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Boards of directors for condominium corporations are made up of volunteers-ordinary residents who are often encountering board membership for the first time. As well intended as a new board member may be, there are a few common mistakes that can be prevented with a little education and preparation. The following are some concepts to keep in mind so that you can avoid some of these pitfalls as you serve your condominium community:

Educate yourself

If you're a new condo board member, seek the advice of the current members and ask about any key information you might need about your community before your first meeting. You should also be comfortable asking to meet with the property management company, if your community has one, to learn more about some of the most pressing issues or concerns at your property.

Good boards provide new members with financial statements and an overview of how meetings typically run. This offers new members an opportunity to enter into a discussion about how meetings operate and if adjustments need to be made.

Know the limits of your power

Your condo board should have governing documents that outline which types of actions you are permitted to take as a board member. As a new member, you may have strong feelings about a community issue that has bothered you as a resident, such as parking, landscaping or fees. However, if your governing documents do not say anything about regulating parking, for example, you and the board might not be able to act on the issue. Make sure you read and understand your condo board's governing documents.

Don't get ahead of yourself

New board members sometimes have big ideas about how they can improve their condo communities. However, it's important to understand that, like all governing boards, it takes time and effort to reach consensus on major issues.

To start, make sure you've thoroughly researched current policies and why they are in place at your community. If you have an idea for a new policy, think about if it is truly feasible and, if so, how the board might go about passing and enforcing it. This may take some time, and it will likely be necessary to make compromises with other board members.

Research the past

It might be tempting to presume that a previous board was clueless when it made decisions and implemented policies. However, you should resist the urge to "clean house" and change policies that seem unnecessary and archaic. Do some homework to understand why an old board made the decisions it did. You may actually learn a lot from the people who came before you.

Be thoughtful in decision-making

If you dislike the work of a vendor (such as a CPA, landscaper, etc.), make a point to meet them before hastily moving to judgment. In the same vein, resist the urge to spend money on services your residents have been asking for before double-checking the association budget. Consider the board's long-term financial goals and restrictions before making decisions to spend money or cut items from the budget.

Serving on your condo community's board of directors can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it does come with some challenges. Keep these tips in mind as you adjust to your new role as a board member.