By Damien Bielli, Vial Fotheringham
The annual meeting has concluded, and you find yourself on the Board of Directors of your community association. What now? Hopefully, the association has an orientation process in place to help new board members assimilate into a governing role in the community. If not, here are some helpful tips for board members:
If an association email address is not provided to a board member, create one. A separate and distinguishable email address for community association business is necessary for continuity of board communication and protection of personal email content.
Read and know your governing documents. The origin of association authority, its limitations, and permissible conduct comes directly from the association’s governing documents and applicable state and federal law. CCIOA (Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act) provides the statutory guidance for many associations with restrictions on governance that must be taken into consideration by acting board members.
The importance of knowing your governing documents cannot be understated. Board members should understand the hierarchy of governing documents and laws that regulate the association. At the highest level, the association must act in accordance with federal and state law. However, usually the most important and most relevant tool for governing an association is the declaration. A declaration, also known as the CC&Rs, is the primary governing document that creates the rights and obligations of owners in a homeowner’s association. This document provides a blueprint for the authority granted to the association, as well as its obligations to homeowners. As a board member, it is imperative that you are familiar with the declaration’s contents. Bylaws govern the operations of the association. Items such as board elections, meetings, voting and board member responsibilities are a few of the items bylaws may govern. Board members should be familiar with how the association is run so its operation does not run afoul of the stated procedures within the bylaws.
Board members also must remain knowledgeable of all aspects of association finances, including reserves, expenditures, assets, and budgets. As soon as is practicable, a new board member should request to review the finances and request clarification if necessary. This ensures that the new board member is speaking, acting, and voting from an informed position.
It is also wise to for board members to continually educate themselves about issues occurring outside the meeting room by walking the property, talking to members, talking to the manager, and participating in all meetings. This gives each board member an opportunity to see, hear, and discover issues within the community before they become a problem.
Finally, document, document, document. Failure to document is an association’s and, similarly, a board member’s Achilles’ heel. While a board member may have acted promptly, prudently, and in accordance with the governing documents, failure to produce documentation to that effect is difficult to explain and usually results in trouble for the association. Any documentation received by the association, especially opinions of experts (attorneys, contractors, accountants, etc.) should be shared with every board member and retained and filed where easily accessible. The board is entitled to rely on the opinion of experts in its decision-making and, therefore, should retain the opinion as evidence of good faith.
Having the right tools can ensure that being a Board member can be a rewarding and beneficial experience.