Managing a large HOA is similar to taking care of a town. There are more people and properties to care for of course, but there’s more to it than that.
HOAs consisting of more than 1000+ units require a high-level of preparation and organization. Associations must responsibly manage millions of dollars, find a way to resolve hundreds of problems and keep the entire community—spanning many miles—informed and engaged.
With strong leaders and effective management systems in place, large HOAs can make themselves highly attractive and extremely valuable.
Below are the top requirements for HOAs of 1000 or more units.
An effective communication system
After finances, communication is the most important pillar of effective HOA management. It also poses the biggest challenge for HOA boards and members.
Poor communication can create major problems for communities that have thousands of members; infrequent or unclear messages lead to apathy and disengagement. When members don’t care about their neighborhood, it becomes more challenging to maintain it.
In order to make sure people get the information that they need to participate in meetings, properly follow rules, make payments on time, etc., large HOAs need a multifaceted communication strategy:
- The system needs to be easy for all parties involved
- It should incorporate multiple methods, including email or an online announcements platform, physical letters and a mobile-friendly website
- The combination of communication methods should reflect the preferences of the community
- Physical letters should be minimized whenever possible to save money and paper
- Giving owners the option to receive communications electronically can help associations reduce print and mailing costs
Keep in mind: some owners will want a physical copy of every form, notice and package. Associations should continue to provide those owners with paper documents. But, when possible, big HOAs are encouraged to use digital communication methods as it’s easier and faster to reach large groups. It’s also easier to share changes if an event must be moved or there was an error in the first message.
Some states, including California, are recognizing the want and need for more modernized communications. As such, the sunshine state has introduced Senate Bill 392, Common interest developments: document delivery, sponsored by the California Association of Realtors. This bill aims to support digital communications in HOAs.
Beginning in 2023, owners can ask for individual notifications from the HOA to be delivered electronically or by traditional mail. The default delivery method is postal mail if owners do not make a choice. California HOAs can currently post general notices on the HOA’s website, provided this method is designated by the association in the annual policy statement.
Note that HOA management companies are explicitly forbidden from selling member information to any third party without member consent.
Websites are great tools for large HOAs because they consolidate resources and information on one familiar platform. Almost everybody understands how to navigate a website, and, if the url is customized to match the name of the HOA, owners should have no problem finding the community website.
Lake Linganore, for example, has a clean, yet comprehensive website where owners can view community events, connect with the board and access their password-protected accounts. From their secure accounts, owners can view announcements, make payments, book amenities and much more.
HOAs that elect to have a company build their websites for them can ask for any feature they can think of. While this is a more expensive option, it’s worth the investment when you are trying to serve and inform thousands of people. Additional features could include an elections section, forms, an option to translate the website to Spanish and a page for FAQs.
While most associations are not required to have a community website, some states have made it mandatory. Florida passed a law in 2019 requiring condominium associations (and other residential associations) with 150 units or more to own and operate an independent website. While condos are named specifically, an HOA is also a residential association. As such, it’s best to look into the matter sooner than later.
Residential association websites for Florida communities have several requirements, including:
- The recorded declaration of the condominium
- Amendments to bylaws
- Articles of incorporation
- Rules and regulations
- The annual budget and any proposed budget to be considered at the annual meeting
- The financial report and any monthly income or expense statement to be considered at the meeting
- A list of all executory contracts or documents to which the association is a party After bidding for services or equipment, a list of bids received within the last year by the association must also be posted. Summaries of bids for materials, equipment or services that are more than $500 must stay on the website for 1 year. In lieu of summaries, associations can upload complete copies of bids
- The current certification of each director
The website must also be accessible through the internet, and it is required to contain a subpage, web portal or other secure electronic location that is password protected.
Similarly, the Texas legislature now requires most residential subdivisions and townhome communities to maintain a website for its members. All current versions of dedicatory instruments must be available on the website. Residential subdivisions that are less than 60 lots are exempt from this requirement, unless they are managed by a management company.
A property management company
It takes a team to manage a big HOA development. Boards simply could not do this on their own. After all, board members are volunteers; often have day jobs and other responsibilities to take care of. A good property management team will help keep the community’s finances, day-to-day operations and repairs in order.
Property managers that specialize in managing larger HOAs will also be capable of staying on top of compliance and legal issues, as well as enforcing rules and bylaws.
Online payment system
No one wants to be responsible for collecting dues from thousands of residents. Online payments drastically cut down on the logistics of collecting and cashing checks. Not only does this make life easier for property managers, it also provides additional convenience to owners as well.
Moreover, online payments can lead to more on-time payments! Depending on the payment options available, owners can use a credit card which can be helpful if other payments are taken from their bank account at the same time monthly fees are due.
Owners can also make online payments at any time, and can even submit payments from their phones if the HOA uses a platform that is mobile friendly.
When payments are made online, records are also available, and records are absolutely essential for large HOAs. If there’s ever any confusion about a payment, management can look it up in a few seconds instead of having to look through file folders or an excel spreadsheet. Similarly, management can easily spot late payments, track monthly and annual revenue, and view reports.
Digital amenity booking system
Booking amenities digitally gives residents a fair and streamlined way to secure their favorite tennis court or time at the pool. An online system allows the facilities team to customize the entire booking process for each amenity. Include terms and conditions, add time slots so that everyone has an opportunity to use the amenities, adjust prices based on days of the week and set capacity limits for amenities like the pool.
Once settings have been adjusted, residents can do most of the work without any assistance from staff. Management can decide if bookings will require approval from an authorized user, or if they can be approved automatically.
A big HOA is guaranteed to have a very long paper trail. Trying to archive and organize all of that information can be tough without a good system (filing cabinets probably won’t cut it).
HOAs have an obligation to keep good records, not just for management and the board, but for all members. In fact, in Arizona (and the majority of other US states), homeowners associations must allow their members to review community records. According to the A.R.S. Section 33-1805, HOAs must make association records reasonably available to owners or their representatives. Associations have 10 days to fulfill a member’s request to view the records and can’t charge any fees for the production of the records requested.
Of course, confidential records must remain confidential. According to the same section, associations can withhold documents from disclosure if they relate to pending litigation issues, personal information, minutes of board meetings held in executive session, or if they’re protected by the attorney-client privilege.
A digital document storage platform can greatly improve record-keeping for a big HOA, especially if there is a way to keep some files private. A document storage platform enables management to share popular forms, governing documents, newsletters and more.
Files with sensitive information can be created exclusively for boards or committee members, while access to these files can be granted on a need-to-know basis. Best of all, old documents can be recovered in seconds by performing a quick search. A cloud-based system is best so that files don’t accidentally get erased or destroyed.
A lot goes into managing a large HOA. It requires multiple teams, strong communication and good organization. As a result, these communities operate like small towns – there is structure, stability and happiness too.