Who can serve on an HOA board? Can just anybody become a board member in an HOA community? We’ll talk about how to vet for candidates and evaluate them properly if they’re qualified for the position.
Who Can Serve on an HOA Board?
Homeowners associations are governed by a group of volunteers known as the board of directors. But who can volunteer to run for positions on the HOA board? Is it open to the general public or just a select few?
The answer is it depends. There are two things to consider when determining who can serve on an HOA board. First, we have state laws. Depending on where you are, there may be statutory requirements regulating board candidates. Some states have more comprehensive laws on homeowners associations than others, so state laws will not always contain explicit or implied directions.
California is one state with more detailed HOA laws. According to Civil Code Section 5105, only members of the association at the time of nomination are permitted to be candidates for board positions.
However, this requirement does not apply to spouses whose names do not appear on the title. While the purpose of this requirement is rather clear — it aims to limit board members to people who have the HOA’s best interests at heart — it has made it more difficult for small associations to find willing volunteers.
Many states don’t have this particular requirement, though it exists in most governing documents. Absent such a requirement, nothing would prevent a mere stranger or non-member from serving on the board. Some associations use language that restricts non-members from serving but allows lawyers and managers to do so. Whether or not that’s a good idea will depend on your association and your exact circumstances.
After reviewing state laws, the next place to look is your governing documents, particularly your bylaws. An association’s bylaws should contain specific HOA board member qualifications. If your bylaws are silent, consider amending them to create a more standardized matrix for board candidates.
Can an Owner With a Criminal Conviction Serve on the Board?
If an association’s bylaws don’t prohibit it, a homeowner with a past criminal conviction can serve on the board. Associations, though, are generally free to adopt a rule disqualifying an owner with a past conviction from becoming a candidate.
There are two reasons why an HOA might want to enact such a restriction. The first is due to insurance. If a person with a past conviction is elected to the board, the association’s insurance company may discontinue its current fidelity bond coverage or refuse to renew the policy.
The second reason is track record. Associations tend to deal with a lot of money, some even reaching millions. If a nominee has stolen money from an HOA in the past, it makes sense to disqualify them from serving on the board, especially if they’re seeking a treasurer role.
How to Vet and Evaluate Candidates
Considering the roles that board members play, associations should adopt a vetting procedure to check the qualifications of candidates. Here are some tips that can help both homeowners and current board members alike.
Set Up a Nomination Committee
The function of a nomination committee is to screen candidates for election. This committee is essentially in charge of checking whether or not nominees are qualified to run for a position on the board under state laws and the HOA’s bylaws. Of course, committee members should have no conflicts of interest with the nominees that may sway their judgment towards one way or another.
Establish HOA Board Member Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility requirements can vary from one association to another. State laws permitting, common requirements typically dictate that candidates must:
- Be a member of the association for more than one (1) year at the time of nomination;
- Have no delinquent dues or unpaid fines;
- Have no outstanding violations;
- Not be in ongoing litigation with the association; and,
- Not serve on the board at the same time as another person from the same household.
Again, it is essential to check the laws in your state. While many associations don’t allow candidates to have outstanding violations or fines, such a requirement is not always enforceable. For instance, California law does not permit an association to disqualify a nominee even if they have unpaid fines.
Homeowners should not only rely on the nomination committee. They should do their part as well by getting involved in the community. Homeowners should do their own research and get to know the candidates. In doing so, they can vote for the right people. After all, in the end, it is the homeowners who will be greatly affected by the decisions of the board.
Traits and Skills to Look for in HOA Board Members
When deciding which candidate to vote for, it is important to evaluate the characteristics and skills of the different people running. Here are some of the best qualities of an effective board member:
1. A Willingness to Serve
A board member must be willing to serve their community. Even with an impressive resume and an unrivaled skillset, a board member simply can’t do a good job if their heart isn’t in the right place. A good board member must always put the association’s best interests first, even if it means making a decision that would personally affect them in a negative way.
Money flows in and out of associations all the time, so there’s always that temptation. Board members should be honest and transparent. They must have an upright moral compass that compels them to do the correct thing every time.
Boards make decisions every day. They adopt resolutions, make rulings on violations, and select vendors — it’s all part of the job. Therefore, board candidates must exercise consistent and fair judgment in every aspect of their service. They must not give in to personal bias or emotion. And, when a conflict of interest arises, they must know to recuse themselves.
4. A Team Player
Far too many HOA boards fall victim to infighting, which can bring down not just the board but the entire community. Board members must know how to work with each other.
They must possess a collaborative spirit while still being open to professional discourse. The HOA board must always present a unified front to the homeowners, even if not all board members agree on something internally.
5. Accounting and Management Skills a Plus
Due to the nature of the responsibilities of board members, it would be great to have someone with accounting experience or a management background. Of course, while these skills can greatly help with operations, these alone should not be the basis of qualification.
Guiding You on the Right Path
As you can see, two things tell you who can serve on an HOA board: state laws and your governing documents. It is important to familiarize yourself with both to avoid confusion and potential liability. When in doubt, it is always best to consult a lawyer.
Condo Manager aims to make the lives of HOA board members easier with automated management solutions. Call us today at (800) 626-1267 or contact us online to learn more!