Empowerment Through Education
One of my fundamental passions is to empower the people around me to seek education and knowledge. Yet, living and functioning in an HOA is complicated, with ever evolving laws and responsibilities.
It's often a challenge for homeowners and Board Members to locate useful AND affordable resources for information. When a homeowner or Board Member wants to understand procedures, where should they turn? I write this article to provide some helpful tips and information so that you have some resources at your fingertips.
The best place to start is by reviewing your own CC&Rs. I know that it's a very long document, and I recognize that the language is not always easy to follow. Having said that, you can break it up in chunks. The first section is often the definitions section, which lists commonly used terms in the HOA world and in your CC&Rs, and it defines those terms. From there, each section will cover additional topics such as, dues and assessments (very important), maintenance responsibilities of owners and the HOA (incredibly important), Committees and owner responsibility for Architectural modifications, HOA insurance requirements, and more. The Bylaws are another important document, but that set of documents relates more to Corporate Governance and procedure. If I had to suggest starting somewhere, it would definitely be the CC&Rs, and feel free to use a highlighter or post-its to reference important sections.
It's also extremely vital to review the community's Rules and Regulations and any other Policies and Procedures. Again, it's best to understand expectations of community living and what each resident can and cannot do within the community.
Apart from these internal documents, when in doubt, there are other resources that are available. For California communities, I highly recommend visiting http://davis-stirling.com/, where nearly everything you can think of is indexed alphabetically. This website is maintained by a prominent HOA attorney, Adrian Adams, of Adams Stirling. Not only can homeowners reference this site, but Board Members AND community managers often use this site as a reference point.
HOA Organizers also provides new homeowners with a welcome package that provides a quick reference guide about HOA living. If you need this document, please feel free to contact us to request your copy. If you are not a current HOA Organizers' client, your management company may have something similar to offer, so it's great to ask your management company if they have resources available for you. In addition to the package for homeowners, we also have 10+ short videos available on our website, geared towards homeowners. They are the ABCs of HOAs, homeowner's edition. We have taken a topic that we often hear from homeowners, and we provide 2 minute explanations about each topic. These videos are succinct but offer some great direction for homeowners as well. You can access them through this link: https://www.hoaorganizers.com/videos
In addition to what is listed above, there are a few more resources that I would recommend to Board Members as follows:
Your Board can sign up for a Community Association Institute membership. CAI now offers a flat fee to sign up the entire Board, whereas the membership used to be for individuals only. You may be thinking, what does CAI offer to Board Members? The Board Members will all have access to the industry magazines with a plethora of articles written by industry experts. Board Members will have access to the CAI message boards where Board Members can often submit questions and receive unofficial, but pretty sound recommendations and responses. Board Members will also be able to attend some workshops through CAI at no additional cost, while also having access to other workshops at a reduced rate to members. To find the chapter most local to you, visit: https://www.caionline.org/pages/default.aspx
Board Members can sign up to our ABCs of HOAs, which is a free educational event hosted just for Board Members. Our prior 2 years of events are on our website and accessible at: https://www.hoaorganizers.com/abcs
We also provide a unique package for our Board Member clients, outlining Board Member responsibilities. When our communities conclude their annual election, all elected Board Members, whether incumbents or new to the Board, will receive our Board Member package that provides an overview on what it means to be a Board Member and to outline Board responsibilities and structure. If you are not an HOA Organizers' client, please check with your management company to see if they have something similar available to you.
I sincerely hope that this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, that is my direct email address). Thank you for your volunteerism and your interest in knowledge and information!