How to Deal With Problem HOA Board Members

Are your HOA meetings starting to feel more like a comedy show than a productive gathering? Do you find yourself contending with disruptive board members who seem to thrive on chaos? You are not alone. Every HOA has its fair share of characters, but dealing with problem board members can turn even the most straightforward meetings into a three-ring circus.

Picture this: you're trying to steer the ship, but there's always that one member who insists on taking the wheel and steering you straight into stormy waters. Sound familiar? If so, you've got a dominator on your hands—the type of board member who loves the sound of their own voice a little too much and isn't afraid to drown out everyone else's opinions in the process.

And then there's the perennial no-show—the ghost of the boardroom who's always MIA when you need them most. It's like trying to conduct an orchestra without any musicians. How are you supposed to hit the right notes when half the band is missing?

But perhaps the most challenging of all is the eternal contrarian—the board member who sees the glass as perpetually half empty and isn't afraid to rain on everyone's parade. Whether it's opposing every decision or dragging out meetings with endless debates, they've got a knack for turning even the simplest discussions into heated arguments.
So, what's a beleaguered board to do in the face of such adversity? Well, the first step is recognizing that you're not powerless in this situation. While you may not be able to change a problem board member's behavior overnight, there are steps you can take to address the issue head-on.

Start by having a candid conversation with the individual in question. Approach the situation with empathy and understanding, but don't be afraid to lay down the law if necessary. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle reminder of the impact their behavior is having on the rest of the organization to spur them into action.
If the problem persists, consider enacting measures to hold the individual accountable for their actions. Whether it's documenting attendance records or setting clear expectations for participation, creating a culture of accountability can go a long way towards curbing disruptive behavior.

Here are some techniques for preventing future problems:

  • Create detailed job descriptions and a code of conduct for board members. Document the duties and responsibilities that are expected of them including meeting attendance. State what the consequences are for violating the rules.
  • Require trial periods for new people who have an interest in getting involved in running the HOA. Your HOA can set a probationary period before someone is officially a board member. Another option is to have them serve on a committee first to determine if they would be a good fit. Remember, it is much harder to get rid of a problem board member than it is to prevent them from being one. 
  • And while we realize that many HOAs have a serious problem trying to find anyone to volunteer to be a board member, It's important to hold a standard so make sure you are adding them because of their qualification and not out of desperation.
  • Have board members sign a contract that they understand the rules and responsibilities expected of a board member. This way they cannot later claim they didn’t know the rule or that the rule did not exist.
  • Create processes for removing board members and add that to your bylaws.
  • Set term limits, this gets new members with new ideas on the board. There are drawbacks to term limits of course. If you have an awesome board member you hate to have them step down because they are term-limited. Also, in some HOAs it may be very difficult to get someone else to fill the spot. It’s best to have staggered terms, so you always have someone on the board with some institutional knowledge.
  • Of course, prevention is always better than cure. By establishing clear guidelines for board members and fostering a culture of respect and collaboration from the outset, you can nip potential problems in the bud before they have a chance to escalate.
Remember, you're not in this alone. Whether you're dealing with a dominator, a no-show, or an eternal contrarian, there are resources available to help you navigate the challenges of board governance. So take a deep breath, gather your courage, and remember: you've got this!
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