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Who's really in charge when the HOA is a volunteer board?

To keep HOA and condo association fees at a minimum, townhouse and condo developments frequently elect to become self-governing. While recruiting homeowners to serve their time on the volunteer board will no doubt save money, it is not without legal problems and disputes that arise.

This blog post will discuss some of the concerns your HOA should address if you are considering remaining or becoming an independent volunteer association.

Communicating your expectations with board members and residents

Professionally managed HOAs understand the value of clear and concise communications. In California, all HOAs are required to operate under the provisions of the Davis-Sterling Act, which governs how regulations, concerns and problems must be addressed through communications. Homeowners who volunteer to sit for one year on their HOA board may be handed a board rule book to read, but will not likely sink their teeth into the proper handling of the rules, particularly when it comes to communicating board decisions and HOA information with the members.

The board must make it clear who is in charge

One problem faced by volunteer HOAs is that some board members never really leave the position. They are no longer required to attend monthly meetings, but they make it clear that they are the most knowledgeable about the inner workings of the decision making process.

As new volunteer board members come and go, homeowners may grow accustomed to getting answers from their friends or closest neighbors who once served. Unless the president of the board is disciplined in the approach to communicating procedural changes and regulations with homeowners, residents are likely to continue to go to the person who is most likely to give them the answers they want. Homeowners who have been off the board for years may still be the "go-to" person for answers on how to skirt around the official processes.

No matter who said what at the pool party, the board is still responsible

It is not uncommon to hear an HOA member say they acted on information based on something a board member told them. In many cases, the resident spreading the bad information may no longer be on the board, or perhaps is an active board member with a misunderstanding of the rules. It is another reason why residents joining the volunteer board must be made thoroughly aware of the HOA processes and talking points regarding certain issues that frequently arise.

No matter what a resident may have heard from an ex-board member, a neighbor or even a current board member speaking out of place, the full board may be held liable for any legal actions that may result from enforcing the real regulations.

Hire a knowledgeable HOA attorney

If you are a member of an HOA or currently sit on a volunteer board for your HOA in Mission Viejo, California, make sure you hire an attorney with experience in these delicate matters between homeowners. Call Home Owner Advocates to discuss your concerns about a dispute before it turns into a costly lawsuit.   

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