With the new year, especially this new year, you may be feeling an itch to be more involved with your community. Your HOA is the perfect avenue to improve and support your neighborhood, or to simply get to know your neighbors. There are several ways to get involved, such as attending community events, joining the board of directors, volunteering, or getting involved with the Neighborhood Watch. After all, you are paying HOA dues, you might as well make the most of it!
Your HOA’s purpose
A homeowner’s association (HOA) is an organization in a neighborhood or residential community that makes and enforces rules related to the property and residents. The purpose is to enhance the lifestyle of residents by keeping the community peaceful, beautiful, and safe. Anyone who purchases property within the HOA jurisdiction is automatically a member, and pays HOA dues. HOAs have a Board of Directors, and often hire a property management company to assist with oversight and expertise.
Benefits HOA involvement
Some benefits of participating in your HOA vary depending on the community and whether residents live in single-family homes, condominiums, or townhouses. For example, association dues can vary widely depending on what the HOA takes care of and what amenities are available. To make the most of your HOA dues, you may be motivated to improve security or impact maintenance decisions across amenities.
Other benefits are universal across all HOAs. Most of us desire a kinship with neighbors and to have a safe neighborhood. Some, especially after a year of isolation, seek the fulfillment that accompanies community engagement. Or, you may be interested in solving problems or disagreements among neighbors. Inevitably, when people are in close quarters together, there is both disagreement and fulfillment in connection.
5 ways to get involved
Depending on your motivation, and your amount of free time, here are five ways to engage with your HOA that may be a fit for you. We’ve ordered the below generally from least amount of time and effort to most.
1. Attend community events
Some communities have several annual events, while others have none. When I moved into my HOA, I really wanted an annual block party. I asked around, and discovered that they had one in the past, but not in recent years due to lack of volunteers. So, I got my neighbor on board and together we made it happen. If you don’t have time or interest to volunteer, you can simply attend. Understanding how your HOA communicates with residents is the key to finding out about these events. Is there a newsletter? Will they put a flyer in mailboxes, or a posting somewhere? In addition, some communities have an online group or website. Many now communicate via email as well. If you are unsure, contact your HOA and ask.
2. Attend HOA meetings
Homeowners and renters alike can attend board meetings. During COVID, most HOA meetings are virtual, but otherwise they are typically in-person. Frequency varies depending on your community’s needs. It is the HOA’s responsibility to let homeowners know well in advance of meetings. They may post notification, send it via mail and/or email, or post it on the community’s website. Find out where things are typically posted or how they are sent, and be sure that the email address they have on file is one you check regularly. At HOA meetings, you’ll find others who are either new to the community, or are interested in being involved and aware. The board will have an agenda and may cover upcoming events, community concerns, budget items, maintenance updates, community safety, or changes in rules.
Another way to keep abreast of these topics and meet neighbors is to join an any online neighborhood groups, such as a Facebook group or NextDoor.
Volunteering is a flexible option for getting involved that you can match to your interests and level of availability. There are likely volunteer opportunities for all ages. Sometimes volunteer needs will be announced, and other times you can, pretty easily, seek them out. The board members volunteer their time to be on the board, so anything you can do to take tasks off their plate, such as posting or distributing notices, will be much appreciated. It can also be a way to learn about board membership in case you might be interested. Likewise, as mentioned above, you can volunteer to plan community events or social activities, or to take up a cause you’d like to see implemented. One example is to lead the community in steps toward greater community safety.
4. Join a committee
Your HOA may have an opportunity available to join (or start!) a committee. This could be an informal group of block party planners, or something more formal like a Neighborhood Watch. Or the committee might be for the broader surrounding neighborhoods, township/village, or town overall, where you can provide representation for your HOA. You can let your neighbors know that you have joined and ask if they’d like to as well, or if they have any requests of the committee. This may be as far as you are interested in taking your commitment, or you may try this in order to test out what it might feel like to become an HOA board member.
5. Become a board member
While becoming an HOA board member is quite a responsibility, it has several benefits. You’ll have an impact on how the community uses HOA fees and solutions to neighborhood issues. Also, you’ll have a voice in which vendors to hire. Inevitably, you will learn a lot. Plus, if you are considering a broader community service or political role, such as Village Clerk or Trustee, this can be an excellent stepping stone. Depending on your profession, it can also be a way to share your skills in a rewarding way, and may be a resume builder.
HOA board seats typically open up annually, and usually have two-year terms. The board has a responsibility to notify association members well in advance of an upcoming election. You might find it easy to get elected if there are more seats available than volunteers. You’ll get an opportunity to explore various roles and responsibilities, and be able to engage with your property management company.
What makes a good board member is usually a combination of interests and traits. Interest or skill in leadership and service are key. Other traits include commitment, compassion, and organization. Useful interests or a background experience include accounting, previous board experience, and political science/law, but these are not at all required. Most important is your desire to lead and help your community through the inevitable challenges of community living.
“USAG Humphreys Make A Difference Day Oct. 25, 2008” by USAG-Humphreys is licensed under CC BY 2.0