Sad but true: Your HOA community may one day face the need to raise assessments, or to take up what is known as a special assessment. The need for this arises when there are capital improvement projects or unforeseen expenses that simply cannot be covered by the regular monthly dues and back-up assessments. It goes without saying that most community members are going to be less than thrilled to hear that a special assessment is needed, so selling them on it is going to be difficult—but it can be done!
A few tips for HOA board members who need to communicate the need for special assessments include:
1. Make sure that you can clearly isolate and identify the reason why the special assessment is needed—how the community made it to this particular point. Was there an issue that was neglected over the years, or were monthly dues just never really sufficient? Did some unexpected event cause urgent repairs to be needed? Homeowners will want to know the answers, and you owe it to them to present these answers clearly.
2. Work with a team of experts—contractors, architects, or whoever else—to get a clear sense of the project’s scope. Knowing the details of the work that needs to be done can help you more accurately portray it to community members.
3. Overcommunicate! Bring up the topic in several editions of the community newsletter. Release a special e-mail or mailer to let people know this is coming. Hold a meeting, or even a couple of meetings, in which homeowners can address their questions to the board or to your team of experts.
4. Be patient with homeowners as they seek to wrap their heads around the issue. Remember that they don’t necessarily have all the insights into this that you do, and it’s key to be attentive and concerned as they express their misgivings or as they ask questions.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your special assessment needs are communicated clearly and effectively.