Let’s imagine that you are one of those dedicated individuals that care about your community and want to help it improve (the chances are very good if you are taking the time to read this magazine). You realize that the best way to serve is to volunteer your time and effort to meet the needs of your homeowner’s association. You see the request from your association for nominations, suffer through a contentious campaign, and prevail to become an elected director on your association’s board. After a brief celebration with your friends and neighbors, you realize something.

Now what?

It is not enough to have the drive and desire to be a director on your Board. You need the skills and the knowledge to make the right decisions and avoid the wrong ones. So where do you start?

Governing Documents

The first step should be looking at the association’s governing documents (Articles, CC&Rs, Bylaws and Rules). These documents are the essential elements of successful management.

The CC&Rs will lay out the major maintenance responsibilities and duties of the association: assessments, collections, common area, etc. The Bylaws will give the board a roadmap on how to administer and govern consistent with its corporate duties: meetings, notice, minutes, elections, etc. The Rules will specify how the board can approach day-to-day living and enforcement of association authority: common area use, discipline, etc. 

Every association will have different needs and duties that should be laid out in your documents, so it is not enough to know generally what information is located where. A director must be familiar with these documents before he or she can effectively carry out those duties.

Davis-Stirling Act

The second major source of information will be California state law. For homeowners and associations, that means the Civil Code beginning with Section 1350, otherwise known as the Davis-Stirling Act. This body of law will enhance, and in some cases substitute, the director’s duties and authority under the governing documents.

As an example, changes that affect every board and association would be in Senate Bill 563. One provision prohibits boards from making decisions by email, unless in cases of emergencies. Another requires additional notice for executive sessions. If you are not up on these changes, the board’s authority to act or enforce could be called into question.

The law is updated regularly, so a good director will find a way to stay on top of the changes. Sometimes that means making changes to their governing documents that no longer reflect the law. Sometimes it means finding someone who can help you navigate the changes.

Industry Groups and Vendors

In essence, associations are their own communities with varied needs. To be a successful director, you need to be able to handle a wide variety of issues with competence. As volunteers, that means relying on professionals for input and guidance.

Being a member of a group like CAI can be a valuable resource for information. Not only does membership give you access to vendors suited directly to your communities’ needs, it also provides regular valuable tools and education. Everything from monthly luncheons dedicated to relevant topics facing associations, to links to most recent legislation, to mediation services, to workshops for new Boards to cover all of the above. A quick search can provide the answers to many of the questions facing new directors. Visit the website to find the latest at www.cai-glac.org. 

While the directors make the final decision, an informed decision should be based on acquiring the basic knowledge from qualified professionals: managers, attorneys, vendors, etc. Taking the time to learn more from the dedicated professionals serving your community could save you time and headaches.

Homeowners

Finally, new directors should keep in mind the most important aspect of their job; their neighbors.

The most valuable assets of an Association are its homeowners. Directors who can utilize their homeowners while conducting business will find their duties easier to fulfill. Remember that the primary duty that directors must fulfill is taking action in the best interest of the association and its homeowners. The most that a new director can hope for is an informed and interested community. When directors engage their equally volunteer homeowners, they will find extremely valuable resources. Directors that ignore their homeowners will find themselves the object of suspicion and mistrust.

Don’t forget that the law requires associations to receive and consider input from the homeowners; requires financial and informative disclosures; and requires regular open board meetings to conduct business. Boards that do not meet these basic obligations will not only be in conflict with the law, but will also be in danger of misusing their homeowners’ willingness to participate in serving their community.

 

Written by Matt D. Ober

Matt D. Ober Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Principal of Richardson|Ober|DeNichilo.