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Published July 09, 2024

Why Your HOA Board Needs Strategic Partnerships

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Homeowners associations (HOAs) serve as the backbone of community living, ensuring order, resource management and protection of collective interests. At the heart of these associations are HOA board members, entrusted with pivotal responsibilities that shape community governance. This guide offers a detailed look at the complex duties and obligations essential to their roles.

Educational Foundation

The journey of an HOA board member begins with a commitment to continuous learning and comprehensive understanding. Beyond familiarity with governing documents, board members dive into historical viewpoints, evolving legal frameworks and state statutes governing community associations.

HOA board membership entails a perpetual quest for knowledge and collaboration. Staying abreast of legal developments, best practices and emerging trends is crucial.

Legal counsel serves as an indispensable ally, providing insights and strategic guidance to navigate regulatory complexities. Collaboration with legal experts, financial advisors, insurance partners and industry professionals fosters informed decision-making and proactive risk mitigation.

Maintenance and Financial Planning

Central to effective HOA management is the delicate balance between maintaining communal infrastructure and prudent financial stewardship. Board members shoulder the responsibility of prioritizing maintenance tasks, allocating financial resources and safeguarding the long-term financial health of the association.

Proactive planning, informed decision making and strategic budgeting are vital tools in mitigating risks and ensuring asset sustainability. It’s vital to work with partners who understand the unique needs of your role as a board member of an HOA. Gregory & Appel Insurance has provided traditional insurance and alternative risk management solutions for timeshare resorts, HOAs, property managers and exchange companies throughout the US and Mexico since 1989. Learn about G&A’s approach to the timeshare industry in the video below.

Fiduciary Duty and Decision Making

As custodians of homeowners’ collective interests, board members are bound by a fiduciary duty to act with unwavering integrity, transparency and diligence. Upholding ethical standards and fostering inclusive decision making processes are imperative for building trust within the community.

Risk Management and Insurance

In an ever-evolving landscape loaded with potential liabilities, risk management assumes paramount importance in HOA governance. Board members must adopt a proactive approach to identify, assess and mitigate risks, safeguarding homeowner interests and protecting the association from legal liabilities.

Adequate insurance coverage, including Directors and Officers Liability insurance, offers a vital safety net.

Governance’s Role in Risk Prevention

Board members who grasp governing documents are better equipped to prevent potential Directors and Officers (D&O) claims. D&O insurance is a form of liability insurance that protects individuals from personal losses if they are sued as a result of serving as a director or an officer of a business or other type of organization, such as a timeshare HOA. It can also help cover the legal fees and other costs the organization may incur as a result of such a lawsuit.

Board members can be held personally liable for their management decisions or actions taken in their capacity as directors of the association. Since they are responsible for making decisions that affect the timeshare and its owners, there is an inherent risk of disputes, allegations of mismanagement, or breach of fiduciary duties.

D&O insurance is designed to protect board members from legal liability and financial loss should they be wrongfully sued for actions taken within the scope of their board duties, ensuring that they will not be personally out of pocket for legal defenses or potential settlements related to their board activities.

Prioritizing collective welfare and selflessly serving communities lay the foundation for effective risk prevention and governance.

Embracing Collaboration

Effective risk management and governance rely on collaboration among board members. Embracing educational opportunities and seeking expert guidance empower board members to make informed decisions and navigate governance complexities with confidence.

Best Practices

Do:

  1. Understand your role
  2. Influence rather than manipulate
  3. Manage expectations
  4. Prioritize effective communication
  5. Continuously improve your skills
  6. Read, understand and follow your governing documents (CC&Rs, by laws, articles of incorporation, rules and regulations, resolutions)
  7. Create a Code of Ethics

Don’t:

  1. Display unprofessional behavior
  2. Vehemently disagree with board decisions
  3. Engage in self-serving operations
  4. Allow political influences
  5. Breach confidentiality
  6. Conduct disorderly meetings
  7. Neglect policy adherence
  8. Misplace priorities

Industry Standards

In this section, we’ll cover five significant industry standards for which effective destination property and timeshare boards must have a strategy.

Education

It’s imperative for HOAs to establish a comprehensive orientation program for new directors and officers, complemented by ongoing education initiatives. Directors and officers must possess a deep understanding of not only the HOA’s operational history but also the intricate details of the resort property’s past, including any legal challenges it has faced.

Given the dynamic nature of factual and legal conditions impacting HOAs, continuous education is paramount. Directors and officers must stay abreast of evolving regulations and industry best practices to effectively fulfiII their duties. It’s essential to recognize that directors and officers may face personal liability for wrongful conduct, irrespective of their tenure. Therefore, comprehensive education ensures they are fully informed about all property activities and potential risks, mitigating the likelihood of legal liabilities.

Adhering to Association Bylaws and State Legislation

Each board member must familiarize themselves with the specific sections of state law applicable to HOAs, ensuring strict adherence to regulations governing condominium associations, if applicable.

Additionally, board members must faithfully adhere to the governing documents of the association, recognizing them as legally binding contracts among homeowners. While conflicts between governing documents and state statutes may arise, adherence to both is nonnegotiable.

In situations where conflicts occur, seeking professional assistance is prudent to navigate complex legal nuances and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

Implementation and Application of Regulations

The board has a duty to uniformly enforce governing documents against owners and residents, maintaining the integrity of the community’s regulations.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that certain actions may not clearly violate governing documents, necessitating the board’s discretion in interpretation.

To supplement enforcement efforts, the board must adopt comprehensive rules and regulations, providing clarity and guidance to residents. Enforcement actions should prioritize encouraging compliance rather than punitive measures, with legal action reserved as a last resort. By fostering a culture of proactive compliance and transparent communication, the board can effectively uphold community standards while minimizing potential legal liabilities.

Advocating for the Collective Interests of Homeowners

As stewards of homeowner interests, the board is responsible for addressing matters that impact the community, including claims against developers, tax relief and property rights negotiations.

Amendments to governing documents, easements and property insurance must be meticulously managed by the board on behalf of the association and its members. By prioritizing transparency, accountability, and advocacy, the board can effectively safeguard the collective interests of homeowners while promoting the long-term sustainability of the community.

Recordkeeping Practices

While the board makes decisions on behalf of homeowners, it’s essential to recognize that the association belongs to the homeowners themselves, who have a right to full transparency and access to information.

The board must maintain detailed records encompassing various aspects of HOA governance, including governing documents, meeting minutes, financial records and insurance policies. These records should be readily accessible to homeowners for proper review and consistent with applicable legal requirements.

By prioritizing transparency and accountability in recordkeeping practices, the board can foster trust and confidence among homeowners while mitigating potential legal risks. Homeowners should have reasonable access to these books and records for a proper purpose and consistent with the requirements of applicable law.

HOA board members play a pivotal role in shaping the future of their communities. Through continuous learning, collaboration, and unwavering dedication, they navigate governance complexities with confidence, ensuring the prosperity, cohesion and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

How to Prevent D&O Claims

Unlike many other types of insurance, D&O claims are largely preventable. By following the practices outlined in this article, the HOA and its board members can significantly reduce the risk of a claim or be well prepared to defend against one if it arises.


Learn More About Risk Management for Destination Properties

Don’t miss the other entries in this series:

Why Are Insurance Premiums for Timeshares So High?

How Timeshare Associations Can Navigate Increasing Premiums

How HOAs and Management Companies Can Optimize the Insurance Bidding Process

Is the Timeshare Insurance Market Softening?


This content is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. Gregory & Appel is neither a law firm nor a tax advisor; information in all Gregory & Appel materials is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal or tax advice.

This content originally appeared in TimeSharing Today in summer 2024.