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All community associations have three things in common.
Membership is mandatory. Buying a home in a community association automatically makes you an association member—by law.
Governing documents are binding. Association governing documents can be compared to contracts. They specify the owners’ obligations (following the rules, paying assessments) and the association’s obligations (maintaining common areas, preserving home values).
You could lose your home if you fail to pay assessments. Associations have a legal right to place a lien on your property if you don’t pay assessments.
But, take heart! Associations also have three realities they can’t escape. Associations have an obligation to provide three broad categories of service to residents.
Community services. For example, these can include maintaining a community website, orienting new owners or organizing social activities.
Governance services. For example, establishing and maintaining design review standards, enforcing rules and recruiting new volunteer leaders.
Business services. For example, competitively bidding maintenance work, investing reserve funds responsibly, developing long-range plans and collecting assessments.
By delivering these services fairly and effectively, community associations not only protect and enhance the value of individual homes, but they provide owners an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their community and quality of life. And those are realities we can live with.
In most communities, the Board of Directors through the President has the authority to create and appoint volunteers to various committees. Many times the Board members have to make an effort to recruit fellow neighbors to serve on committees. The following are some suggestions which may benefit your community when using committees to assist the Board in seeking input on issues:
- Create committees with purpose. People want to know what the expectation is of them if they choose to participate. It is the Board’s responsibility to provide clear purpose for each committee they establish. Ensure each committee member understands that they are not decision makers for the community. Their purpose is to provide recommendations to the Board of Directors for consideration. The Board may establish standing committees which are committees that are on-going or ad hoc committees which have a specific task and date for completion. Once the ad hoc’s committee task is complete the committee no longer exists.
- Know if a committee is required. Check your Declaration to understand if specific committees are required for your community. In some situations the Declaration will require and provide purpose for certain committees, for example an Architectural Controls Committee. Other committees can be created by the Board of Directors for specific purposes. For example a Social Committee to propose, produce and facilitate social events for the enjoyment of the community.
- Assign a Board Liaison to be responsible for each committee. The Board Liaison should be willing to attend each committee meeting to act as a resource to the committee. The Board Liaison should not Chair the committee or vote on issues. They should provide input when requested and ensure that the committee remains focused on its purpose as defined by the Board of Directors.
- Require each committee to keep minutes and to report those minutes to their Board Liaison. GA law requires each committee established by a Board of Directors to maintain minutes as an official record of the Association. The Board Liaison should provide a monthly recap (copy of the committee minutes) of the committee activities to all Board members either prior to or during each Board of Directors scheduled meeting. This will keep the entire Board informed of committees’ activities in a timely manner. If your community has a website you could consider posting committee meeting minutes for all residents to view.
- Never deny an Association member in good standing the right to serve on a committee of their choice. This will only create a divide between that person and the Board. We spend enough time working to disprove the perception that Boards are secretive and only allow “their friends” to participate. Denying a willing volunteer participation is not good for the community. The Board should welcome and encourage community volunteers.
- Award committee members for their participation. Public recognition of volunteers builds rapport and may get others to become involved. Communities can do this by recognizing volunteers at the annual meeting, scheduling a volunteer appreciation party, or many other creative ways of showing appreciation for those who volunteer for your community.
- Know when to end a committee. A committee of one is not a committee! If a standing committee, such as a Public Relations Committee, experiences a lack of participation the Board should terminate the committee. To have a committee for the sake of having a committee when no one is participating is useless.
- If a committee is responsible for a budget line item, such as social events. The committee should provide expense recommendations to the Board of Directors for approval. Association funds should not be expended without Board approval and oversight.
Many people find personal satisfaction in volunteering in their community. When establishing committees a Board should provide guidance, leadership and enthusiasm to those who volunteer to serve. Committees are usually a good source for recruitment of new Board members. A community made up of interested volunteers will make for a strong, healthy and happy community for all.
As someone who owns a unit or house in a common-interest community, you have certain rights. You also have certain responsibilities to the association and to other homeowners. These rights and responsibilities are described in the association’s governing documents, which include covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. And by virtue of your ownership, the association—your neighbors and fellow homeowners—presumes you know the governing documents exist and have an idea of what they contain.
As a homeowner, you have the right to:
• Participate in the association board’s decision-making process
• Attend and participate in all membership meetings
• Vote in person or by proxy
• Access association records, financial statements and governing documents
• Use and enjoy common areas (This privilege can be suspended temporarily for unpaid assessments or rules’ violations.)
• Sell your individually owned unit or property
As a homeowner and member of this community, you are obligated to
• Pay your fair share—via regularly scheduled and special assessments—of the costs of operating the association and maintaining common areas. It costs money to pay property taxes, collect the trash, maintain the landscaping and shovel snow from the roads, parking areas and sidewalks.
• Maintain your personal unit or home in accordance with the association’s bylaws and architectural guidelines. Some associations’ rules are more strict about paint colors, yard ornaments and landscaping than others. Be aware of and adhere to what this association’s architectural guidelines prescribe.
• Be respectful of your neighbors and allow them the “quiet enjoyment” of their own individual units or homes. Loud parties, second-hand smoke or outdoor lighting can infringe on your neighbors’ privacy.