Ten Common Mistakes Association Board Members Make (and How to Avoid Them)

February 8, 2024 Sasha Cancél

Association board members should guarantee efficient and effective community management, but we must remember they’re human, things don’t always go as planned and even the tightest of associations are prone to certain pitfalls. Property managers navigating the complexities of Homeowners Association (HOA) governance can often encounter a range of challenges. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes association Board Members make and detailed strategies to avoid them:


  1. Failing to Read and Follow Governing Documents

A critical mistake many board members make is not thoroughly understanding their HOA’s governing documents, including bylaws and association rules. These documents are the foundation of how the HOA operates, dictating everything from architectural standards to meeting protocols. Misunderstandings and misapplications of governing documents are among the top reasons for disputes within HOAs. 

To mitigate this:

– Regularly schedule review sessions of the governing documents.

– Organize training workshops for new board members.

– Consult with legal experts to clarify complex sections.

– Create summaries or cheat sheets of key document sections for easy reference.


  1. Working Outside Board Authority

When board members act beyond their defined authority, it can lead to legal disputes and undermine their credibility. The authority of each board member is outlined in the governing documents and should be adhered to strictly. Overstepping authority can lead to costly legal battles for HOAs. 

To prevent this:

– Establish clear protocols for decision-making.

– Regularly discuss the scope of authority in board meetings.

– Set up a system for checks and balances among board members.

– Encourage open communication and consultation before making significant decisions.


  1. Allowing Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest can severely compromise the board’s decisions and the trust homeowners place in their HOA. These conflicts arise when personal interests or relationships influence a board member’s decisions, a leading factor in ethical dilemmas within the association. 

To tackle this:

– Implement a strict conflict of interest policy.

– Require board members to disclose any potential conflicts.

– Have conflicted members recuse themselves from related decisions.

– Regularly review decisions to ensure they are made in the HOA’s best interest.


  1. Not Knowing How to Delegate

Effective delegation is crucial for efficient HOA management. Overloading board members with tasks can lead to burnout and oversight. Delegation allows for the distribution of workload and better community engagement, resulting in higher satisfaction rates among residents. 

Effective delegation involves:

– Forming specialized committees for various tasks.

– Clearly defining roles and responsibilities.

– Providing necessary resources and support to committees.

– Regularly monitoring progress and providing feedback.


  1. Going Against the Board

When board members publicly oppose decisions made by the board, it can create division and reduce the board’s effectiveness. While healthy debate within meetings is productive, once a decision is made, it should be supported and everyone should stick to it. Boards with unified fronts tend to have better compliance from homeowners. 

Maintain unity by:

– Encouraging open and honest discussion during meetings.

– Respecting the democratic process of decision-making.

– Presenting a united front once decisions are made.

– Finding constructive ways to address personal disagreements.


  1. Failing to Budget Properly

Accurate budgeting is vital for the financial health of an HOA. Poor budgeting can lead to financial shortfalls and increased assessments. Many HOAs face challenges due to inadequate budgeting and unplanned expenses. 

To ensure proper financial management:

– Conduct thorough annual budget reviews.

– Involve financial experts for accurate projections.

– Plan for contingencies and reserve funds.

– Communicate budgetary decisions to homeowners.


  1. Not Choosing The Right Software Allowing Late Dues to Pile Up

The financial stability of an HOA heavily relies on how smoothly and organized it operates. With many software options, investing in the wrong one might drain your coffers and leave you with a glitchy system that will slow down your work—leading to unpaid dues and lack of financial control.

Pick a software that:

– Is affordable and easy to use for all generations.

– Make sure they’re cloud-based so that you can keep all financial movements secure.

– Allows you to communicate with residents directly and follow up on late payments.

– Sets automatic payments and provides different channels (ACH, ApplePay, Transfer, Credit Card)


  1. Failing to Record and Review HOA Finances

Financial transparency and regular audits are essential for an HOA’s credibility and for preventing fraud. Inadequate record-keeping can lead to mismanagement and mistrust among homeowners. Financial discrepancies in HOAs stem from poor record-keeping. 

To maintain financial integrity:

Keep detailed, organized financial records accessible to all board members.

– Conduct annual audits with a reputable accounting firm.

– Regularly update and review financial statements.

– Share summarized financial reports with homeowners annually.


  1. Failing to Update Insurance

Appropriate insurance coverage is essential for protecting the HOA against liabilities and unforeseen events. Neglecting to update insurance policies can result in significant financial losses. Industry reports indicate that many HOAs are underinsured, putting their assets at risk. 

To ensure adequate coverage:

– Conduct annual insurance policy reviews.

– Work with insurance professionals to assess coverage needs.

– Update insurance policies to reflect changes in assets and liabilities.

– Educate board members on the importance of adequate insurance coverage.


  1. Committing Fraud or Embezzlement

This kind of white-collar crime within an HOA not only has legal repercussions but also erodes the trust of the community. Such actions can lead to severe financial and reputational damage. The problem is that financial crimes in HOAs often go unnoticed for years. 

To fight these violations:

– Establish stringent financial controls and oversight.

– Regularly rotate individuals responsible for financial management.

– Educate board members on the signs of financial mismanagement.

– Foster an environment of accountability and transparency.

Effective HOA management is a complex task that requires understanding, vigilance, and a commitment to the community’s well-being. By recognizing and avoiding these common administrative issues, HOA board members can significantly contribute to a harmonious and well-managed community. Property managers seeking further support and resources can turn to ONR, a dedicated partner in property management solutions.