A condominium or homeowners association is the cornerstone of a building community. The condo or HOA maintains order and continuity by preserving architectural integrity, maintaining the common elements, protecting property values, and often providing for recreation and/or entertainment for the community. Board responsibilities may run the gamut from basic maintenance to sophisticated special services. To be effective a condo or HOA needs a strong board of directors or managers who, individually and collectively, understand the role and mission of the association. Operating a condo or HOA involves many of the same responsibilities as any other business, although board members are volunteers and generally serve without compensation.
While some board members may have pertinent experiences from their personal lives—accountants, attorneys, brokers, and managers—most are only armed with a desire to serve their building communities. A newly elected board member will need solid instruction and training to fully understand their role and fiduciary duties. Serving as a board member can be a valuable service and a rewarding experience, but like any other position, proper training and instruction is a must. So who performs the training, and when and where do the instructions take place? There is no one simple answer, but there are several excellent options for motivated boards and board members.
Building an Informed Board
Currently, there are no federal laws in place that require any form of training for condo or co-op board members, and thus states are free to implement legislation as they see fit. According to Joseph W. Scharnak, an attorney with the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago, effective July 1, 2016, Illinois will implement an Ombudsperson Act, which will eventually require an ombudsman to offer training, educational materials, and courses for board members. But, as Scharnak notes, these are all optional for board members on a purely informational basis. Boards will still be left to their own volition in regard to pursuing continued education—it will just be more readily available. That said, most experts in the field recommend that board members who want to perform their duties in an effective fashion seek out some form of higher learning. Community association managers in Illinois are required to be licensed but no formal certification is presently required for board members.
The Illinois chapter of Community Associations Institute (CAI-Illinois), however, has started a program to train new board members. This program called Dedicated Community Association Leaders (DCAL) is for community association leaders (board members and homeowners). It offers education, in a classroom setting, to ensure current and future association leaders have the tools necessary to run their associations. To view upcoming DCAL courses, visit www.cai-illinois.org.
Courses include: Introduction to Governing Your Community; Meetings & Elections; Fair Practices in your Community Association; Rules & Regulations; Insurance & Risk Management; Understanding Financials, Budget, Reserves & Reports and the ABC Essentials of Community Association Management. Participants receive a certificate upon completion, and to stay current must renew the DCAL recognition on a yearly basis.