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HOA Community Communication: Do’s and Don’ts

HOA Community Communication: Do’s and Don’ts

A concerning issue recently arose in a colleague’s community.

They received a notice about a mini horn inspection (fire alarm testing) on their doors. The notice stated, “Annual fire alarm testing has been scheduled. This is required testing to ensure the fire system operates in the event of an emergency.”

Fair enough. That obviously must occur. However, what followed was more than a bit alarming (pun intended):

“Please be advised that you need to make your unit available for a mini horn inspection on [date] from [time range]. Please note that if the unit is unavailable during the scheduled time, any costs the HOA incurs to reschedule testing may be billed back to the owner. Thank you for your cooperation.”

The above is a perfect example—of how not to speak to the community.

First, how do unit owners make their units “available” if they’re at work? Just leave the door open? It’s simply not feasible.

Plus, they say the unit owner could be billed if they can’t make it available. Ridiculous!

Clarification was required, but it was not initially forthcoming. What should have been included were ways owners could make units available without the threat of monetary penalty.

This scenario is a perfect example of poor HOA community communication. While communication isn’t always an HOA strong point, it should be. Residents need to be well-informed about issues that concern them, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Why Good Communication is Vital for HOAs

Communication missteps are often at the heart of many disputes between boards and homeowners. Sometimes, it’s because messages are insensitive and delivered without proper regard for the human element. Other times, it could be due to a lack of transparency in decision-making or a lack of oversight as to the way information is delivered.

Ultimately, strong communication is the basis for all healthy, trusting relationships. The bond between HOAs and communities can be just as strong when communication is approached correctly. So today, we’ll look at the do’s and don’ts of HOA community communication and offer tips and solutions to help you establish a foundation of trust and respect.

Do’s and Don’ts of HOA Communication

While getting the word out to the community is important, how you do it matters, too. Here are a few tips to make your community communication more effective.

Do: Establish a process and procedure for communicating decisions

Some topics are more contentious than others, but in best practice, you should have a consistent process for announcing policy changes or decisions on all matters. Explaining why the policy was introduced ensures members understand what led to the decision. Examples could include bylaw changes, insurance requirements, or responding to resident complaints. When residents know the reasoning behind the decision, they will be less likely to push back.

Don’t: Wait until the last minute to make announcements

All matters that affect the community should be tabled well in advance so people don’t feel blindsided. This is especially critical when residents must make their units available, as some may need time to plan. Advance notice may be mandated in HOA bylaws, but it’s best not to leave anything to the last minute; sooner is always better.

Don’t: Rely on a single method or channel to communicate

Many HOAs send out a monthly newsletter in print or by email. Regardless of the coverage you feel you have for that publication, some people simply won’t read it. If you have something critical to communicate, like water main shutdowns or repaving the driveways, using multiple methods and mediums ensures everyone sees it.

If the issue is critical or imminent, consider a flyer under each door, posting on a Facebook group (assuming you have one), posting a notice in common areas, or even calling each member directly.

If you use a CRM to send emails, there are ways to track whether a message has been read. Some CRMs support SMS messaging, which is a non-invasive and direct way to deliver important information quickly.

Don’t: Make decisions that affect the community without soliciting input

When HOA officers meet and make decisions without community input, there is bound to be pushback. It might seem like a simple way to get things done, but it excludes the people those decisions impact the most. Even if you are “pretty sure” you know how the community will vote on a decision, including them will allow them to weigh in, ask questions, and participate in the process. Openness and transparency around decision-making go a long way to building trust and preventing conflict or hard feelings.

Do: Invite the community to open HOA meetings

Not all board discussions can be had publicly, but most votes and official decision-making can. Open meetings are a way to demystify the HOA voting process and help to build trust among your members.

Do: Establish a communications committee

Consider establishing a communications committee to oversee community messaging. Most boards encompass a diverse range of strengths and skill sets, and almost all have a few committees to handle niche projects or issues. Also true, there is almost certainly at least one or two people on any given board who excel at communication. These people are always in touch with community sentiment, connect with people naturally, and don’t mind spending the time it takes to ensure people are well-informed. These skills can be leveraged to ensure community messaging is friendly, timely, and well-received.

Do: Encourage feedback and be open to suggestions

Your community is comprised of many humans, all of whom have opinions and a voice. Boards that actively listen to their residents will be more in touch with what they need to do to maintain a harmonious atmosphere. When community members feel heard and valued, they will trust that the HOA is attuned to their goals. Practicing the above tips and prioritizing respectful, transparent communication helps to build strong, connected communities where people can thrive.

Reach out today to learn more about Belwood’s HOA Association Management Services.

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