Sunday, July 21, 2013

What is keeping people from serving on their community association boards?

I just returned from a weekend in Gainesville where I met a pleasant, intelligent woman who was lamenting the uninformed state of her current board of directors. Lucy described a litany of abuses, mostly stemming from her board's unwillingness to read the governing documents and enforce them uniformly. When I asked her why she and her neighbors did not consider electing a new board or running for the board themselves, I got the answer I always get:

"No one wants to run for the board!"

That answer is hardly surprising but what is really behind the sentiment? What is keeping far too many people from serving on their community association boards?
  • Time Constraints People often cite their jobs, families and outside interests as reasons for not wanting to fill a director seat in their community. Board service does take time and the commitment varies depending upon the community type and location. Even many retired people who traditionally made up the majority demographic for volunteer directors are no longer as willing to commit precious spare time to the endeavor of community service. Sometimes all it takes is holding the regular board meetings on the same night as one's favorite TV series to make board service an impossibility.
  • Fear: Let's be honest; the press associated with being a condominium or HOA director has not been all pretty. Some would-be directors may fear being seen as the proverbial "condo commando" or may fear that covenant enforcement and delinquent assessment collection will prove confrontational. Some potential candidates for board service also may fear the legal liability associated with the role even with the safeguards of Directors' & Officers coverage in place.
  • Philosophy:  Some people who are willing to live in a shared ownership community still have a profound distrust and distaste for board service. For these folks, they are just as happy to allow someone else to handle the distasteful job of being the "enforcer".
  • Ineligibility:  Most of us agree that it is a good idea to set some ground rules about who can serve in a fiduciary position as a community association director. These parameters in Florida have evolved over the years to exclude convicted felons whose civil rights have not been restored, delinquent owners and co-owners. Although the pool of eligible candidates has been narrowed over the years, it is still not narrow enough for some people who would like to see seasonal residents added to the list of folks who cannot serve on the board.
  • Hostile Environment:  Most people do not enjoy being uncomfortable or upset and they tend to avoid situations where those feelings might occur. Dysfunctional communities who are most in need of a change in leadership are the ones least likely to secure the best candidates for directors since the messy politics has poisoned the pool. It takes a tenacious soul ready to jump into shark-infested waters to make a real change.
The foregoing are some of the most common reasons why people avoid board service like the plague. Even if your community is generally a peaceful one, the thought on most directors' and candidates' minds is that the job is a thankless one and it would be better if someone else had time to do it!

4 comments:

  1. Donna,
    I liked your observation about "Fear". I think that there are association owners willing to serve on the board that don't simply because they don't want to look dumb to their peers. A common human condition. I am a strong supporter of training. New board members are challenged with the operations of their association and they don't know what they don't know. Thanks for the great article. Sara Lassila, CPA

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  2. Training is essential as good board members are made not born. That is why we offer a host of training seminars for both current board members and those thinking about joining the board. You can find those classes listed at www.kgblawfirm.com under the How We Help tab.

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  3. Here in BC there are no restrictions about who can serve on the strata council (HOA board). So long as they are an owner, they are eligible. With a bylaw change, we can legally include a class of non-owners, too; such as adult children of owners. This has been great to get enough for the strata council when the majority of the owners are elderly.
    Thanks for the great article!

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  4. Thank you for this article. I have been on my Board for 7 years. I came on the board when I moved in at my interview. No one in my community wants to be on the board and I feel trapped. I do not want to quit and leave my community without a quorom. So thank you for this acknowledgement of board members. We are a rare few who receive no benefits. A condo in Boca Raton.

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