Depending on how it operates, a neighborhood homeowners' association can quickly make friends or enemies. Whether you need to clear up misconceptions, stand up for your bylaws or simply unite your community to work together to maintain home values, follow these simple steps to improve your HOA's communications and reputation for good.
Things You'll Need
- A neighborhood mailbox
- A neighborhood email chain
- A clear understanding of the HOA's roles and limitations
- An inquisitive mind
- Creative ideas for attracting volunteers
How to Improve a Homeowners Association's Reputation
Clarify your roles and limitations. Some homeowners' associations are unincorporated and not mandatory, limiting the funding and power for legal action against neighbors who break covenants and guidelines. Other associations would like to do more to beautify or unify the neighborhood, but simply do not have the resources or volunteers. If neighbors expect you to fund parties or provide directories, for example, but have not been told that a lack of paid members has your budget in shambles, they may simply assume that someone is not doing her job.
Provide an outlet for suggestions and complaints. Most neighbors assume that their homeowners' association is responsible for addressing their concerns about decisions being made or covenants being broken that could potentially harm the value of their home. If someone is unhappy with the landscaping at the front of the neighborhood, thinks his neighbor may be building a fence that is not up to code, or simply wants to start an annual summer block party, he needs a place to voice his opinions. Have the president of the homeowners' association set up a neighborhood email address, a physical mailbox and regular open meetings to keep communication flowing smoothly.
Distribute regular newsletters. Whether it is taped to mailboxes or sent via email, a monthly or quarterly neighborhood newsletter is the perfect place to keep neighbors up to date on decisions made at open meetings, address common concerns and advertise upcoming social events. If women in the neighborhood play Bunco once a month, or if someone wants to host a potluck barbecue, add it to the announcements to show that the homeowners association is not just for policing policies.
Utilize technology. Not every neighbor will have a schedule flexible enough - or a memory sharp enough - to attend open meetings and discuss her ideas. To make sure everyone has a chance to weigh in on the topics at hand, survey neighbors via email so they can send a quick reply and know their opinions were heard.
Break down the budget. Some neighbors fear their annual dues are being spent on events or maintenance projects that are of no interest to them. With each newsletter or email, break down the previous month's budget, showing how much money was spent on landscaping, lighting the front entrance, social events, etc.
Find out what tainted your reputation in the first place. You may not have been involved in the homeowners association when a decision or dispute split the neighborhood and started a rumor mill. If a former president or volunteer did something people cannot seem to forget, decide if it's worth addressing and then move on.
Talk to the movers and shakers. Some neighborhoods can be broken down into a few general social circles. Maybe some of the children play sports together, or some of the mothers take turns hosting a monthly game night. Ask members involved in those groups to start conversations related to the neighborhood and the homeowners association and then bring you feedback on what is being said.
Knock on doors. If you need to solicit more paying members, have a new volunteer to introduce, or simply want to take a survey on what seems to be a common concern, going door-to-door is a great way to break the ice. Neighbors who only get emails and newsletters may be too busy to respond, or may still hold on to misconceptions - but those approached in person have a chance to realize that the homeowners' association is indeed made up of real people looking out for the common good.
Recruit more volunteers. The more neighbors directly involved in the Homeowners Association, the more word of mouth will reveal the hard work being done to try and make everyone happy.
Throw a party. Nothing offers a clean slate like an old-fashioned neighborhood barbecue. If you make it pot luck, no one has to foot the bill. Kick off the summer - or the school year, or other favorite season - with an open party where neighbors can mingle, win door prizes and meet homeowners' association volunteers.
Tips & Warnings
- You will never please or gain the support of every neighbor. When you're told to get lost, shake it off and move on.
- If one tactic doesn't seem to be working -- whether it's newsletters, emails or calls for open meetings -- reevaluate your strategy and think of something fresh to attract more interest and members.
- Delegate. Neighbors invested in a cause have more pride in it. If the homeowners' association is hosting an event or providing a service, the more volunteers you can get involved, the better.
- When looking for volunteers, be very specific about what needs to be done. Someone is more likely to respond if he hears there is a need for someone to collect neighborhood email addresses, instead of a need for someone to join a committee.
- Photo Credit Camille Platt