The start of a new year provides an opportunity for association leaders to assess and amend rules, processes and schedules. Work with the board to figure out what made your community stronger, what detracted from its success, and what might be missing.
You can focus on some of the items listed here, or create your own checklist. Just make sure you complete it before the new year ramps up. Once things get moving, it’s harder to find time to recalibrate strategies.
Things to add to your checklist
- Governing documents
- Maintenance and renovation projects
- Financial audits
- Board meetings
- Committee meetings
- Community events and holidays
While it may not be possible to analyze the relevance of every single bylaw and rule every year, you must ensure that any new laws that have come into effect are incorporated in the community’s governing documents.
If amendments were made during the previous year, make sure current digital and physical copies reflect those changes. You will likely need to add updated governing documents if they are kept on an HOA website. And the updated versions will need to be included in welcome packages.
Updated governing documents must be filed with the local jurisdiction land recorder and the State Corporation Commission (SCC).
Maintenance and renovation projects
Now is the perfect time to that are on the agenda for the new year. Make sure the community is informed about these types of projects before they begin. Not only is their money being used to pay for the projects, but they may need to prepare for noise or disruptions.
Now is also the time to schedule seasonal openings (for example, the outdoor pool) or closures that will occur during the year.
Labor shortages and supply chain issues will almost certainly slow down project completion times. As such, it is even more important to book vendors well ahead of when the project should begin. They may advise you to begin projects earlier than you had originally planned.
Most state regulations require associations to either conduct a review or an audit once a year. The HOA’s bylaws or declaration documents should indicate how often a formal audit is required. If this year is an audit year, consider scheduling it by the end of February. Audits should be conducted soon after the previous year is closed out.
The auditor will look at several items including bank reconciliations, the budget, vendor contracts, and the reserve fund. The more organized the association’s financial documents are, the smoother the audit will go.
The HOA will want to make a copy of the audit report and store it for future reference.
Few things in life are as certain as taxes. HOAs may need to submit their taxes by the 15 of March or the 15 of April, depending on when its fiscal year ends. That’s why management needs to think about them early on.
Many HOAs will hire a CPA or tax professional that has experience with HOAs to assist with tax returns. A qualified CPA saves the entire community time, and helps ensure the association doesn’t make any costly mistakes.
Each state has its own filing requirements. While some states don’t require a tax return, others do. That’s just one more reason to have a tax professional on your team.
How productive are your community’s board meetings? Do people prefer hybrid meetings? Are there meetings that could be removed from the schedule? Take a bit of time to discuss any changes that the board might like to make when it comes to organizing and hosting meetings (but ensure changes don’t conflict with laws or governing documents). For example, perhaps the board will structure the agenda differently, or track tasks online as opposed to trying to manage responsibilities using a pen and paper.
Schedule meetings, including the annual meeting, at the beginning of the year, so that board members have plenty of time to plan for them.
Board members may not have to come together to vote on things like architectural change requests or invoice approvals. Instead, they can use a platform like Condo Control to vote on some board matters. Not only is it more convenient, but it saves the board valuable time.
Committee meetings should be scheduled after dates for board meetings have been established. This way, information from committee meetings can be compiled and shared with board members at their meetings.
It’s best to hold committee meetings about a week before board meetings to give committees time to prepare their presentations.
An insurance checkup should be a part of every annual checklist. Review insurance policies to make sure they cover everything the community needs, including insurance for emergencies or natural disasters.
Reach out to the insurance provider to find out about premium increases. Higher fees will impact the annual budget as well as the fees that owners are required to pay.
Community events and holidays
Big events such as annual BBQs or fall fairs can be added to the calendar now. This way, the social committee, or whoever is in charge of planning events, can begin to secure equipment and vendors before they are booked up.
Statutory holidays are on the calendar, but office closures are not. Set aside a bit of time to decide on closures for the office, as well as which days will be holidays for staff.
If you use a community events calendar, add social events to that calendar so owners can see what’s going on in the new year.
Some associations have great success with newsletters, but this isn’t the case for every community. If readership is not strong, this is a good time to assess whether it is worth keeping the HOA newsletter in circulation.
If you are still printing newsletters, consider making them digital. You can still print a few dozen copies for those who prefer to have a physical letter to read, but many owners would prefer to read the newsletter from their phones.
The frequency of publication is another thing to consider. A quarterly newsletter is often ideal, but you may find that you only need to release them twice each year.
Newsletters don’t need to be long. Having a digital edition is great because you can include short messages or stories, and add links that readers can click if they are interested in learning more about a particular topic or issue.
It’s important to step away from the day-to-day activities and take a look at big-picture items. Are processes harder than they need to be? Do the rules still serve the best interests of the community? Does the community have a thorough understanding of the HOA’s financial health?
The point of creating an annual checklist is to consider and address questions like these. Once you and your board have thought about these things, you can start creating strategies to set the entire community up for a successful new year.