Do's, don'ts, & best practices: HOA communications policy
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Best Practices and Mistakes to AvoidImplementing new policies within a community can be challenging, but when a board communicates effectively and gives residents a plan that outlines the necessity, process and benefits of a policy, they can avoid a lot of issues and get buy-in, too. Transparent communication from board members lays the foundation for successful policies and happy residents. When the community is kept in the loop, residents are more likely to comply, and the board has an easier time enforcing policies. Not sure how to communicate effectively with your residents? The following do’s and don’ts of communication can guide your policy-making efforts and help your board get community buy-in.
DO: Explain Why a Policy is NeededWhen the community understands the “why” behind the new regulation, as well as what constitutes a violation, they are more likely to get on board and comply. This holds true for most policies, but especially for those that involve controversial topics like pets, decorations or parking. Explaining why a policy was introduced – whether because of a new ordinance in your state, multiple residents’ complaints or preventing liability – is critical because it encourages proactive buy-in from residents instead of reactive pushback.
TIP: If your board needs some guidance finding the “why” behind a new policy, an experienced management company like FirstService Residential can help with defining the purpose of your policy and outlining a communication plan for residents.
DON’T: Delay in Communicating Changes
While it is important to get information together and deliver well-thought out and concise messaging to residents about policy changes, don’t get so caught up in the process that it causes a delay in communicating. Make sure to review the community’s governing documents and adhere to any timelines listed about communicating changes within the community. Under certain bylaws, boards can have as little as 30 days to communicate policy changes to the community. When it comes to communicating policies, the sooner is always the better option.
TIP: Partnering with the right property management company can help ease the burden of drafting timely communication pieces for the community. A good property manager will know how to get the right message out via the most effective communication channels.
When you pass new policies, residents will want to know what is in it for them. Communicating the benefits of a new policy will help residents understand how it will improve the community and their quality of life. Whether a policy helps increase property value or helps with resident safety, making it relatable to your residents will also make it more digestible. It is important for boards to understand that communicating policy means explaining how it can help increase the residents’ overall experience so that the community doesn’t see it as a burden or limitation on their rights.
DO: Let Residents Know the Benefits
TIP: Making a new policy relatable to residents might include framing it as an enhancement instead of a limit on what they can do. For example, a community might increase restrictions on a common area like the pool during inclement weather, but get community buy-in by stipulating that the pool’s parking area would now be available as extra guest parking.
DO: Break it Down, Step-by-StepKeeping residents in-the-know by breaking down the process of adopting a new policy, including how to comply and when it will be enforced, will yield better compliance. The fastest way to encounter resistance to comply from residents is to keep them in the dark when implementing a new policy. When they know what to expect, residents are more likely to go along with new rules. When residents are caught off guard, the chance of conflict increases during the enforcement process because they are likely to mistrust the board and come to meetings to air their complaints.
TIP: Consider giving residents a step-by-step breakdown of the policy and then open the floor for discussion, engaging them for feedback. Sometimes giving people a chance to make suggestions and air grievances prior to implementation is a better plan than waiting on their disgruntled feedback after adopting a new policy.
DON’T: Only Rely on One Method of CommunicationTechnology makes things easier, but sometimes we can rely too heavily on one method of communication like email and miss opportunities to effectively communicate otherwise. Email addresses change and some people do not always check their email frequently, so try to stagger communication efforts by employing multiple channels. The best practice is to use two to three methods of outreach to the community and send multiple, timely messages.
TIP: Board Communication Channels
- Text Messages
- Direct Mail
- Posters/Bulletin Boards
- Announcements at Meetings
- FirstService Residential Connect™
- Phone Calls
- Social Media
- Community Website
Diverse communities require varied forms of communication. Creating a communication strategy that includes multiple channels creates fewer chances for missed messages and miscommunication and a higher propensity for community engagement.
DON’T: Focus on the Short-TermWhen communicating new policies, it is best to avoid focusing on changes or benefits that only affect residents right now. By framing a policy’s long-term benefits, a board can showcase its value to the community. For example, a landscaping policy that limits what kind of trees a community can plant today might be easier for residents to accept if the board explains the process and expense of tree removal and structural damage caused by falling tree branches after inclement weather. Policies with long-term value are more likely to be followed, especially when the board is constantly reminding the community of those benefits.
TIP: Working with the right professional property management company can help the board stay in constant communication with residents and reinforce the long-term value of a policy via consistent messaging. FirstService Residential can provide your board and manager with best practices for communication and templates for drafting effective messaging.
Effective Communication and Implementing Policies go Hand-in-HandTo pass effective policies, your board needs to create successful messaging and engage the community with good communication strategies. Boards that can explain how a policy change can increase property values, enhance residents’ quality of life and safety, and have long-term benefits are more likely to be successful and have less compliance issues.
It is not uncommon for boards to struggle with communicating policy changes, but with the help of the right management company, your board can bridge the gap and engage the community. FirstService Residential can help your board create and execute a comprehensive communication strategy. For more information about opportunities to redevelop your communication strategy, contact FirstService Residential today.