What Does Your HOA Board Need?
“Unfortunately, in this particular economic age, a lot of communities are struggling to find anyone willing to serve,” says Dennis J. Eisinger, a partner at Eisinger, Brown, Lewis & Frankel PA in Hollywood, Fla., who currently represents more than 500 condo and HOA associations. “So they don’t have a choice on whom to appoint.”
If you’re lucky enough to be in an association with ample volunteers, there are several philosophies on appointing new board members. Eisinger suggests you appoint with an eye toward balance. “Consider a balance of personalities on the board,” he says. “You don’t want anyone who feels the same way as everybody else. Also consider a balance in areas of expertise. If you can be lucky enough to find someone who’s an accountant, an insurance agent, an attorney, or an engineer, that would be tremendous so you have more expertise when decisions related to those areas have to be made.”
Matthew A. Drewes, a partner at Thomsen & Nybeck PA in Edina, Minn., who represents associations, has a slightly different take. “That’s a hard question to answer in the abstract,” he says. “But I think boards should think about the leadership qualities that are important to the association at that time. If the past board member has left because of some contentious issue or there are factions forming in the association, you might want somebody who’s more of a consensus builder. At the same time, if there’s been a problem that has plagued the association for lack of somebody taking firm action, you may want to choose someone more decisive. It’s going to depend on the association’s need at that time, and board members should think really honestly about what they need.”
Other boards are simply practical. “A lot of times, boards will go back to the last election and see who got the next highest amount of votes,” says Robert White, managing director of KW Property Management & Consulting in Miami, which oversees about 135 associations totaling 30,000-35,000 units. “They’ll also look to people who are active, not investors who aren’t in the community as often. You want a board member who’s going to attend meetings and take on responsibilities. Does the person live in the community? Does he come to meetings? Is he active? Does he have the community in his best interest, or is he always there for his own agenda, like people who own multiple units and are always trying to get rental rules changed?”
Appointment Rules to Live By
Here’s a list of other factors to keep in mind when making an appointment.
1. Don’t delegate. “It’s definitely the board’s responsibility to appoint that missing board member,” says White. “It’s not the job of the management company or manager.”
2. Be wary of appointing friends. “It’s is not always wise to simply appoint friends or buddies of existing directors, especially where the past director resigned due to any contentious issue or under any air of concern for the actions of the current board,” says Drewes. “If there’s a close friend or family member of the exiting board, I’m not saying you can’t do it. But you should have the existing board member who has the connection to the candidate recuse himself from consideration of that person. You don’t want to create a new issue for yourself after just appointing a new board member.”
3. Look for apolitical owners. “Probably most important, and it usually doesn’t work this way, is to get apolitical people instead of political people,” says Eisinger. “One of the problems is fragmented boards and communities. If you can get people who try to shy away from the politics and instead focus on the issues, that would be an advantage.”
4. If your board is divided, you may need legal help. “If you have an odd-numbered board and one person resigns leaving a divided board with an even number of votes on each side and they can’t come to a conclusion on whom to appoint,” says White, “that’d be something we’d approach the attorney about.”