We see this in the many area communities. Whether the real lack of leadership is at the management level or the board level is not so easily observed from the outside. What we do see is that board members often get involved because they have good intentions, but they are never told what to do. Sometimes, the board member has a personal agenda; one that is not in the best interest of the community. The rest of the board needs to be strong and face this challenge.
Your community is referred to as a Common Ownership Community. They come in many forms: Home Owners Associations, Condominiums, and Co-ops. Commercial and Residential. Garden style, mid-rise, high-rise, townhouse, and single-family. With each form of ownership and with each configuration come different needs and different rules and laws under which they operate.
In Maryland, there is the Maryland Condominium Act and the Maryland Homeowners Association Act. If the community is incorporated, there is the Maryland Corporations & Associations Act. After the law comes to the governing documents: the plat, the articles of incorporation, declaration, bylaws, architectural rules, and general rules and regulations. So, you become a board member and all that information simply becomes a part of your knowledge base? Of course not. Management’s duty is to be informed and to guide the board into compliance with these regulations. The board’s duty is to heed the advice when it relates to mandatory operations. When management is uncertain, the association’s legal counsel is the appropriate resource.
MMI and the Community Associations Institute offer board member training programs. Community associations must conduct most business in an open forum, but that does not mean a literal democracy nor a brawl. Roberts Rules are generally followed in board and community meetings and a working knowledge of these techniques will help keep the board on task. MMI will work with your president to ensure that an agenda is prepared and distributed in advance of each meeting. MMI also prepares a Board Packet containing any advance reading materials your board members need in order to be prepared to act at the meeting. This may include proposals, budgets, or correspondence that will be on the agenda. If board members take a few minutes to read the information, the meeting will flow much more smoothly.
When the board members, individually and collectively, work with the best interests of the community at heart, their success is virtually assured. There are several tools available to help in this respect:
The Management Plan – How can you achieve a goal if you don’t know what it is? The management plan contains goals and objectives for administration, physical maintenance, and financial planning. Often, it takes an hour or two to develop a basic plan, yet it is rare to find a community with such a plan. MMI will work with you if you will work with us. We want to boast of our successes as much as you.
The Budget – After you know what you want to do, you have to fund the program. Naturally, the best time to be working on your management plan is budget time–or is the best time to work on the budget when you are working on your management plan? The budget is done out of necessity on an annual basis. The management plan is an on-going, never-ending project that is always in a state of development and always subject to modification as the budget dictates.
Book of Resolutions – Why must every board re-invent the wheel? Why does everyone look at each other at the annual meeting and ask, “How many do we need for a quorum?” Resolutions are simple, one-page documents that store the basic operating instructions for your community. After you research the annual meeting requirements, set them down on a resolution for easy reference year-after-year. After the board decides on a collections policy, set it down in a “Collections Resolution” for all to see and for all subsequent boards to follow. Yes, subsequent boards can make changes, but they will have to take an affirmative step to enact a change. Otherwise, the policy stands. There are dozens of resolutions that can help your board avoid spending time on simple administrative matters leaving more time to get things done. Guiding the board to enacting effective resolutions is a major facet of MMI’s Fresh Start program. Whether your community is just coming out of developer control or you have been operating in a disorganized manner for 20 years, now is the time for a Fresh Start.
Committee Charters – Another Fresh Start component, these documents establish the purpose, duration, leadership, and budget of committees. They can be used for Ad Hoc (temporary) committees or permanent committees. When you ask for volunteers to staff these committees, the Charter will tell them what they are signing up for. The Charter establishes the chair, the purpose, duration, and budget for the committee.