An HOA board has three significant roles: to protect, maintain and enhance the Association. Everything the board is responsible for in a homeowners association can be placed into at least one of these three categories.
Protecting the Association means understanding the laws, being careful of what you say as a board member, being objective, and surrounding yourself with experts. But what does it mean to maintain and enhance the Association?
How an HOA Board Maintains the Association
Maintaining the Association is important because the way the property is taken care of reflects the Association as a whole and the quality of the community. People don’t want to live in a run-down or ugly homeowners association, especially when they are paying HOA fees that are partially used for maintenance.
There are two types of maintenance tasks to consider: short term and long term. Short term maintenance tasks could be garbage collection, landscaping, pool treatments, etc. Long term maintenance tasks might consist of road upkeep, deck replacement, or concrete work. It’s important to consult the CC&Rs to make sure it's clearly understood which maintenance tasks are the responsibility of the Association and which are the responsibility of the homeowner.
If there is little focus put on maintaining the Association, then the community will become worn down.
For example, let’s say an HOA board hired a landscaper because he was on the board. The landscaper ended up being one that just “mows, blows and goes,” doing the very minimum needed to maintain the landscaping in the community. He was less expensive, but the quality of work was making the HOA look worse and homeowners started complaining. The other board members didn’t want to hurt the landscaper’s feelings because he was on the board, so it took some time to hire a better landscaper.
In a case like this it’s important that a board is objective and willing to pay a little more to achieve the desired results. It’s the difference between the Association being poorly maintained and wonderfully maintained.
How an HOA Board Enhances the Association
Enhancing the Association goes hand in hand with maintaining, but kicks it up a notch. When an HOA board enhances the community they are upgrading it in some way due to new laws or to add something that isn’t currently part of the Association.
Sometimes, laws require the HOA board to take an action of enhancement. For example, a law that’s passed requiring the spacing to be less between the uprights of the fencing around the swimming pool or on balconies, causing the Association to no longer be up to code. When the fencing is replaced, not only will the Association meet the new code requirements, but it might also decide to replace wood with wrought iron because it will last longer.
Another way the board could enhance the Association is by adding something that isn’t currently part of the community, like building a recreation room. It’s important to note that the board cannot use the reserve money for something like this. Reserve funds are allocated to protect and maintain, but when it comes to enhancement projects, the Association will have to secure funding in other ways such as doing a special assessment or getting a loan. It's important to check the CC&Rs for any restrictions on adding a new building.
How a management company can help
One of the best things an HOA board can do to fulfill its roles to protect, maintain, and enhance the Association is to hire an expert to help. A manager can be a valuable asset to the Board, guiding them through the many facets of starting and completing a project, reminding board members of maintenance costs, and suggesting experts who can help them achieve their goal.