New Year’s Resolutions for Community Associations

Dan Zimberoff – Barker Martin

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be limited to just individuals. In the spirit of ushering out the old and welcoming in the New Year, I suggest community associations consider adopting New Year’s resolutions for 2017. The timing of these resolutions also coincides with the time that many shared ownership communities conduct their annual meetings and board elections, the first quarter of the calendar year. What better opportunity to adopt and implement a platform of New Year’s resolutions than when an association Board turns over or reconvenes for the year?

Here are my proposed community association New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Devise two or three goals for the year.  Too often Boards get stuck in the minutiae and day-to-day operations of an association (instead of delegating to the professional manager), rather than acting strategically. The New Year is the perfect time for a Board to hold a strategic planning session in order to adopt two or three objectives for the year.
  2. Review governing documents. Board members should be quite familiar with their governing documents (i.e., Articles of Incorporation, Declaration, Bylaws and House Rules and Resolutions). Boards should resolve to review their documents at the start of each year, at a minimum, to ensure familiarity and compliance. Though sometimes containing “legalese,” even non-attorney Board members should understand the provisions of each governing document.
  3. Amend governing documents, if necessary. Along with reviewing and fully understanding their governing documents, a Board should resolve to amend any conflicting, vague or obsolete governing document. To avoid unnecessary conflict and cost, a Board should be forward-leaning and move to amend outdated documents before a conflict or a problem arises–it will be much less expensive in the long run.
  4. Adopt communications policy. One of the most common problems experienced by community associations relates to inefficient or ineffective communication. A Board should resolve to adopt a communications policy governing intra-Board communication, as well as communication with association members, managers and third-party consultants or companies. If an association does not have a communications policy, even the most basic problem or issue can be blown out of proportion, resulting in increased conflict, cost and adverse consequences.
  5. Reduce email. Electronic mail has certainly revolutionized American business. Unfortunately, the proliferation of email has also resulted in inundation of written communication which sometimes can be overwhelming and all consuming. Email can also be far less effective than simply picking up the phone or speaking with someone directly. As part of a comprehensive communications policy, a Board may wish to define specific email protocols, including establishing limitations on subject criteria and response times. Also, not every Board member needs to be cc’d on every email. Lastly, to eliminate the use of personal and company servers for association business, a Board should also establish association email accounts, such as GardenPointSec@yahoo.com or VillaCourtPres@gmail.com.
  6. Establish reasonable working protocols and expectations. Along with reducing reliance upon email, a Board may wish to set expectations as to when association business is to be conducted (preferably at Board meetings). Too often, Board members conduct business 24/7 via email or when confronted by an owner or other Board member in a parking lot or when getting their mail at the community mail kiosk. Everyone is busy juggling family, work, activities and Board service, but not every association related issue is urgent or must be dealt with by the Board. A Board that sets reasonable working protocols and expectations for itself, as well as when dealing with homeowners and managers, is much more effective and productive.

The start of 2017 is as good a time as any for a community association Board to consider adopting one or more of the preceding “New Year’s resolutions.” Good luck to you, and may everyone have a joyous and prosperous New Year.