D.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A new comment/suggestion sheet has been written, so that homeowners who aren’t able to attend meetings will be able to add their input about items like safety, maintenance, tennis courts, pool, and garages. They also want renter input, too. Being a member of the association board, I don’t think this is a good idea. Is this even fair to the homeowners? The sheet hasn’t been shown yet to the homeowners, and renters in our building. Your thoughts?
Mister Condo replies:
D.L., when it comes to communications, I always say more is better. I think the more that unit owners and residents have the ability to express themselves the healthier the community will be. However, comments and suggestion sheets are just that – sheets of paper with thoughts from the unit owners, renters, and anyone else who has access to them. They are not governing documents nor will they supplant the efforts of the hard-working volunteer leaders of the community like you who serve on the Board and are the ultimate authority on what happens within the association walls. I, too, serve on the Board at my HOA. I receive input from unit owners and renters in a variety of ways, including phone calls, emails, text messages, door knocks (my favorite!), and casual bumping into of fellow residents whether it be at the mailbox or a nearby grocery store. I welcome the opportunity to have an informal discussion about what they like or dislike about the association and it does factor into my knowledge of resident opinion when it comes time to make decisions about the association. I liken this to how a local politician might hold a Town Hall forum to discuss issues. No decisions are made at such an event but it allows for meaningful dialogue and thoughtful consideration. Of course, I have to weigh each opinion differently. A renter, for instance, has no say in anything that the association does. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear their concerns about parking or pool pass use or whatever; it just means that they have an opportunity to be heard. I often instruct renters to discuss their issues with their landlord and explain that only their landlord has a vote in association business.
The real issue, in my mind, D.L., is how you and your fellow Board members may be perceived by the association if you don’t allow this harmless method of communication. Like I said, it is only a sheet of paper with thoughts and comments. There may be some good ideas that come of it. There may be some crazy suggestions, too! Either way, it is a low cost way of keeping residents happy that they have one more way to express themselves. In an HOA, it is important that residents feel they have a voice. Who knows, you might just find your next volunteer from amongst the suggestion-makers. That’s how I found a resident to chair our Beautification Committee. She didn’t like the plants we had chosen. Turns out she is an expert gardener and the community has never looked more colorful or vibrant with her planting choices. All because she had a way to communicate her ideas. Sounds like a “win/win” situation to me. All the best!