With all the responsibilities that come with living within a homeowners association, it only makes sense that some of the tasks would be split up among its members. Wise boards and management understand the value of delegation and put their heads together to either appoint or elect special committees within an HOA to handle certain responsibilities and improve their community’s quality of life.
Responsibility must be delegated so that the business of the condominium or co-op development is conducted in a proper manner. And it’s important that committee members be the right people for the job. In HOA communities, committees handle everything from what kinds of mailboxes residents may choose, how the association should invest its reserve funds, or how to establish rules to determine when to take action on various improvements, additions and repairs.
Enforcing the Rules
There is anywhere from a couple to a dozen different kinds of committees in any kind of HOA. The number and nature of committees depends greatly on the size of the building or community. There are at least two committees, however, that can always be found within any HOA. These are the covenant committee and the architecture/landscaping committee. Both of these groups are essential to the upkeep of the buildings on the property and the “upkeep” of residents as well.
The covenant committee serves as the rule enforcement branch of the HOA board, and if you desire to work on this committee, get ready to be busy—this group’s work is never done. Some of the jobs that the covenant committee takes on include finding outside counsel for preliminary work on issues like nonpayment of assessments or violation of association rules. The covenant committee acts as the judiciary for cases involving violations or infractions of rules and makes recommendations to the board; it can also issue fines.
If you’d rather plant flowers than help enforce rules, perhaps your association’s landscaping/architecture committee is more your style. This committee is one that most HOAs can’t do without. Choices need to be made about the appearance and subsequent maintenance of any common area in a community or building, and such areas need to be kept looking nice. Association members serving on this kind of committee have a lot to do. From shrub planting and flower selection to contracting landscaping services, there’s a never-ending list of tasks.
For the Good of All
There are other committees, of course, depending on the nature and needs of a given association. Most HOAs have a welcome committee to help new homeowners get acclimated to their new community, and some have playground and social/recreation committees, or even communication committees that help distribute information among shareholders. Playground and social/recreation committees concern themselves with equipment placement and purchase, organizing activities and social events and parties, like New Year’s galas, or Easter egg hunts for the kids, and accept responsibility for the cleanup, too.
Communication committees keep everyone informed of all business within the association—including reports about what the other committees have been up to—usually through a newsletter and/or website. When a new resident moves in, when new planters are purchased for the lawn, when fees increase or when a board meeting is approaching, the communication committee lets members know about it. More and more HOAs are utilizing the Web for the dissemination of information as well, since the information can be updated constantly for a fraction of the price of having something printed.
There are more benefits to an array of well appointed, involved committees, of course; some of which are less tangible than a party or a newsletter. Involvement in community affairs strengthens the bonds that hold an association together, and make for a friendlier, more close-knit community.
Before you get to organizing your HOA committees, according to property manager Carol Paul, author of a Community Associations Institute (CAI) report titled, Revitalizing Apathetic Communities, it’s important to get some things worked out first. She cautions that committees “must separate projects into manageable portions that can be completed in relatively short periods of time.” Every committee must have a charter, which clearly specifies the committee’s name, purpose, responsibilities, term, number of members, selection of members, committee organization, relationship to the board of directors and relationship to management.
Though often overlooked as a reason for the lack of involvement, many association members may not be taking an active role simply because they have never been approached by anyone.
CAI also has some suggestions for making initial contact with newcomers. Along with welcome packages, committees can let new members know what projects the board is working on and ask what most interests them. Offering an array of options to people is another way to inspire involvement. CAI recommends looking for ways to expand committees to include new faces and new ideas.
Going to board meetings and getting involved in a committee makes sense on many levels. Not only does it reward the individual with the knowledge that one is making life better for many, it has its “political” value, as well. If you are looking to serve on a board of directors or run for office one day, a long-standing committee position can’t hurt.
So whether you’re new to your association and just want to meet people and get involved, or you’ve got your eye on a seat on the board, take a look at your association’s committee structure and see how you can get involved. Everyone benefits from the work of these groups, and their work makes communities stronger.