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There was a time when all that was necessary for a volunteer to become a board member was to be interested in serving the community, fill out a biographical form and get a few friends to vote for him. Not so, anymore. Condominium and community association boards need to be sophisticated and capable of running small municipalities. After all, our associations are just that - mini governments with an executive branch (the board), taxes (annual assessments), and laws (documents, rules, regulations, and resolutions). Today, candidates often run for these "volunteer" positions. They campaign and attend Meet the Candidate nights where they answer questions on their ideas and positions on community policies and procedures. Homeowners are more interested in the process and who will be representing them on the board. Once elected, these folks face questions and sometimes criticism of their decisions. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to serve on a board. The answer is simple. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Fortunately, most homeowners believe that in addition to the benefits of community living, there is also an obligation to help maintain the community the way it was intended by the developer and make improvements to stay competitive with new communities in the marketplace.
Gone are the days when all the board had to do was select a color for the front doors and shutters. In the early condominium conversion days, there was little an owner could do to the exterior of their home. Today's community associations are often made up of townhomes, condominiums, carriage homes and single family homes that offer options for architectural additions and modifications. Boards need to be able to decipher complicated landscape and construction plans. While major additions still require a license and/or permit and approval of the local municipality, boards must first determine if the addition fits in with the aesthetics of existing buildings and landscape design. As communities age, it is not only necessary to set budgets that are realistic to meet the daily needs of the community but boards face decisions on developing long range plans for maintenance and replacement and investing funds set aside for this purpose. Some of these capital replacements occur early due to components failing prematurely. Architectural guidelines and rules must be enforced, but today, boards must look at the reasonableness of the original rules to be certain they fit today's technology and lifestyle. Boards need to be aware of federal regulations dealing with issues ranging from satellite dishes to fair housing guidelines. Boards are responsible for setting a tone for their community that creates a sense of community and neighborhood. The most successful communities have leaders who care about their neighbors, the values of their homes and the overall well being of every one of their residents. Board members are called upon to settle disputes between homeowners and must utilize their governing documents and local, state and federal law to resolve these issues. With the worsening economy, boards are faced with difficult decisions regarding neighbors who are unable to pay their association fees. Each situation must be weighed and the board must uphold their fiduciary responsibility to the other owners while trying to work with neighbors in financial crisis. Today's board must consist of volunteers who can read and understand financial statements, contracts, proposals, and legal documents and consider that information to make decisions affecting the day-to-day operation and preservation of their community, while setting their personal goals and desires aside for the good of the whole community. These volunteers need all the help they can get. Who can a board turn to for support? A Professional Community Association Management Companythat believes in continuing education for their staff and clients is the best asset any board could have. The manager can help prevent the board from "recreating the wheel" on issues that may be new to them but are routine to the management company. A strong and capable community manager is a member of the team who can provide guidance and expertise to the board in this ever-changing world and assist the board in finding other professionals to guide them through the complicated decisions and negotiations necessary for running a community association today. At the next meeting of your association, be sure to say "Thank you" to your board. You may not always agree with their decisions, but they provide an invaluable service to the communities they serve, as they give their time and talent improving community association living. An industry leading FREE Community Manager and vendor company directory and other details, visit the Condo Manager site.