10 Ways Board Members Screw Up (And How to Avoid It)

July 26, 2023
Posted in Blog
July 26, 2023 Sasha Cancél

From their humble 19th-century beginnings to becoming a formidable pillar of modern suburban living, Homeowners Associations have witnessed a remarkable evolution. Born after the housing boom (post-WWII), as planned communities and condos rose, so did HOAs—setting the stage for the Board of Directors serving at the heart of decision-making. 


According to the Community Associations Institute, approximately 24% of the U.S. population, or 73.5 million people, live in a condo or HOA. Yet, despite such a significant reach, some persistent errors continue to undermine the boards’ effectiveness. Let’s delve into the ten common pitfalls and the impact they have on the condo and HOA communities.


  1. The Silent Treatment

Timely and transparent communication is a cornerstone of effective community management, but oftentimes, getting a swift reply from condo and HOA boards is tricky. This lack of communication can result in confusion, distrust, and even legal complications: two-way conversations between residents and management leads to long-term failures. An Associa survey revealed that 60% of homeowners believe communication is their board’s weakest area, underscoring the need for direct messaging and faster feedback.


  1. Ignoring The Rulebook

Board members often underestimate the importance of their association’s governing documents. Ignorance and disregard of these guidelines can undermine the trust within the community, leading to possible legal disputes. These documents, known as the community’s “constitution,” should guide all decision-making and provide a roadmap to avoid unnecessary conflicts (or solve existing ones). 


  1. Delaying Dues

The financial health of a condominium or HOA relies on the regular collection of association dues; surprisingly, boards sometimes forget to prioritize this critical task, leading to budget deficits that affect the association’s ability to maintain common areas and provide essential services. (According to the Foundation for Community Association Research, unpaid dues in the USA exceed $57.8 billion). Here’s where ONR can make a difference thanks to its integrated financial management tool that ensures fee collection is streamlined, efficient, and trackable, alleviating the pressure on board members and safeguarding the association’s financial health.


  1. Sidestepping Legal Counsel

Legal flops can prove costly for condos and HOAs, but frequently boards decide to take action without proper advice from professional lawyers. This can lead to significant problems, ranging from compliance issues to legal disputes with residents. A 2018 survey from InsuranceQuotes found that boards were involved in over 50,000 lawsuits in the U.S., a clear signal for the need to have solid legal counsel guiding every board decision. 


  1. Rogue Actions

Effective teamwork is fundamental to a functioning condo or HOA board. However, when board members act independently without board approval, it can create division, erode trust, and open the door to legal issues. Such actions can result in inconsistent decisions, destabilizing the community and affecting the board’s governance efficiency. To prevent rogue actions, boards should adhere to decision-making procedures outlined in their governing documents and demand/present accountability for their actions. 


  1. Insurance Oversight

Disasters happen unannounced, which is why insurance plays a crucial role in protecting the community from financial risk. Surprisingly, many boards neglect to review and update their policies regularly, exposing them to the unknown. An annual review can ensure that the condo or HOA has adequate coverage to protect its assets and guarantee residents’ safety. But how can board members keep track of so many details? ONR’s comprehensive management platform shines as a digital platform providing a centralized hub for key documents, including insurance policies, making it easy for boards to access, review, and update their information with the tap of a button. 


  1. Vexing Vendors

Due diligence when reviewing and selecting vendors is frequently overlooked by some boards—sometimes due to personal benefit—which leads to mediocre work, financial mismanagement, corruption, and resident dissatisfaction. Maintenance tends to be the largest budget item for most condominiums and HOAs; selecting vendors properly is the best way to warrant transparency and positive outcomes for the community. 


  1. Neglecting the Future

Although financial stability is the lifeline of a successful condo/HOA, boards don’t always adequately plan for future expenses, leaving the association vulnerable to unforeseen costs. These potentially precarious financial positions can be solved through regular assessments of the association’s long-term financial needs, making sure to proactively adjust budgets and reserve funds. Crises hit when we least expect them. 


  1. Ignoring Past Mistakes

Boards that don’t learn from previous errors tend to repeat them, leading to a vicious cycle of ineffective management. A comprehensive review of past actions and their outcomes can help boards improve their decision-making processes—but this is easier said than done. Tracking and analyzing these actions can be challenging, which is why ONR’s robust analytics and reporting capabilities can help boards track past determinations, identify patterns, and provide insights, turning past mistakes into valuable lessons.


  1. Hasty Policy Changes

Transformation is a natural part of any organization, yet rushing to implement policy changes without thorough deliberation and consultation can disrupt the harmony within the community and expose the association to legal issues. An attentive board should promote slow policy development processes that include open conversations with residents and advice from legal counsel. It’s crucial to approach policy changes with prudence, patience, and comprehensive stakeholder engagement.


The role of a board member is extensive and impactful; some mistakes may be inevitable, but understanding these ten common pitfalls can prepare board members with the knowledge to avoid them by focusing on transparent communication, prudent decision-making, and diligent financial planning. Emphasizing a collaborative approach and utilizing innovative technology like ONR can further streamline their operations and enhance board efficiency. Ultimately, the success of a condominium or HOA board member isn’t just about avoiding errors; it’s about improving quality of life. Book a demo now to learn more.