A Condo/HOA guide: How to effectively communicate with owners and residents

Date Published : Nov-20-2019

Written By : Phillip Livingston

It can be difficult to get unit owners involved in community affairs, especially when some of them don’t actually live on site. It doesn’t help that most HOAs use outdated communication methods that lead to misunderstandings and make it difficult to reach a quorum on important issues.

If you’re looking for innovative ways to stay in touch with unit owners and stimulate engagement within your community, you’ve come to the right place. Below we have some helpful tips on how to establish effective communication with condo association members and cultivate an engaged community.

 

The roles and functions of the board

Before we get into the most effective communication strategies for HOAs and condo associations, let’s take a look at what these organizations represent. That’ll make it easier to understand why it’s important for them to foster good communication with residents.

The condo board acts as a voice for all the homeowners within the community. It’s made up of a number of board members that are elected by the homeowners to be the representatives of the collective.

They’re there to enforce bylaws, maintenance of the common property, and to maintain the value of the planned development.

This level of responsibility requires an enormous amount of trust from unit owners. That’s why it’s imperative for HOAs to foster ongoing communication with residents.

 

How to effectively communicate with condo/ homeowners

 

Computer sending notification

 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to condo communication, there are some basic principles and strategies that can help you maximize communication. For instance, we can all agree that using digital communication tools is faster and more efficient than outdated paper and mail.

Read on to find out how technology and sound communication strategies can facilitate smooth operations and cohesion with homeowners.

 

  • Communicate as frequently as possible

One of the best ways to capture and maintain unit owners’ attention is to communicate with them frequently. Property management software such as Condo Control Central simplifies the process for you. It offers a discussion forum where unit owners can voice their opinions in a safe and confidential manner.

Residents can use this feature to report property damage in the common areas, and you’ll be able to moderate the forum by adding pre-defined topics.

The event planner tool also makes it easy to inform and update residents about upcoming community events such as get-togethers and AGM meetings.

Tired of printing documents and posters every time you update community bylaws? Say goodbye to printing costs and upload updated documents straight to your community’s file library. It has quick search functionality and allows you to seamlessly notify residents when you upload a new document. Now you’ll have no excuse but to keep unit owners updated on every move.

Make sure your state allows for the electronic transfer of large documents because it’s not legal in every state.

 

  • Simplify communication

People generally don’t like to actively seek out information so you need to make it easy for them. Otherwise, no-one is going to go out of their way to read the rules unless they’re made visible. Going digital will not only help you to cut costs while captivating people’s attention, but it also simplifies the communication process. Using property management software forums means that you don’t have to rely on residents to open an email, or log in to a website.

But, it’s important to modulate the information you make available to residents online. Intelligently designed communication strategies speak volumes and will help you manage and reduce conflict.

 

  • Hold regular meetings

Like most condo associations, your condo declaration stipulates how often your board should meet. It’s important to include residents in HOA meetings to promote transparency and honesty. The minimum requirement in most state regulations is for the HOA board to meet annually to plan the yearly budget. But, it helps to hold regular meetings in-between to keep residents in the loop about important issues.

If you want to find out how often your condo board should meet, check the association’s bylaws for detailed information. Most bylaws have a minimum meeting frequency of five to six times a year. It’s important to note that this is merely a suggestion, and the board can choose to meet more or fewer times than that, based on the needs of the community.

Granted, things like weather conditions can contribute to the frequency of board meetings.  Associations that in areas with extreme winters may hold regular meetings to deal with issues like snow removal or lawn maintenance. Some associations need to hold frequent meetings to deal with tenant disputes and other kinds of drama. Larger condo associations with 30, 50 or more units may also meet frequently due to unique circumstances.

The important thing is to address problems as they arise and do so publicly. Don’t allow things to fester as this may lead to detached involvement from homeowners. For instance, if an HOA board holds six meetings in a year, then homeowners should be present for at least half of those meetings.

 

  • Leverage your online presence

Every association should have a website and social media presence. This makes it easier to raise awareness about the latest association news, meeting minutes, etc.

Plus, you can control the amount of information included on the website and who has access to it.

Most associations use social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn as well as association blogs as a way to keep community members in the loop about important news and happenings. Through private groups within these platforms, you can safely and effectively share meeting minutes, community alerts, invitations, and announcements.

The only downside to using public social networks is that you don’t have control over the platform itself. Facebook or LinkedIn’s community and privacy rules can change at any moment. This can affect the way you communicate with association members and compromise privacy. After all, social media doesn’t offer the level of confidentiality required when sharing certain information.

Since these platforms aren’t designed with condo associations in mind, they may not have certain functions you’d find in dedicated property management software.

Social media also comes with issues like out of control comments that cause misunderstandings and communication barriers. For instance, it’s easy for comments posted by board members to be misconstrued as a representation of the board itself, when it’s only the perspective of a single board member. Situations like this can create a hostile environment and lead to unnecessary strife.

This is just one example of how Facebook can instigate controversy trough miscommunication. It’s difficult to moderate comments and conversations that happen on the platform, hence the fighting that often happens on Facebook and other social media websites.

It’s better to communicate with homeowners using an internal platform. That way, you can moderate the conversation and address questions in an orderly fashion. An open forum is a great way to do th
is, along with Control Central’s dedicated announcement feature.

The website builder feature from Condo Control Central is ideal because it allows you to create a customized platform for your community. Here, you can safely share important and mundane information alike. This includes things like your pest control schedule to your recreational event calendar, board meeting schedule, planned improvements and parking requirements to name but a few.

It’s the best way to ensure confidentiality and privacy when communicating with unit owners electronically. It also encourages ongoing interaction between unit owners and can foster a strong sense of community.

 

  • Encourage disinterested unit owners by showing the financial upside

Are you having trouble with disinterested unit owners? Then you should point out a few reasons why they should take an interest in association affairs. Most absentee unit owners are that way because they don’t live in their units and simply rent them out as an investment property.

In such cases, it helps to incentivize meeting attendance with something like a free gift card or a percentage off from their assessments. At the end of the day, these types of owners are interested in the financial value of the property. So, they will take part in association meetings and affairs if it means maximizing their bottom line or investment.

 

  • Be transparent

We can’t stress this enough. Transparency is paramount in a condo association because you don’t want unit owners to ever feel alienated or unheard. Transparency is the easiest way to avoid disgruntled unit owners while making sure that you’re sharing all the right information with them.

For the best results, we recommend you consult with state regulations to see what the requirements are. Most states call for regular association board meetings that involve unit owners in every major decision.

The last thing unit owners want is to find out about an important decision via email or text notification. Especially if it affects the value of the property or their quality of life, which it probably will. Everything should be discussed in an open board meeting, and the board should give unit owners due notice before each meeting.

Unfortunately, association boards have been coming up with new ways to exclude board members, much to their detriment. One popular approach is to hold “working sessions” which are board meetings meant to exclude homeowners. The argument commonly used by board members is that they don’t want any interruptions from unit owners.

Even if the board is not planning to make motions during the meeting, community members must be informed of the meeting so they can attend if they want to.

This is the basis of transparency and the first step to building trust and open communication with your community.

 

  • Share more

Lack of communication is one of the biggest challenges HOAs and condo associations face today. This usually happens because the board fails to share decisions made on the backend. But, it’s important to share as much as possible with homeowners, keeping in mind that that the more transparent you are the more they will trust you.

It might be helpful to distribute regular newsletters either on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep community members in the loop about important issues. Even when an HOA board is experiencing problems with unauthorized renters, it’s important to share these issues so community members know what the board is dealing with.

Don’t forget to distribute the meeting minutes as soon as possible. This could be anything from a few days to a few weeks from the meeting depending on how fast the board approves them. Meeting minutes are a form of communication too and can help to shift perceptions about board transparency.

HOA boards should go beyond legal requirements when it comes to transparency and make financial records available to unit owners. That’s because financial transactions are often a leading cause of suspicion in condo associations and HOAs.

We recommend a yearly audit to improve transparency and the budget mail-out feature from Control Central is a lifesaver. It offers customized mail-out templates that you can use to digitally and automatically mail-out condo fees to residents.

 

Benefits of great communication in a community

 

 

Maintaining great communication can help the HOA to reduce costs, minimize legal risk and improve the overall value of your condo units.

  • Cut costs

The average condo association can spend between $10, 000 to $50, 000 a year on emergency repair and clean-up. That’s a lot of money that the board should work to eliminate.

Effective communication can help you educate people to not put grease, oil and other harmful garbage down their drains, etc.

  • Minimize legal risk

It’s important to communicate condo rules properly and regularly to unit owners. That way, if any legal problems arise, you know you’ve done your due diligence as a condo board to equip unit owners with the right information.

  • Maximize returns

Effective communication can also help you maximize the return on your investment. Letting people know how they should take care of the amenities and contribute to the condo community as a whole can improve the overall property value. After all, people always pay attention when you remind them of things that’ll hit them in the wallet later.

 

Conclusion

Proactive condo boards with a commitment to clear communication are able to protect their financial well-being in the long run and foster healthier relationships with residents.

Going digital is the best way to achieve this especially if you’re managing many units. An online presence allows also you to create and maintain an appealing image to prospective buyers. You’re able to engage your residents online no matter where you are. Digital notice boards are also useful for raising awareness about association events, maintenance schedules, and other information.

The biggest benefits of digital communication include reduced paper waste, unlimited message distribution, and it gives your condo association a professional look. That’s what makes it an essential part of a visually engaging and effective communication strategy.

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