HOA Boards: What They Do, Why They Deserve Thanks

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By Leonard Baron

While many owners in Common Interest Development communities have unflattering opinions about the board members who govern their neighborhood homeowners associations, the truth is, they're generally working to protect your home and investment. Let's walk through what HOA board members do for the community to get a better idea about the important role they fill.

What does the board do? In most cases, HOA board members are owners who are elected by the other unit owners from within the community. The board's job is to interpret and enforce the rules as dictated by the community's bylaws and covenants, conditions and restrictions, known as%VIRTUAL-pullquote-One of the most important rules in every single HOA is that if the members of the community do not like the decisions of the board, they can vote the board members out.% the CC&Rs. Every owner who buys into an HOA-governed community is given a copy of those bylaws and CC&Rs to review. Even if you don't take the time to glance through those HOA documents, as a buyer you agree to live within the rules and regulations of the community.

The board hires the management company for the community, approves vendors and payments, penalizes property owners who violate the rules, approves the annual budget, makes legal decisions when necessary, and handles every other function that a governing body needs to do on behalf of the people they are governing -- subject to the bylaws and CC&Rs. Boards follow those rules closely because if they allow an exception here or there, it's likely to create conflicts with other owners who expect the rules to be followed.

Most boards do a good job handling functions that individual unit owners are simply relieved that they don't have to deal with. And contrary to news reports bashing HOA boards, board members typically are unpaid, and they're rarely stealing money or imposing draconian rules. When those horror stories surface, it's generally because one or two owners choose to publicly air a grievance, rather than working through the community to make positive changes for everyone.

Unhappy with the board's work? My advice for folks who don't like what their HOA board is doing is to quit whining! Note: I am not a board member in any community, but I attend HOA meetings and see many unreasonable complaints -- and for full disclosure, I see some valid ones too.

One of the most important rules in every single HOA is that if the members of the community do not like the decisions of the board, they can vote the board members out. If you don't like the rules of the community -- as enforced by the BOD -- talk to your neighbors, campaign in the community, and get yourself elected to the board so you can interpret and enforce the rules.

Most people who object to what's happening won't do anything to help the board. They just want to keep complaining. But if you aren't going to spend your time and effort to help better govern the community, then don't criticize the folks who are doing it.

The majority of the time, community members should be saying thank you to board members for spending their time doing a thankless job, trying to protect every community member's biggest asset. I've seen HOA board members in a few communities get so fed up with dealing with complaining constituents that they just give up and quit. Then the task of managing and operating the community -- paying bills, making decisions and enforcing rules -- is not done by anyone for months. Take my word for it, you don't want to live in one of those communities!

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Leonard Baron, MBA, isAmerica's Real Estate Professor®. His unbiased, neutral and inexpensive "Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101" textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a past lecturer at San Diego State University and teaches continuing education to California real estate agents at The Career Compass.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow or AOL.

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