Dealing with Members
Although in many parts of the country, planned community and condominium residents are battling snow and freezing temperatures, spring and summer—with warm weather and opportunities to get active—will be here soon enough. And some communities experience soaring heat year round, like those in association-prevalent states such as Florida. Many members invite guests into the community and host seasonal parties or activities in warm weather. You may even provide association-sponsored summer fun.
Winter weather can make community managers’ jobs more challenging if they’re managing associations that are located in cold-weather climates. You’ll typically field an influx of heating complaints. Often, these complaints are unfounded or result from easily correctable problems. Provide too much heat, however, and you’re just wasting fuel and money. The best bet is to address heating complaints right away, while also controlling your heating costs.
The financial health of an association depends in large part on monthly payments from members. Those payments are integral because they pay for the services and amenities the members expect and are entitled to. Unfortunately, whether it’s because of financial difficulties or a dispute, sometimes you’ll encounter a member who doesn’t make his monthly payment of assessments. While it seems like just one member failing to contribute is a minor issue, in reality, he harms the entire community.
Typically, if decisions made by the board turn out well, members are happy. But if the decisions lead to unforeseen costly expenses to the community, some members might sue, regardless of the board members’ good intentions. That’s why it’s more important than ever that your board’s judgments be the result of a sound, deliberative decision-making process. If they are, there’s a much better chance that courts will defer to them in case of a lawsuit.
Living in close proximity in a condo building or sharing amenities year after year in more spread out planned communities can throw together members with different points of view—some of them controversial. The past year has created divisiveness in political conversations and discussions about recent exposes regarding sexual harassment. But some states had reported a rise in hostility and aggressive behavior among community association members even before national events brought up these issues to argue over.
The 2016 presidential election involved an unprecedented level of negative campaigning for office, including vitriol and attacks on candidates and their political parties. Campaigns aren’t limited to just political office, though. Association boards are comprised of elected members—which means campaigning is something managers will have to help handle.
Especially in major cities and the surrounding areas, “luxury” buildings seem to be going up left and right. As these properties are developed, you might have to get competitive to keep members from selling their home or condo unit in your community, and to entice new members to buy there instead of a new place. Upgrading dated aspects of the community can go a long way in retaining residents and attracting new ones.
The draw to residential communities for most owners is that there are rules that keep homes looking nice, and when their neighbors neglect their properties, it can not only conflict with the community’s aesthetic, but also cause damage. For example, an unresolved plumbing leak can cause damage to adjoining units. The good news is that, typically, associations’ governing documents require members to maintain their properties, and authorize the association to compel compliance.
By Andrea Brescia
More and more Americans are getting—and sending—their information through social media in real time: from politics and breaking news to sharing family photos and learning about events. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the favored community forums for staying in the know. Facebook pages, Twitter streams, and even community-designed apps are popping up all over homeowners associations—sometimes both officially and unofficially.
To encourage member participation in community affairs, many boards permit association members to attend and speak at board meetings, even when the bylaws do not give the members that right. But if a member speaks too long, rambles off topic, or intentionally antagonizes the board or other members, he makes it hard for the meeting to be productive.