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Community boards; an opportunity to serve

By Joe Gschwendtner

Responsible Americans are quite vocal about their frustrations with government dysfunction and unaccountability at all levels. Despite this, a scant few participate in government at its root levels in community associations. Too many talented people remain unengaged, regardless of a desperate need for them.

Homeowner associations are brought to you by your real estate developer whose primary purpose is to market, sell, and manage real estate in a residential subdivision. Until the community reaches completion, the developer controls voting rights and acts in his own interests. Once the project approaches completion, the corporate structure allows for a transfer of financial and legal responsibility to the homeowners. Each home buyer becomes a member automatically as a condition of purchase.

Mandatory covenants and deed restrictions are generally to the homeowners’ benefit when drawn up properly and observed. Who wouldn’t want real estate values of all members enhanced? Who doesn’t want to ensure that the neighborhood is uniformly maintained in a tasteful, prescribed fashion? No one wants a camper van up on cinder blocks in a neighbor’s backyard or garbage put out on the streets three days early.

There is also the issue of collecting dues and disbursing funds according to an operations plan and budget. When the snows fly, who follows up with the company that does the plowing? How about landscaping in common areas? Who designs this year’s garden and the plants used in it? Who pays the bills? Is there a paid manager or do homeowners volunteer as segment managers? Is your HOA functioning properly?

Success rests with a board that provides even-handed oversight to management and vendors who deliver service through the four seasons. The essence is not just in the details, but also in the methods and the style of the elected board members.

Many associations struggle mightily with strong personalities when recruiting efforts fail to convince capable, public-spirited, and fair people to serve. Since board members have the power to enforce covenants and raise monthly dues, it is essential they be chosen wisely and held accountable through minutes of publicly-noticed board and membership meetings.

Next time a board or committee position comes available in your community, think carefully before you politely decline. HOA service can be a marvelous opportunity to influence decisions affecting the pride and flavor of your community while simultaneously enhancing the value of one of your major investments. Caution: difficult people need not apply.



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