A community association is no better than the board of directors that leads it. If an association is to be excellent, willing volunteers must be developed. 

Excellent board members understand that their position is one of service rather than control. They serve their neighbors; they don’t supervise them. A service-forward attitude results in a less defensive perspective in which new ideas and opinions are welcomed and not perceived as insults or threats. 

Before seeking a board seat, the best candidates improve their readiness for the position. They should: 

Read the governing documents at least once. The governing documents are the framework (along with applicable laws) within which the board must operate. 

Join CAI and take advantage of all its resources. CAI is the only respected resource in the U.S. and around the world for homeowners to better understand effective community governance. CAI offers excellent introductory publications, training courses to better serve your community, and both online and in-person workshops 

Understand the business judgment rule. The business judgment rule separates careful board members from liability for the decisions they make while governing the association. Learn the boundaries of that rule.  

Attend at least four board meetings. Familiarize yourself with board meeting procedures, and observe the current issues being addressed.  

Talk to the community manager.  The manager may not endorse or oppose any board candidate (ethics bars it), but he or she can tell you what makes a good director. 

Read the annual budget. Study the budget and see where the association’s money goes before you pass judgment on the current board. 

Read the most recent reserve study. If the board has been reluctant to raise assessments in several years, and repairs aren’t being made in the community, the board may have suspended reserve account deposits.  

Avoid predetermined agendas. Board candidates often run on platforms that sound great but are based on inadequate information. The sitting board almost always has much more involvement and information than non-directors, so avoid making promises before you learn if you are right. 

April is National Volunteer Month. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks to volunteering in community associations as well as a look at some of the inspiring work done by homeowner leaders.

  • Kelly Richardson

    Kelly G. Richardson is a senior partner with Richardson | Ober law firm, serving California common-interest communities. He is a CAI past president and a fellow in CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL). Richardson writes a weekly column, HOA Homefront, that educates the public on issues pertaining to California residents living in common-interest developments, their boards of directors, and managers. The column is syndicated in more than a dozen California newspapers.

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