t have the power to take.” Under section 12010(c) a violation exists where the person knew or should have known...
Keep the Lawyers at Bay [Ten Tips]

Keep the Lawyers at Bay [Ten Tips]

Serving as a volunteer director is often thankless, but it shouldn’t be risky. Here are ten ways to reduce if not prevent personal risk from your service. 1. Learn and follow the Business Judgment Rule Found at California Corporations Code 7231 and 7231.5 and contained in most bylaws, the Rule protects volunteers from liability while acting in good faith, for the association’s best interests, and upon reasonable inquiry. 2. Insurance is necessary Only serve if the association has directors and officers (“D&O”) insurance coverage. Civil Code 5800 protects directors from personal liability if the HOA with more than 100 memberships has $1,000,000 of D&O insurance or $500,00 if less members. 3. Refuse compensation Whether called a “stipend” or assessment reduction, reject any form of renumeration for board service. Upon receiving even one dollar of compensation the director is no longer a volunteer and loses all the immunities of volunteers. Reimbursement for a director’s time serving the HOA is not reimbursement – it is compensation. Reimbursements are repayments of out of pocket expenses. 4. Don’t get mad… or even “Good faith” doesn’t just mean a pure heart. However, it certainly does exclude any willful, malicious or retaliatory intent. The nastiest homeowner has the same rights as the saintly ones. Enforce the rules evenly. 5. Don’t take matters into your own hands HOA governance is a team sport, not an individual event. What you think is valid instruction may be viewed by the board (and the HOA’s attorney) as interference. A director (even the president) must use restraint and wait for the board to act. 6. Follow the corporate process Is...

New Year’s Resolutions [Part 3] – The Manager

As the association’s professional manager, I resolve to Number one: Follow the Golden Rule. Attitude check: Remember I am a professional, and will give the board the best advice I can. I am not employed to be silent. Strive to give the board the answers it needs to hear, regardless if it is the answer the board hopes for. Avoid reacting defensively to upset homeowners, and will make sure they are informed as to the “whats” but also the “whys.” If the board disregards my advice, I will document it in writing to the board. Not attempt to give specialized advice, but will refer the board to the appropriate specialized professional. Try to please all, while knowing that I can’t. Be knowledgeable: Pursue professional designations and attend seminars to keep me up to date. Be prepared at any board meeting to explain significant deviations from budget. Understand the Business Judgment Rule, and confirm the board has sufficient information to make each decision. Encourage my board members to join the Community Associations Institute, knowing educated boards are better boards. Better board meetings: Protect the board from overly long or disorganized meetings. Create agendas with consent calendars to quickly handle non-controversial items. Alert the board when an agenda is too ambitious. Become comfortable with the fundamentals of Roberts Rules of Order. Help the board stay on topic and on agenda. Alert the board if it is handling matters in closed session which should be in open session. Bring the HOA governing documents, including all rules, to every meeting. On each agenda item, be prepared to provide a recommendation or recommend retention...