Sunday, November 1, 2009

HOA board member volunteers need schooling

Freakishly fit kid
gets Guinness record
Current community and homeowner association board members who want to enforce the rules with a soft touch; committee members who want to pitch in; residents who aspire to leadership positions and others who just want to know why they can't make up rules, all need this course.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com
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Deadline Newsroom - On-the-job training is fine, until "it" hits and you haven't learned how to turn off the fan.

If you've ever been elected or appointed to a homeowners association's (HOA) board of directors (BOD) you know the drill.

The volunteer position can be both non-paying and thankless, replete with whining, anarchistic members, an ineffectual management company, and other board members behave more like zombies than concerned property owners.

It's an ugly job, but somebody has to do it.

If you and other residents don't step forward, law may dictate that outsiders take over.

While you have the option of learning as you go, OJT doesn't really cut it if you want to be a viable board member who is more proactive than reactive.

That's why the Community Associations Institute (CAI) has launched a free online learning course anyone can attend -- and you don't have to wait until you are in the hot seat to sign up.

CAI's six-part, self-paced "Board Member Basics" (BMB) requires only online computer access, a portable document format (PDF) reader and your time.

Current HOA (also called "community associations," "common interest developments" and others) board members who want to enforce the rules with a soft touch; committee members who want to pitch in; residents who aspire to leadership positions and others who just want know why they can't make up rules can all take the course.

More than 60 million Americans live in an estimated 300,000 association-governed communities. At least 1.8 million homeowner volunteer leaders serve on the elected boards that govern these associations. Hundreds of thousands more support their associations in other ways, including serving on committees, writing newsletters and maintaining community websites, according to CAI.

While local jurisdictions regulate governance specific to given associations, CAI's course offers principles and standards typically shared by all associations.

"Virtually all association-governed communities share common characteristics and core principles," says CAI President Edward D. Thomas.

"Basic standards and best practices apply to any association and every homeowner leader. Homeowner leaders who complete this learning program take with them a better understanding of how associations should function and the knowledge and perspective to help them lead their communities," Thomas adds.

BMB offers the following

• Model Code of Ethics
-- Board authority, decision-making, conflicts of interest, elections, confidentiality, professional relationships, harassment, etc.

• Community Association Fundamentals -- A primer on the basic nature of common-interest communities.

• Rights and Responsibilities -- Forty-two principles and practices to help promote a sustained sense of community by reducing conflict and promoting responsible citizenship and effective leadership.

• Governance Guidelines
-- Twelve principles that address potentially contentious components of association management and governance, including rules, grievances and appeals, assessments, elections and foreclosure.

• Introduction to Community Association Living -- A two-hour program that addresses the roles and functions of community associations, including providing services, managing physical assets, working with governing documents and advocating for fellow homeowners.

• Fundamentals of Community Volunteering -- Operations, association management, roles and responsibilities, contracting, meetings and more.

"With all of their inherent advantages, common-interest communities can face complicated issues," says Marilyn Brainard, chair of CAI's Community Association Volunteers Committee.

"Serving on an association board is a challenging responsibility with infinite opportunities for mistakes and missteps. This education program will help board members avoid situations that often create discontent, strife and, in some cases, costly litigation."

You are on the honor system, but complete the program and you get a "Statement of Completion - Board Member Basics."

CAI notes the program is a "voluntary, non-verified learning program. Individuals who represent that they have reviewed and understand this information do so
on the honor system."

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group, including DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site, and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop.

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