Contributed by Jerry Iverson
It’s time for happy homeowners to speak up about their community association experiences.
A legislative committee in North Carolina has been examining the need for potential reform to community association laws. The committee has done an admirable job collecting input from all involved stakeholders—homeowners, board members, community association managers, attorneys, and others who could be impacted by updates to state laws.
As a few loud complaints receive attention in legislative hearings and in the media, I hope members of the North Carolina House Select Committee on Homeowners’ Associations also look at the overall satisfaction of the homeowners who live in successful, vibrant communities. It’s a reminder for happy homeowners in North Carolina as well as others states around the country—particularly when legislative updates are being considered—to share our perspectives too.
I live in a homeowners association, and I find it a great place to call home. I care about the community, and I care about my neighbors. I want to see the entire community—as well as each individual owner—succeed. I want my community to be safe, clean, and attractive. I want to see our property values grow.
I volunteered to run for and was elected to my community’s board of directors. I served on the board for nine years with seven of those years as president. It was a great experience and, as a board member, I quickly learned the importance of the role as well as the challenges associated with it.
In North Carolina, more than 2.8 million people live in 1.2 million homes in nearly 14,900 community associations, according to the 2023 National and State Statistical Review for Community Association Data, published by the Foundation for Community Association Research. Some complaints are inevitable, but when 67% of residents rate their association experience as positive and another 22% rate it as neutral, those are excellent approval numbers. The Foundation’s 2022 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, conducted independently by Zogby Analytics, also shows that 74% of residents oppose additional regulation of community associations.
It is extremely disappointing to me when state legislators paint homeowners associations and condominiums in overly broad brushes or highlight a stack of complaints about “unscrupulous” boards and management companies.
There are complaints that homeowners have little recourse but to mount expensive lawsuits against their communities. Lawsuits are time-consuming, tear at the fabric of the community, and cost individual homeowners money. Most associations attempt to resolve issues through communication and alternative dispute resolution.
Others complain that homeowners do not have enough of a voice in how their communities are governed and operated. In my experience, homeowners always have a voice. They can become fully informed of the covenants, rules and regulations, and other governing documents. They can volunteer for leadership roles. They can communicate with their elected board members—their neighbors. They can attend board meetings, vote on important matters, and have the ultimate responsibility to elect the board members.
While serving my community, I’ve learned that the homeowners who live here and those who serve as board members each have a role to play. Homeowners need to understand their community’s rules and regulations. They need to pay timely assessments to fund association operations. They should attend board meetings and be informed about the community.
Elected board members are responsible for meeting the expectations of their neighbors and protecting property values. Board members protect the community’s financial health by using effective management practices and sound business principles. They have a legal and ethical obligation to enforce the association’s governing documents and abide by all applicable laws. They should seek an effective balance between the preferences of individual residents and the collective rights of homeowners.
I recognize that not every homeowner understands their individual responsibilities. This lack of understanding could be resolved by associations doing a better job of communicating with homeowners before a home is purchased, when they move in, and continuously throughout their residency in the community.
I recognize that not every board member understands their responsibilities or does not operate within established best practices. Some communities need to do a better job setting up board members for success. CAI has terrific publications and educational materials for homebuyers, owners, board members, community managers, and other professionals who support communities.
I don’t believe the state needs to add more complexity or expense to the role of homeowner volunteers through onerous requirements. I’m confident that most of the current complaints can be resolved through better communication and education about the roles and responsibilities of homeowners and board members.
Happy homeowners have a voice that matters in the legislative process. Let’s use it.
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Jerry Iverson is a member of the CAI North Carolina Legislative Action Committee and a past president of the St. James Property Owners Association in Southport, N.C.
FEB. 6, 2 P.M. ET
Community Conversation Live: Free for CAI members
Advocacy and community empowerment play a pivotal role in influencing policy and legislation on the state and federal levels. Grassroots action by community associations can address systemic issues, mobilize resources, build robust networks, promote accountability, and foster sustainable change.
Join us for an enlightening session where you’ll hear compelling stories featuring successful advocacy initiatives. Gain valuable insights, learn practical tips, and discover effective strategies to actively engage with lawmakers and strengthen the influence of the community association housing model. Happy homeowners, board members, community managers, and professional partners: Speak up!