Let’s be honest: a very, very tiny minority of HOA and condo boards--or their members--have nefarious intentions. Very often, disputes between the board and the community arise because of poor communication, inconsistent application of processes or simply failing to stay up-to-date on ever-changing legal regulations. While disputes in your community are nothing to scoff at, oversights in the legal arena could have dire consequences for not only your board but also for the long-term viability of your community.
So, how can an all-volunteer board with myriad responsibilities outside of the community stay in line with the newest Maryland laws and regulations? It’s not rocket science, but it does require the ongoing, annual board education and having the resources in place to keep the team informed.
We’ve recapped some of the newest Maryland HOA and condo association laws to come on the books in 2018. We’ve also taken a look at bills that were on the docket during the most recent General Assembly of Maryland session. So, for starters, subscribing to Comsource’s blog is a great way to stay informed about the latest Maryland laws. But here are some other ways you can keep on top of a constantly shifting legal landscape:
Leverage Your Existing Legal Partnership
Every HOA or condo association should have a legal advisor or team of lawyers on call. That’s a non-negotiable for community association boards. However, not every board has a communication process in place with their legal team that both limits unnecessary expenses and creates a conduit for important new legal information to flow from lawyer to board.
“Retaining the services of an attorney is beneficial to homeowners associations in many ways. As legal corporations, community associations are bound by their governing documents and federal, state, and local laws. These governing documents may be difficult to understand and lawyers can assist with more difficult terms, as well as assisting in interpretation,” according to the HOA Management website.
The key is to try and hire lawyers that specialize in association law and to create scheduled touchpoints with your lawyer or lawyers that coincide with the session schedule of the General Assembly of Maryland. Broadly speaking, your board should have a communication schedule in place with its lawyers to maintain consistent communication while also limiting the number of random, one-off calls from board members that will rack up high legal bills. Adding a General Assembly update to your agenda is a simple way to stay informed.
Designate One Board Member as the Legal Liaison
Assign a board member to be the legal liaison responsible for staying up-to-date on new bills and laws. By assigning one member, you can control the influx and distribution of information and have clear lines of accountability. What’s more, the legal liaison should be the only person communicating with the legal team outside of regularly scheduled update meetings. Again, this will limit legal fees and reduce confusion.
Tap Directly Into the General Assembly Information
The General Assembly of Maryland provides a bill tracking online tool for anyone to use. You can find information on the tracking tool here. Basically, by signing up you can track the progress of bills of interest to your community and even get regular reports generated via the system. This tracking option is yet another tool to add to your legal education toolbox.
Sign Up for Google Alerts
Have the designated legal liaison distribute a series of Google Alert search terms for each board member to keep them all in the loop when it comes to Maryland community association legal news. Creating Google Alerts around key HOA or condo law search terms will generate a flow of updates direct to your inbox as they are posted online. If your association doesn’t use Gmail, it can sign up for RSS feeds or news alerts through other organizations. You can learn how to create Google Alert here.
Bookmark or Subscribe to These HOA Law-Related Websites
Bookmarking or subscribing to the blogs of Maryland-focused HOA and condo association websites, in addition to subscribing to the Comsource blog, is a great way to cast a wide information net for legal news. Here are a few websites you should check out to keep your board informed:
- Maryland Homeowners Association Inc. A good resource for matters that impact HOA and condo boards as well as community members.
- Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC. A Maryland and Washington D.C. law group that specializes in community association law and frequently provides legal updates via its blog.
- Maryland Attorney General’s Website. While this website provides broader information, it still can be a useful information resource for exploring new laws in more depth.
- Homeowners Protection Bureau’s Maryland Page. Here you can find a slew of useful links about Maryland HOA law. Again, a great place to dig deeper into Maryland HOA law.
- Community Associations Network’s Maryland Resource Page. Has a great news link recap and archive for both HOA and condo associations.
Develop and Execute Regular Board Member Training Sessions
Beyond legal issues, board member training should be a consistent part of an HOA or condo board’s process. There are a host of complex, evolving issues that every board faces weekly, monthly and yearly; strong training programs that include legal education and updates on new Maryland law can do wonders for improving community management and community relations.
Hignell Companies, a community management company located in California, puts it this way: What makes an average HOA board better and a good HOA board great? It can be summarized in one word: education. An educated board with committed members is the makings of a successfully run homeowners association. Add to the mix an invested property manager and you have a stellar combination.”
Investing the time, effort and resources to develop a library of legal resources and training programs can take your board performance from good to great. While board membership is a volunteer position, the responsibilities inherent in the job are real and not to be taken lightly. Making it easier for HOA and condo association boards to stay educated and informed is critical given the complexities of the modern community association environment and the busy lives board members lead outside of the boardroom.
Partnering with a community management firm like Comsource can help keep your community running smoothly. Our team of experts can streamline your processes, manage aspects of your community and be there for advisement, all of which frees your board to do the very best job they can do. Reach out to us today. We’d love to learn more about your community and its future goals.