New Board Member Orientation

 
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Congratulations on your board position! As a new board member, we are sure you have many questions about your responsibilities, your role as a community leader and our role as your management company. This page is designed to give you some basic orientation about HMS, how to access important documentation, and best practices on a variety of topics. Even if you have served on the board for some time, most volunteers can benefit from a review of the basic procedures listed below. Educating our staff, our board members and our homeowners is a top priority at HMS. Thank you for taking the time to review this information, and we look forward to helping your association thrive!


HMS History

Homeowner Management Services has a long and successful history in Georgia - over 26 years. We are proud to be an “Accredited Association Management Company” (AAMC), A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau, the winner of the 2018 & 2019 “Best of Forsyth” award, and a member of the Community Association Institute Leadership Circle. AAMC is the highest designation possible in the State of Georgia and we are one of only five companies with this status.


 
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Board Member Process Checklist!

Follow these steps for an effective and efficient term.

 
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How important are best practices? Well, consider the images above depicting Path A versus Path B. Both start and end at the same point, but as you can see, one path is much easier than the other. Community Association Management activities are made far more difficult through inefficiencies, lack of proper tools, poor communication and incomplete management plans. On the other hand, cooperation and long-term strategies can eliminate hours of work and mistakes. Your association has many goals and we aim to accomplish each one quickly and with the least amount of stress possible for all parties. By becoming familiar with the material below, your board is taking an important step in creating a successful partnership and a bright future for your association.


Step One: Review Roles & Responsibilities

 
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Successful association management begins with everyone understanding each other’s roles and responsibilities, and a commitment to be sure we are all moving in the same direction. The association is responsible for protecting and enhancing both the values of the amenities and the individual members’ properties. The board makes the decisions, and HMS assists with implementing those decisions.

+ Board Roles and Responsibilities

  • Maintaining, protecting, preserving and enhancing the common areas
  • Doing all that can be done to protecting the member’s property values
  • Adopting and executing sound financial practices, including properly funding the reserves
  • Setting standards, rules, or regulations as determined in the Governing Documents
  • Enforcing the Covenants and operating the community governance as set forth in the Bylaws
  • Protecting the association from liability and reducing risks
  • Utilizing human capital, employees, and/or volunteers in the most effective and efficient manner possible

Board members are also required to attend meetings, participate, respond to emails in a timely manner, and vote on issues unless there is a conflict of interest.  Board members must also be current on assessments, and in compliance with the Governing Documents at all times.

+ Management Company Roles and Responsibilities

  • Works for the board of directors
  • Carries out the day to day operations of the community based on board direction
  • Offers advice or best practices to the board and the members

*  Please note that the management company does not make decisions for the association.  The HMS Agreement and your individual community's scope of work will determine what activities are performed and when.

+ Owner Roles and Responsibilities

  • Understand their association's Governing Documents
  • Make timely payments on all assessments
  • Comply with the rules and regulations
  • Participate in meetings and committees

Step Two: Register for Online Access

 
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As a new board member, you need easy access to association information.

+ Registration Process

  • HMS utilizes an online system with role-based access for all our associations.
  • If you are not already registered as a homeowner, then please register at www.HMS-inc.net.
  • If you are already registered as a homeowner, then there is no need to re-register.
  • Your password will remain the same whether you are a board member or a homeowner.
  • Be sure your phone number and email address in the system are correct.
  • All homeowners have access to certain information such as their own account, Governing Documents, Architectural Guidelines, newsletters, and basic financials such as the budget, income statements, and balance sheets.
  • As a board member, your online portal view will automatically change once HMS maps you as a board member.
  • In addition to all items that can be viewed as a homeowner, you will have enhanced access and a board-exclusive tab.
  • Easily view all member accounts, delinquency, and compliance reports, open modification requests, the Board Task management system, and a variety of other items at any time.

Step Three: Meet Your HMS Team

 
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Understanding how HMS is structured will assist you in handling the day to day activities of the association. All of our communities have two team members assigned to the property and various support departments that service specific needs. We also have a live receptionist during all regular business hours.

+ Team Member Assignments

  • Licensed Community Association Manager:  All associations have a Community Association Manager.  His or her primary role is based on the HMS agreement.  Manager roles can include handling many of the board initiatives such as paying the bills, creating the budget, inspections, and requesting bids for service contracts.
  • Association Administrator:  All associations also have an Association Administrator.  His or her primary role is to handle homeowner issues such as phone calls and email responses associated with compliance issues, architectural control requests, key fob distribution, and clubhouse rentals.

+ Support Departments

  • Accounting:  HMS has an experienced accounting team that can handle homeowner questions regarding their accounts, and assists the manager with payables.
  • Closing:  HMS has an experienced team that handles all closing documentation, verifies that all home sales have the accurate balance collected, and keeps the homeowner list accurate.
  • Executive Team:  Your executive team is here to ensure your satisfaction.  Contact your quality control center with any issues by email at Service.Quality@HMS-inc.net.

Team Member Overview

 

Association Manager

  • Board Initiatives

  • Preparing the Budget

  • Accounts Payable

  • Collection Action

  • Meetings

  • Compliance (Inspections)

  • Bids & Vendor Management

 

Association Administrator

  • Amenity and Gate Access

  • Architectural Modifications

  • Compliance (Mailings)

  • Compliance (Homeowner Responses)

  • Clubhouse Rentals

 
 

Support Departments

  • Accounting Department: Homeowner Balance Questions & Online Access Questions

  • Closing Department: Home Sales

  • Lease Monitoring: Monthly Rental Reports


Step Four: Sign the Board Code of Ethics

 
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Boards have a fiduciary duty to their associations and a number of other responsibilities. These standards are based on common law, case law, and non-profit corporate statutes, and are fairly consistent from state to state. Understanding your role and acting within the highest ethical standards is extremely important. As one of your first acts as an association leader, we ask each and every member to sign a Board Code of Ethics form. Please review the document, and return a signed copy to your Association Administrator within the first two weeks of your term.


Step Five: Review HMS Service Options

 
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HMS Brochures outline all possible services. Management agreements are customized, and your association is operating within the agreed upon service level previously selected by the board that signed the agreement. Understanding our scope of work, as well as optional services available, assists in setting proper expectations.

 

Popular HMS Optional Services

 

Lease Monitoring

Is renting a concern? HMS is proud to have partnered with Rental Monitoring Solutions to offer an optional turn-key process to monitoring leases and creating compliance. Please see the sample report attached and the video below for more details.

HMS Complete Lease Monitoring Presentation, Sample Reports, and Video

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Collection Policies & Credit Reporting

If delinquencies are not at a minimum, HMS has a number of solutions. We can help you find the program that is right for your association and in most cases the cost of collections can be applied to the delinquent homeowner’s account. HMS will assist the board in establishing a collection policy so that everyone is treated equally. As another optional service, associations can report delinquencies to the credit bureaus - if the board believes this would be a good strategy for the community.

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Step Six: View Information With Complete Transparency

 
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Financials

HMS prides ourselves on being 100% transparent in all matters! Board members will have 24/7 online access to all important documentation. Easy to read financials statements with all supporting documentation, such as copies of all paid invoices and bank statements, are emailed to all board members within the first 7 business days of the month. Boards can also access homeowner correspondence, compliance issues, and action item progress. Our interactive system reduces workload, minimizes emails and tracks accomplishments with ease. View Sample Financials.

 
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Modifications & Compliance

Your association may have compliance inspections as part of your HMS agreement. If that is the case, any letters generated can be viewed in the system, along with a list of open issues. In most cases a photo will be attached to the letter making identifying the issue easier for the owner. Owners can respond with an email or a phone call to their administrator or they can log into the system to respond directly within their own account. In the event a board member or a trusted committee member sees an issue, they can email their Association Administrator and request a letter be sent out. Our system is set up to understand your community’s personal Governing Documents including whether the association has the ability to impose fines or not. Issues will escalate or resolve as needed in follow up visits. Board Members can review any open issues online at any time including images of the letters. Seasonal Letters encourage compliance and should be sent at least twice a year to the membership. View a Sample Seasonal Letter.

Your association administrator needs to be familiar with your architectural control process. They are the main point of contact and will help ensure that all requests have been responded to in a timely manner. Homeowners can upload requests online in our system and your association administrator will alert the committee as the deadline for a response approaches. Please be sure your community has clear guidelines and robust request forms to avoid incomplete information or inappropriate requests that will result in denials.

Division of Responsibility Charts are highly recommended. These documents indicate, at-a-glance, which maintenance items are the association’s responsibility and which are the owners. View a Sample Division of Responsibility Chart.

 
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Task Management

Increase accountability and efficiency dramatically while reducing emails with the HMS Task Management Tool. Our robust system tracks progress, stores documents, records professional opinions, and allows board members to add comments, so that every aspect of each project’s history is housed in the same place! It is the perfect solution for bids, maintenance work, annual meeting or budget planning, amendments, and various other projects. Community association managers handle many items daily, so maintaining reasonable expectations is a must. The board members and manager should be on the same page in terms of initiatives, goals and timelines. For more detailed instructions on using the HMS Board Task Module review our April 2019 Board Brief Article.


Step Seven: Implement Communication Best Practices

 
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How a board communicates among the board members, with community members, and with third parties, can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and legality of the board’s activities. Please familiarize yourself with the basic information and best practices listed below.

+ Response Times

HMS managers and staff generally answer their emails and phone calls in 48 business hours or less.  If more immediate assistance is needed, please contact your Association Administer or the front desk for assistance.  All our associations enjoy 24/7 emergency service including nights, weekends or holidays.  An experienced team member can assist any board member or homeowner in the event of a property threatening situation.

+ Emails

  • Board should avoid using their work or personal email addresses.
  • Board members should communicate to one another through dedicated emails such as OurBoard@gmail.com.
  • This dedicated email can be passed on from board to board, achieving continuity while archiving the communications from year to year.
  • All board members should have access to this email, so all actions are transparent.

+ Management Company Communications

  • The Board should select one Board member as a point of contact for the management company.
  • Boards should not copy the management company on “discussions” the directors are having internally.  Management should be contacted when questions arise, when a decision has been reached, or when action or a professional opinion is needed.
  • The Board should send emails to the management company that clearly indicate the board’s final decision on a matter.  For example: “The board has approved the $4,000 Pine Straw installation from Heaven Landscape Company.  Please make arrangements for the installation to be performed before the end of the month.”
  • Boards should use task management systems in order to preserve the chain of communication and minimize emails.

+ Privacy Laws

  • Every board member needs to be aware that many board activities are confidential.  Personal information regarding community members should not be shared or discussed outside the “board room”.  For example, one must be a member of the board to access information on delinquent accounts or employment matters.
  • The Association should have all names and addresses of each member.  However, members should “opt in” to homeowner directories.  Membership information should not be made public.  Further simply registering with the association or management companies is not an indication that the personal information should be shared with the entire community.

+ Homeowner Communications

  • Failure to communicate with members is frequently an issue within community associations.  Communications keep members informed, and mitigates member feelings of the Board being autocratic. 
  • HMS websites offer homeowners robust websites for communications, payment systems, and access to documents.
  • Boards should do all that they can to make Covenant and rule compliance easy to understand and initiate.
  • Boards should have seasonal or periodic newsletters communicating the association events and issues.
  • Covenant reminder letters are helpful to highlight the most important areas of concern in friendly manner.
  • Boards should be mindful that social media platforms can cause issues, discontent, and harmful publicity.  The best practice for social media is for the board to maintain ownership and control of content.  Research all pros and cons prior to implementing this system of communication.

+ Board Contact Information

  • In many states, Board officer names are required to be listed with the Secretary of State or other regulatory body.  Beyond that information, how much access the board members elect to give the members regarding their phone numbers or direct email is up to them.
  • Most associations have communication run through the professional management company to avoid confrontation and problems.

Step Eight: Read Our Monthly “Board Brief” Communications

 
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We make it very easy for Board Members to stay in touch with everything they need to know. Please click the links below to be connected to samples of the HMS “Board Brief”, our way of keeping community leaders up-to-date on company advancements, upcoming classes and industry changes. Please note that these email will arrive from Constant Contact, with “HMS” as the sender. Remember to check your spam, or junk, folder, and to list us as a safe sender.

Board Brief March 2018

Board Brief February 2018

Board Brief January 2018


Step Nine: Read Your Governing Documents

 
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Understanding where your authority comes from and what laws affect your rights is a critical component to successful property management. The following items affect community associations: Federal Laws, State Laws, County and City Laws, Case Laws, Plats, and your Governing Documents of course. Understanding the type of association you are from a legal perspective is important. State laws can vary; however, Georgia has both the Georgia Condominium Act and the Georgia Property Owners' Association Act as uniform common interest ownership acts, which standardize a number of processes.

In addition to laws and recorded documents, Covenants and Bylaws may authorize the board of directors to create certain rules, standards, or procedures. The association and all of its members will be bound by these documents as well. These documents are created by the board and/or committees, and are designed to clarify ambiguity in the Governing Documents, provide specifics, and flesh-out the operating processes and standards that the association uses. There are restrictions on the authority of the board, and these restrictions vary. Some actions require an amendment to the Governing Documents, while others do not; some require a vote of the members, while others simply a vote of the board.

As you can see, "it depends" is the standard answer in this industry, which is why working with a professional is so important. Start by reading your Governing Documents, specifically your Covenants, Bylaws, and any amendments. Consider any current rules or guidelines as set forth by prior board, and see what may need improvement or further clarification.


Step Ten: Attend Board Training

 
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Opportunities for Board Education such as live Training Sessions at our corporate classroom in Alpharetta, Comprehensive Resource Centers, and Monthly Communications are included with every package. Watch your monthly “Board Briefs” for invitations and sign-ups.


Step 11: Share Your Feedback

 
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Service.Quality@HMS-inc.net

Board Members may contact our HMS Quality Assurance Center with any concerns at any time.

This link will also appear at the bottom of every monthly Board Brief.

 
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Your feedback matters!

Let us know how we did today.

Any homeowner, vendor, or board member can access our executive team by clicking the bottom of any HMS email at the link shown above.

We want to be sure everyone is satisfied with our service at all times, and this program allows for instant feedback.


Step 12: Have Fun!

 
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Being a board member takes time and effort. If you are not having fun, then it just makes everything harder. Use your volunteer hours as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and to establish strong relationships. Meet over coffee and cookies, swap recipes, or have dinner together. When meetings merge with friendships, more people are willing to serve for longer periods of time. We hope this orientation has helped you, and we look forward to a productive and fun year together!


Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
— Peter Drucker