A board of directors represents the owners of a condo or HOA community. The board is made up of a group of elected volunteers who help manage the association and make decisions that preserve or enhance the value and enjoyment of the development.
Board members work closely with the property manager, vendors, staff and other owners. They also have an obligation to enforce rules, bylaws and declarations.
Any member in good standing is free to run for a position on the board (with a few exceptions), but depending on the size and character of your association, it could be very easy – or very difficult to get elected. In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to win a spot on your condo or HOA’s board.
Find out if there are any upcoming vacancies
Start by asking a current board member if any vacancies are coming up, and how many positions will need to be filled. This way, you’ll know when to start preparing. The governing documents should spell out the eligibility to run for a board position, as well as regulations and deadlines for campaigning and adding your name to the ballot.
In most cases, a candidate must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not be in bankruptcy
- Not have a lien registered against them that has not been discharged 90 days prior to the elections
- Be in good standing with the association (no outstanding fines or fees)
There may be other requirements as well, so check your documents to ensure you are eligible to run.
Follow the candidacy process
To know what nomination procedure your association allows, it is important to check both state laws and your governing documents. Associations will normally call for candidate nominations at the start of each election season. This will often be a couple of months before the annual meeting. A notice calling for candidates will be distributed. The notice should include nomination guidelines, candidate qualifications, and the deadline for submissions.
There are three common ways that candidates can be nominated; those avenues are self-nomination, floor nominations, and write-ins.
In this scenario, members have the ability to nominate themselves. In some states, including California, the right to self-nominate is protected by law (provided members are qualified to run). Many associations will have a standard nomination form for candidates to use. But some communities may require members to write a letter of interest or fill out an application form.
Some condos and HOAs accept floor nominations, but not all associations are required to do this. To conduct a floor nomination, an association must first establish a quorum at a meeting. After that, the president can open the floor for candidate nominations. Owners can then start nominating fellow members. Floor nominations don’t need to be seconded (unless rules and bylaws call for it). Those who nominate candidates should be in good standing with the association.
If your association permits write-in candidates, then members can write down nominees directly on a ballot. These nominations are deemed valid, even if the candidate was not previously nominated through forms or on the floor. If a candidate receives enough write-in votes to win a position on the board, then the association will need to get in touch with them to let them know they’ve won. The candidate has the option to accept or reject the nomination.
If available, use your association’s nomination forms and take every opportunity to speak to fellow members about your qualifications and objectives. You may be asked to fill out and submit a candidate statement, and that’s a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates. A candidate statement gives you a place to introduce yourself, your platform, and your qualifications. Voters can use these statements to make a more informed decision.
You may also wish to deliver a short solicitation letter to fellow members of the association. Provide owners with enough information so that they understand how voting for you would help them.
Make sure your neighbors know who you are
Speaking of solicitation letters, you need to make sure at least some of the members of your association have an idea of who you are. This is especially important if you live in a large community or you’re new to the neighborhood. You can try:
- Attending your association’s board meetings on a regular basis. You will become more informed and visible
- Asking questions or making suggestions during the open meeting sessions (but don’t become a source of annoyance)
- Talking with other owners at social events. Let them know that you have an interest in running for the board, and have them share their ideas or concerns with you
- Asking for votes. Before ballots go out, you may use a community forum or social media platform to ask members to vote for you
It will be far easier to navigate the electoral process if you understand how it works. But that’s just the beginning of the journey. Once elected, members will expect you to know what you’re doing. And while there’s no way you can prepare for everything, board members should have some basic budgeting, project management and problem-solving experience.
A good way to prepare yourself for this dynamic role is to brush up on your community’s governing documents so that you understand what is and is not allowed. The next thing you could look into is joining credible forums or websites for board members. Finally, attend free legal seminars if they are available to you. There are a surprising number of legal issues that will come up for board members, and while you’re not expected to be able to solve all of them, it is advantageous if you understand what to do in certain situations.
Talk to your association manager
If your condo or HOA works with a management company, see if they can provide you with training classes or seminars. Companies may do this for new and seasoned board members so that they are up to date on new laws and rules, best practices, etc. They may also be able to share some additional tips about how you can earn a spot on the board during the next election.
Volunteering to lead your community is a great thing. It takes a lot of work to keep a condo or HOA operating smoothly, but at the same time, you get the opportunity to make positive changes, build better relationships with other members, and learn about how to manage a community. Some of the skills you pick up as a board member will definitely translate into other areas of your life.
If this is your first time running for a seat on the board, do your best to make yourself known to others in your community. Start conversations and explain why you’re eager to take on this role. Many people don’t even know who will be on the ballot until they see it. Once you’ve earned a seat, you’re much more likely to be re-elected if you are able and willing to run for another term.
Finally, if you are not elected the first time, don’t be discouraged. You can always try again the next time around.