Common Pitfalls

Common Pitfalls HOAs Face, and How to Avoid Them (Oregon Law)
June 18, 2013 | By: Michael Montag

I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity of the solutions HOA boards come up with to the difficult situations they face. Faced with tight budgets, demanding residents, and difficult personalities, the obvious answers often don’t work. Sometimes, though, we get so focused on a particular problem that we lose sight of the big picture – and the simple solutions. Here are three pitfalls that commonly affect HOA boards. Keep them in mind, and your job just might get a little easier.

Use Rules of Order for Your Meetings.

Using rules of order for your meetings isn’t just a statutory requirement; it’s your best option for dealing with difficult personalities at meetings. If you haven’t adopted a different system, Robert’s Rules of Order is the default and is by far the most common. Sure, it can feel overly formal and awkward at first, but once everyone is used to the system, you’ll notice that your meetings are not only running more smoothly, but also participants are treating each other with more respect. Something about being forced to behave civilly seems to make people start doing it voluntarily. Having rules also lets people know how things are going to go, and discourages them from trying to hijack a meeting. It all adds up to the board being able to conduct its business as efficiently as possible, so get a copy of Robert’s Rules for Dummies and get your meetings back on track.

Don’t be a Pushover.

It is tempting to follow the path of least resistance and acquiesce to any given homeowner’s demands/violations/failure to pay assessments/etc. Do that enough times, though, and it will turn into the rule rather than the exception. Running your association will become a bigger and bigger chore as more people ask for more exceptions, more people simply ignore the rules, and suddenly you find your job as a board member impossible to do. The best way to avoid this snowball is to enforce your governing documents consistently and uniformly. You will find that it is easier—and more effective—to be firm and fair rather than to debate every situation that arises. In fact, you will probably also find that the majority of owners—the ones that quietly abide by the rules—will start speaking up to thank you for keeping the others in line.

Use All Available Resources

HOA boards have to deal with a surprisingly wide variety of situations. For a group of volunteers, it can be difficult to know how to respond. What do you do if the city shows up and says they need to condemn part of your community to make way for a public works project? What if you have a resident who acts violently to other residents? What if one home in your community is dilapidated and the owner has a problem with hoarding? Turning to experts for guidance is always a good start. Yes, lawyers cost money, but sometimes you really need to have a legal opinion drafted or legal action taken. If you have a professional manager, use their expertise as well; community managers have a wealth of talents and resources that come in handy. You can also call your county or city, or search Google for nonprofits, as many public bodies and nonprofits will help if you have a resident with mental health issues, and their services don’t cost more than you paying your taxes. Lastly, sometimes the resource you need is just to call the police—if necessary—as your HOA board didn’t volunteer to act as law enforcement officers.