Whenever you see a story on the news about an HOA, the odds of it being positive are low. As a board member of an HOA in Arizona, your instinct kicks in, and you want to know what they are doing wrong. So, you jump on your laptop, conduct research on HOA Arizona bylaws or PR strategies for board members, but immediately hit a brick wall because you don’t know where to start. We put together this article to help any HOA define a strategy to avoid negative press coverage and respond to any unforeseen issues that might arise. Here is how to effectively handle and avoid most negative new coverage as an Arizona HOA.
Crafting a PR Strategy for an HOA
Setting up a system to keep HOAs out of the news in Arizona is not easy. It is important to work with an HOA law firm in Arizona that can assist in crafting enforceable and equitable rules and regulations and policies adhering to Arizona law. This should be a priority for any HOA that has not reviewed their rules and regulations or policies in a while. Routine reviews with an HOA attorney of your governing documents and future plans for the community can help avoid most bad press coverage for your HOA.
Understanding Common Causes of Bad Press Coverage for an HOA
It’s obviously better if your HOA can be proactive and locate any rules, regulations, policies, or maintenance or financial plans that could create issues or controversies down the road. Avoiding those issues starts with a clear understanding of what types of practices are leading to the news coverage. Typically, they involve unfair or unreasonable rules, lack of understanding, petty rule implementation, and discrimination.
Reviewing bad coverage of other HOAs in your state and around the country is useful for board members and anyone that lives in a planned community or association. Many of these common issues can be avoided with clear, concise communication from the board to all members that demonstrates the value of the HOA and plans for the community.
Ten Steps for Effective HOA Strategies That Help Avoid Bad Press Coverage
1) Consistency is Key
From a practical sense, keeping your interactions with all members consistent should lead to better outcomes and happier members. For a legal sense, policies need to be practiced and implemented fairly and on a nonselective basis. No one gets a free pass. Enforce rules and policies without exception fairly and consistently and your HOA will avoid many common legal issues and bad press coverage.
2) Clearly Define the Master Plan and Steps to Get There
HOAs can add lots of value for all the members if they get the majority of members on the same page. Board members have an easier job if they get members on the same page as much as possible. Ultimately, an HOA is tasked with making sure residents have access to a clean and well-maintained community that increases in value year over year. Setting targets and goals for the community and getting members behind the plan will make everyone’s experience better.
3) Communication, Communication and More Communication
An HOA has a duty to keep their members informed of all major decisions and plans. This includes any updates the annual budget or any service provider changes. Furthermore, any disciplinary actions should be followed with clear and concise communication.
4) Be Accountable to Members
HOAs run by board members that try to make changes, big and small, on their own without significant backing of their members are a common source of news coverage and contentious legal issues. Rules, regulations, and strategic plans that promote fairness and receive majority support of the members is always advisable. Adding significant accountability and measures to detail responsibilities will always help avoid ever getting to a place where your HOA is on the local news.
5) Utilize Creative and Professional Expertise
Finding ways to leverage the knowledge and experience of professionals with knowledge of best business practices and accounting expertise helps put your HOA in a place where it is financially secure by the end of the year. This can also help avoid the common trap of always raising fees to address shortfalls. Creative professionals can typically find practical ways to cut costs or improve outcomes with the existing costs.
6) Handling Inevitable Conflicts
Conflicts and arguments will naturally happen in any HOA. People will genuinely disagree on the best way to solve a problem or improve the community. Encouraging regular discourse and airing of these issues is important for the long-term success of any community. It will also help get in front of many common issues before they rise to a level that might get some bad press coverage. Hosting regular transparent association meetings and community events that involve all members is both practical and essential to this goal.
7) Lead by Example
Effective HOA board members set a good example by collaborating with the residents in a respectful and civil manner. They encourage open and clear communication that addresses real issues, challenges, and risks directly. Many common issues could have been handled with direct communication and an open process to decide resolutions before they rose to a level that presented real risks to the members.
8) Proactively Defusing Potentially Bad Situations
There will be times when things will get out of hand and having to defuse the situation may be the only plan. In that case, do not dismiss or belittle any of the concerns or objections coming from the people. Respect is shown when you give people an opportunity to express their opinions. It might seem like common sense, but it’s important to remember that allowing each member to have their voice heard will likely help craft a better short-term solution and long term sense of community.
9) Stay Focused on the Main Goal of an HOA
The main purpose of an HOA is to protect the property value of its homes. It’s not there to protect a government body or a place to solve political problems. Board members typically have the most success when they make their best effort to be unbiased, talk openly, and hone their knowledge of their duties.
10) Being Tech Savvy Can Help
Social media is a must in today’s environment. It can improve communication and simplify keeping all members informed and involved. While you can’t control what your residents are posting on social media, you can certainly define some guidelines as to how social media would be used to communicate information pertaining to the HOA’s meetings, events, parties, and gatherings. This does not have to involve a lot of effort or work to keep some online channels for community engagement. Simple and practical sharing of key information is a great place to start moving into the digital age.
Work with a Law Firm That Specializes in HOA Representation
Any kind of controversial media coverage for an HOA can become time-consuming and frustrating as you attempt to deal with it. It can also create legal issues for some types of coverage that will require a measured and professional response. One of the main reasons to be proactive and work with a law firm that specializes in Arizona HOA representation is many serious legal pitfalls and common issues can be avoided with better planning and execution of key initiatives. Halk, Oetinger, and Brown only works with planned communities and associations in Arizona. Our experienced attorneys routinely help associations with all their legal needs, including controversial media coverage. We assist our clients with planning and strategies to avoid most of these types of issues whenever possible as well. Contact our team today at 602-952-6925 or schedule an initial consultation on our contact us page.
Halk, Oetinger, and Brown shares this article for informational purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.