Becoming a new HOA board member can be both an exciting and an anxiety-inducing thing, especially if you’re a volunteer from the community and have never served on an HOA board before. On the one hand, there is a spirit of possibility about it; hopefully, you are optimistic about being able to serve your neighborhood and maybe make a real difference. At the same time, there are so many opportunities for error that it can be a bit daunting. However, you might feel significantly less concerned about messing up if you have a good idea of some of the most common board member pitfalls—and how you can avoid them.

The biggest mistake that HOA board members can possibly make is to fail to adequately understand how the board works. You might think that, if you’re lived in the community for a while, you know more or less how things are done. However, you probably don’t know exactly what the board can and cannot do, and you may not have a clear understanding of your own responsibilities on that board. Getting a handle on this will give you a clear impression of what your opportunities are, as well as your limitations, helping you to serve effectively and not overstep your bounds.

And that’s the second big mistake that HOA board members tend to make—doing too much, or doing more than what you’re really allowed or supposed to do. As a board member, you do have certain authority, but that authority comes from the HOA’s governing documents. Make sure you know what you are permitted, by those documents, to do.

On a related note, it’s a bad idea to try to force too much change all at once. As HOA board members, you probably have a lot of great ideas and a lot of zeal for enacting them, but don’t be too hasty. Trying to implement too much change at once will alienate the rest of the board, and the rest of the community. Make sure you take the time to learn why certain policies are in place before you seek to change them. Also don’t become too hasty to chance vendors or contractors; do your research before recommending any such changes!

Finally, as a new board member, don’t think secrecy is okay. One of the major mistakes made by HOA board members is thinking that transparency with the community isn’t necessary. You need to talk about issues in the open, and make sure the whole community is aware of what’s going on.

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