Understanding the roles of board members
Becoming a board member is a great way to engage with your neighbors and create positive changes in your community. But sometimes, new volunteers have little to no experience and must learn the community's rules, the board’s responsibilities, and the demands of the roles of board members as they go.
While familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of the community might seem daunting, understanding the roles of board members can help outline precisely what a board member can expect and what obligations their new role demands. Serving on the board means being elected to a position of authority within the community, so understanding the scope and limitations of that authority should be clearly defined. An informed board member is better able to serve their community, maintain the integrity of the property, and avoid possible overreach.
Roles of board membersThere are typically four common board members roles for the HOA board of directors, and each bears a different responsibility to the community.
PresidentA board member president needs to have in-depth knowledge of the community’s bylaws, policies, and operations. The president oversees the board’s decision-making process and needs to defer to the community’s plan and vision, always making decisions based on what is best for the community. The president also presides over all meetings, is the board’s spokesperson when addressing the community, and establishes committees and committee chairs.
This role also coordinates with the property management company and manager and helps oversee the board's day-to-day administration. A good president is organized, an excellent communicator and public speaker, and can put aside their personal preferences – avoiding conflict of interest - to address issues based on what is outlined in the community’s governing documents.
Vice presidentWhile the president’s role bears a lot of responsibility, the board’s vice president must be ready to stand in for the president when they cannot be present. The vice president role requires the same depth of knowledge about the community’s bylaws and policies that the president's role demands. The vice president should always understand all issues the board is facing. The vice president also serves as the chair of important committees that oversee maintenance and improvement and other big projects within the community. A good candidate for vice president has excellent decision-making skills, is an excellent public speaker, and is a natural leader.
SecretaryHandling all communication, documentation, and record-keeping for the board, the secretary role is essential to a high-performing board. As the document archivist for the board, the secretary is responsible for compliance with legal requirements, meeting deadlines, and recording all minutes. A good secretary is organized, can multitask, and knows how to develop agendas, keeping the board on-task during meetings. The best secretaries have an excellent eye for detail, are organized and efficient, and are good communicators.
TreasurerThe board treasurer oversees the community’s finances, including the collection and allocation of funds, budget, billing and operational expenditures. The treasurer needs to maintain a detailed account of funds and all transactions sanctioned by the board. The treasurer keeps the board abreast of any financial issues, including the community’s reserve funds, if there might be expensive repairs in the future. Treasurers benefit from being organized, being good accountants and being detail orientated.
Board member responsibilitiesBoard members have different duties that fall under two main categories: responsibilities to the community and legal responsibilities. These responsibilities outline how to govern effectively and safeguard the community’s success.
Legal responsibilitiesSome of the legal duties that a board member will encounter when performing the responsibilities associated with their role are:
- Duty of confidentiality – Because board members are privy to confidential materials related to finances, fines, and property values, all board decisions and issues related to the business of governing the community must remain confidential during and after their term of service.
- Fiduciary duty – Board members must act in the association's best interest, with the highest degree of honesty and loyalty. Members should perform within the scope of their authority and cannot use their position or exercise their power on matters outside their duties and responsibilities.
- Duty of care / Business judgment rule – Board members must perform duties in good faith with such care as an ordinary, prudent person would in a similar situation. Board members are legally obliged to make informed decisions based on research and utilize all the available information before voting on a matter.
- Duty of loyalty – Board members cannot use their position to take unfair advantage of the association. Members must act in good faith and for the entire community's benefit, and their decisions cannot be based on personal interests. They also cannot use their position on the board for private gains.
Responsibilities to the communityBoard members are responsible for maintaining the community and property values and must perform specific duties to help ensure the community thrives. Some of the responsibilities to the community are:
- Maintenance of common areas – Board members must make sure that all common areas are maintained and functioning. Common areas can include but are not limited to pools, clubhouses, gyms, and tennis courts. The board is also responsible for structural components like fixtures (interior/exterior), walls, and rooves.
- Policy compliance / Governing documents – Board members should be familiar with the community’s governing documents. The board should make sure that the community follows all federal, state, and local laws and that the association is continuously operating in compliance with the law.
- Enforcing rules – Board members must ensure that each community member abides by the community’s rules and regulations. The board must defer to the community’s governing documents when dealing with violations and exemptions.
- Community finances – Board members are responsible for managing the community’s finances by preparing the annual budget, reviewing financial reports, managing the community’s reserve funds, reviewing the community’s insurance, and collecting assessments. Board members are responsible for the community’s financial health and need to stay abreast of the community’s reserves to plan projects and maintenance repairs properly.
- Communication and community engagement – Board members should familiarize themselves with the governing documents and the community’s policies to effectively engage and communicate with residents. Informed board members can answer questions, resolve conflicts, and get community buy-in through effective communication and understanding of the community’s bylaws.
Partnering with FirstService ResidentialAs a community leader, you can’t be expected to run the association alone. You need the support of a professional management company that can provide industry best practices and local experts to help manage the moving parts. At FirstService Residential, our mission to deliver exceptional service and solutions to our communities starts with simplifying the complex to elevate resident experiences.
To learn how we can support your community’s vision, contact a member of our team.