Self Management Guide: Duties and Responsibilities of Volunteers

Overview: Refer to Earlier Articles
  •  Your community’s documents, the declaration of condominium, CCRs, Bylaws, etc., are the starting point for the self-managed association. [read]
  •  With respect to your association, your documents largely, define the board’s roles, duties, obligations, and administrative responsibilities. [read]
  •  Gain a general understanding of the statutes that pertain to you particular association. For example, In Florida, Statute 720 pertains to homeowner associations, FS 718 regulates condominiums, FS 723 applies to mobile homes, and FS 719 pertains to cooperatives.
In the last article, we defined the rolls and duties of the Treasurer and the Property Inspector.
Covenant Enforcement Officer
When most people buy into a community, they are buying into a lifestyle. The documents define the lifestyle of a community by its values and consequently through its rules.
People with children would be wise to shy away from a community that does not allow sports  equipment to be visible from the curb. This means no basketball in the front yard and perhaps in the rear. Condominiums that restrict pets may prevent an owner from keeping or replacing their dogs or cats.
Before owners are able to move into some communities, the board meets with these prospective residents. The Board explains the history of the community, its lifestyle, and its rules. They have no qualms letting the prospect know, for example, that if yard work is not their thing, then they would be wise to consider a condo, townhome, or a community without deed restrictions. Every community that we have managed expects folk to mow, edge, and weed, and to do so consistently and regularly. It is the responsibility of the covenant officer (CO) to enforce the rules equally, consistently, and without bias.
Consistency requires the officer to follow the enforcement procedures set forth in the docs and agreed upon by the board, be it with weekly, monthly, or quarterly inspections. Furthermore, if policy requires two letters, thirty days apart, followed by an attorney letter for noncompliance, then this is the only legal/enforcement policy for all neighbors. (In a latter article we will discuss exceptions, waivers, and resolutions, but this article is about duties and responsibilities).
Equally requires rules be applied unilaterally. If white blinds were required in a condominium, then the CO would issue warnings to folk with window coverings: tan, clear, and no blinds at all. The same concept applies in HOAs. If a driveway is to be free of oil slicks then all homes with that problem are to be put on notice. Other factors often interfere with equality. The CO may disagree with policy or believe that a rule is pointless. A CO with a weak, ineffective board that does not follow through with the
enforcement policy is likely to view the entire inspection process itself as pointless which often leads to inequality.
Without bias means without favoritism; bias has to do with relationships and is intentional. Where bias is the intentional disregard of association policy, inequality is not. If the CO’s next-door neighbor or friend has earned a compliance request, then issue it without apology. Bias often occurs because of sympathy for the elderly, infirm, and widows. Rather than waving or ignoring their violation, consider how the community can assist this person in bringing their home into compliance. If bias or inequality results in bending the rules to the advantage of one neighbor over another.  If policy requires a letter or door hanger, then that is the policy for all: not a phone call or a knock on the door.
ACC or ARC Chair (HOA, Townhomes, Mobile/Modular)
Exterior Modification Request Condos, Co-ops
This position is often necessary in communities where owners care for their own yards, have landscaping rights, and are required to maintain the exterior of their homes. Owners desirous of making a change visible to the neighborhood, (all associations) typically require approval of the board or ACC Committee.  Owners often complete an application; include a lot survey, plans, or a rendering depending upon the complexity of the project. In a condominium, the application process may be as simple as a paint chip for a door or a product specification sheet for window blinds. The ACC Officer (AO) is responsible for timely review and disposition of the request by approval or denial.
Proper administration is critical due to the time-sensitive provisions within most documents. When you refer to your documents for the approval process, you will likely find a provision for either auto-approval after so many days or auto-denial.  If your docs contain an auto-approval clause, inaction may grant auto-approval to the owner in love with the idea of painting their home taxicab yellow. The other problem created by inattentiveness is that delays to owner’s projects creates ill will and frustrated neighbors. If ongoing, it may well as lead to a lack of cooperation by owners in their submission of future applications.
Administrative Officer
This position requires a volunteer with the time and organizational skills to be comfortable working with details and deadlines. Filing and updating your corporate annual report is required each year as is the association’s Federal Income Tax return. Insurance may renew once a year or multiple times if you have policies that expire on different dates. The distribution of draft minutes and their subsequent approval require follow up. Annual and budget meetings have different deadlines and noticing requirements. In
addition, meeting facilities may have to be reserved. And let’s not forget the ordering and mailing of coupons and statements. These duties performed once a year, but daily administration is ongoing. To name a few: creating and mailing compliance requests, delinquency notices, and general correspondence.
The President is the person designated to keep it all together…. That is a huge responsibility. The President must know enough about each officer’s duties to ensure that each is following through on their assigned tasks. Are late notices going out like clockwork on the 10th? Are violation letters being mailed to ensure prompt delivery prior to the weekend. Are ACC requests moving along? Do they appear on Board agendas with the status included in board minutes? The list goes on.
Successful administration of this position requires great patience and heavy-duty people skills. Officers are volunteers. Presidents that treat them as hired hands frequently find themselves running the community alone. Diplomacy is necessary with owners and officers. These are your neighbors. You will face them each day. They must sense that you respect them and care enough to listen when they speak. Your leadership style should strive to minimize language and behavior that evokes negative emotions. Refer to statute, the docs, and the rules. Show them you understand their dilemmas and you sympathize for their pain and inconvenience, but the rules of the community existed before the first home sold.
This completes our review of volunteer positions. Check in on our next article as we review effective communications.
Bob Moyer is the President of Vanguard Management Group, Inc. in Tampa Florida and a principal of U-Manage Online, a subsidiary of Vanguard Management Group, Inc.