Education is often overlooked in condominium and homeowners associations, but it is vital.
The question, “What matters most in your association?” will most likely be answered differently depending on whether it is answered by an owner or a board member. The difference in focus is related directly to one’s level of involvement and understanding of the operations of a residential association. Having said that, it seems obvious that someone needs to address the disparity; since owners represent the pool of candidates for the board, it behooves us all to act on this sooner than later.
Oftentimes, board members who have been around for a long time can dilute the value of years of knowledge and history by dismissing “new” ideas promulgated by owners at meetings or newly elected to the board, with the age old phrase “We tried that before and it doesn’t work.” No one likes to be summarily dismissed in that manner and sometimes things change; what didn’t work before might be just the ticket this time around. In this case, knowledge is history but not necessarily association policy.
On the other side of the coin, we have eager owners elected to a board with the mission to change almost everything, without realizing that some things are essentially set in stone. For instance, due dates for assessments – it really wouldn’t work to abolish all due dates and late fees even though the economy is screaming for relief for those who’ve experienced job loss. Without its lifeblood of assessment income, the association simply cannot operate. In this case, lack of knowledge can result in conflict due to misguided intentions and efforts.
Who is at fault for rampant naiveté? The board? The individual owners? The management company? Where can the finger be pointed? Likely it can be pointed in every direction mentioned and more! The key is correction of the issue, the issue being the most essential factor in any association- knowledge!
Everyone involved in an association has an obligation to do his or her best to be informed. Those “in charge” should take responsibility to make available all the information and tools that will assist the uninformed to become informed. This effort needs to be ongoing, not just a flash in the pan effort once every few years. Much time and effort can be conserved if everyone involved has a basic working knowledge of how associations are required to operate. Basic knowledge will also reduce discord and misunderstandings between owners, the board, and the management company.
The professionals in the industry such as management companies, attorneys, and CPAs, should all make a concerted effort not to just answer the questions with the facts, but to explain in a manner that educates. Imagine a world where everyone in every community association clearly understood everything about their rules, obligations, etc. – what a copacetic community we would have!
Prepared by: Christine Evans, CMCA®, PCAM®Share