6 ways to encourage better interaction between the board and homeowners
So many problems in an HOA happen because of poor communication between the board and owners. Misinformation or misunderstandings can easily turn into serious conflicts, so every HOA board must develop a strategy to help facilitate better understanding. Here are six ways to encourage better communication within your HOA.
1. Communication begins before the SOLD sign appears
Good communication is not something you should leave until after a home is sold. Start building a relationship with potential buyers by creating an informational packet they can consider before the purchase. This will help prospective homeowners understand the purpose of your association and how it works for them.
The packet should include:
- A brochure or booklet with information about the association
- A short review of the association documents and any information you are required to disclose based on local/state statutes
- Information on how they can become involved and have a say in the association
2. Welcome new homeowners
Once a new homeowner joins the community, it’s important to give them all the information they need to learn more about the association. A welcome letter or packet is essential.
The welcome packet should include:
- Explanation of HOA responsibilities based on Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R)
- Name of HOA board members, management company, or community manager and how homeowners can get in touch with them
- A list of documents homeowners should have gotten during the closing
- A map of the property with locations of amenities and facilities like the pool, clubhouse, fitness center, mailboxes, playgrounds, guard gates, and entrance/exits
- Explain the annual HOA assessments and how they work
- Schedule of board meetings and policies explaining when association members can attend
3. Follow the rules of communication
HOA governing documents such as your bylaws and policies and procedures manual outlines the requirements for communicating association business to your members. Often, the rules have been established because of local or state regulations. Fail to follow them and the board could face serious consequences.
Association business might include:
- Updating homeowners about vendor selection or changes
- Updating homeowners about policy or rules changes
- Matters that require a vote from the association members
- Voting for new board members
- Alerting members about schedules and agendas for general meetings and board meetings
- Presenting the budget, financial, and audit statements as required by law
4. Establish consistent communications
Consistency is the key to effective communication. If association members only hear from you sporadically, they may assume the board is trying to hide something. Deliver relevant information on a consistent basis whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Be sure to include only relevant information that association members need to know about.
You should also utilize more than one means of communication. From printed newsletters, emails, and phone calls to text messages and community bulletin boards, when choosing methods of communication, be mindful of the unique qualities of your community. The needs of people living in a retirement village will be completely different than a community of young professionals. If your community is in an area that has seasonal residents — such as snowbirds or condo owners who live outside the country — you will have to develop different ways of communicating with them.
5. Be social
Take advantage of social media as a communications tool. Create a private group on Facebook where you can post messages for members. This also allows them to communicate with the board or community manager. You can utilize platforms like Twitter and Instagram to highlight new projects, like the construction of a new pool, or communicate about changes.
You can also have a public page to highlight and market your community to prospective homeowners.
It’s important to establish a social media strategy, which should include the following:
- Who will manage the social media accounts?
- What channels will you use?
- How often will you post?
- What are the “rules of engagement” on social media?
- Who will monitor comments?
- How will you handle comments or negative feedback?
6. Determine communication strategies for handling emergencies
Emergencies will happen. It might only affect your community, or it could be a weather-related event that impacts the entire city. Be prepared for such events, especially when it comes to natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or blizzards. Today, you also must consider how you would communicate around potentially violent acts.
It is essential that your community develop an emergency communications plan:
- How will you get in touch with members to disseminate information?
- Who oversees communicating to members?
- How will you communicate with the management company or community manager?
- Who oversees contacting vendors during emergencies?
- What is the chain of command?
- Who should homeowners contact if they have questions?
- What happens if you can’t communicate because the phone or Internet service is down?
- What are the community’s responsibilities and what are the members’ responsibilities?
Communicate your way to a stronger community
Never underestimate the power of good communication in developing stronger relationships with association members. These six tips will help establish principles that will enable everything to run smoothly and with minimal conflict.
You also need to ensure the effective hiring and management of vendors who provide services for your community. VendorSmart can help you in a number of ways, from vetting vendors to risk and compliance management. Contact us to get started.