Before seeking a board seat, the best candidates should improve their readiness for service, and can:
Read the governing documents at least once
The governing documents are the framework (along with applicable laws) within which the board must operate. Familiarize yourself with these important documents. Most likely, the majority of the neighbors have not read them. Take particular care in reviewing the use restrictions in the CC&Rs, and carefully read all the HOA rules. One of the main tasks as a director is not only to enforce and implement those documents but also to educate and inform the neighbors, most of whom will not be familiar with the “do’s and don’ts.”
CAI is the only nationally respected resource for homeowners, promoting better community governance and prepared volunteers.
Read CAI’s free introductory publications
“Introduction to Community Association Living,” “From Good To Great,” and “Rights and Responsibilities for Better Association Communities,” available at www.caionline.org/homeownerleaders.
Take advantage of CAI’s board training courses
All CAI chapters offer free or low-cost courses training volunteers to better serve their communities, including a 3-hour “Basic Board Education” course, and the “Essentials of Community Leadership,” an all-day course. The Orange County Chapter offers its “Community Leadership Training Program.” Also offered annually is the California Law Course for CID Managers, an 8-hour course. The CAI headquarters also offers a four-hour interactive online seminar, called the “Board Leadership Development Workshop, accessed at www.caionline.org/bldw.
Understand the business judgment rule
The business judgment rule separates careful board members from liability for the decisions they make while governing the association. Learn the boundaries of that rule. Even well-intentioned directors can step outside of the rule, exposing themselves to the danger of personal liability.
Attend at least four board meetings
Become familiar with board meeting procedures, and observe the issues currently being addressed. This also demonstrates to the sitting directors that one is interested in the association’s governance and will invest the time to listen and learn.
Talk to the manager
The manager may not be able to talk to everyone interested in board service, so be sensitive to their time. Managers may not endorse or oppose any board candidate (their ethics bar it), but can tell someone what they think makes a good director.
Read the HOA budget
All too often, candidates for the board campaign on a platform that “assessments are too high” without ever bothering to read the budget. It is easy but unfair to trumpet this preconceived notion. Study the budget and see where the association’s money goes before passing judgment on the current board and manager.
Read the most recent reserve study
Is the association financially solvent? If the board has been reluctant to budget realistically, repairs might be deferred, and the board may have suspended reserve account deposits. An association with inadequate reserves may be effectively insolvent if the association does not have funds for major common area component repairs or refurbishment.
Avoid predetermined agendas
Initial assumptions may be wrong. Board candidates often run on platforms sounding great but based on inadequate information. The sitting board almost always has much more involvement and information than non-directors. Avoid making promises before learning if the promises are reasonable.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.