Category Archives: Homeowner Leaders

A ‘kinder, gentler’ community starts with you

“Where is it written that we must act as if we do not care, as if we’re not moved? Well, I am moved. I want a kinder, gentler nation.”

That was the late George H.W. Bush as he accepted the Republican nomination for president in 1988. Bush, of course, would go on to serve in the Oval Office from 1989–1993. His call for civility rang true then and rings true today, perhaps even more so. It applies in politics, society in general, and in community associations.

Many association board members, managers, and business partners report dealing with disruptions at meetings, profane and threatening emails, and other behavior that most people would consider uncivil. In fact, some communities are moving to adopt codes that demand courteousness and respect, ban foul language, and prohibit threats of physical and psychological harm.

Read about these steps and a discussion about civility today in “A Civil Action,” the cover story in the January/February Common Ground TM magazine. 

For the article, we checked in with some experts on the subject, including Daniel Buccino, the current director of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Is strife becoming more common in American society? Public opinion polls show that most people believe that it is, yet Buccino notes that people have been concerned about civility for a long time, and many think it’s somebody else’s problem.

The university’s project was founded in 1997 by Pier Massimo Forni as an aggregation of academic and community outreach activities aimed at “assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society.” Forni’s efforts inspired civility-based initiatives on college campuses and in communities around the country.

In his book Choosing Civility, published in 2003, Forni shares and examines 25 rules of considerate conduct. He writes about the need to be agreeable: “We need agreement in our lives because it is gratifying and healing, because human bonds could not be forged without it, and because it is the foundation of social harmony. Of course disagreement can be productive. ‘A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing,’ observed Thomas Jefferson. In disagreement alone, however, we couldn’t survive.”

Sadly, like Bush, Forni also passed away at the end of 2018. As a new year begins, maybe we can learn to follow their advice. Maybe we can accept that incivility today is our problem. Maybe we all can be a little kinder, gentler, civil, and agreeable.

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‘Twas the Night Before (the HOA’s) Christmas

‘Twas the night before the HOA’s Christmas, and through the community
Not a complaint was heard, there appeared just pure unity;
The thank-you notes were placed by the bulletin board with care,
In hopes that the board and manager would soon see them there;

The homeowners were nestled all snug in their beds,
No worries of paint or roofs bothering their heads,
And the Vice President in her condo, and I in mine too,
Had just settled down for a break from reviewing the dues,

When out in the courtyard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my balcony to see what was the matter.
Away to the railing I flew like a flash,
Only to see neighbors with gripes to rehash.

I couldn’t figure out in the dark of the night
Exactly what they thought gave them the right,
But I knew from my time on the homeowners board,
Our meetings these neighbors had always ignored,

Then in a flash I noticed a visitor,
Who tried to join that group of inquisitors
He wore a red fur coat over an ample belly, and
His hearty laugh made it shake as it were jelly,

His smile quickly faded as they all turned away,
They told him that tenants had nothing to say,
The jolly man disappeared as quickly as he came here,
Amid the sound of eight snorting… reindeer?

In a moment came another, without much ado,
He arrived with a viewpoint needed and new,
I knew in a flash it was manager, Nick.
He knew what was needed and he brought it quick,

He exclaimed “Now, Member! now, Neighbor! Now, Bylaws and Covenant,
Please read the rules before bringing your comment.
Now back to your homes, and back to your castles,
Please, just for today, have a cease to the hassles”

He said “you by choice bought in a community,
Which works at its best when all live in unity,
Remember that your board serves you for free,
and consider joining a committee – or three.

“You have no busy elves, and HOAs thrive when all work as a team,
If all think only of selves, a nightmare soon it will seem.
Your association is much like a large but rowed boat,
If each rows as a solo, not for long will it float.”

Amidst headshakes and handshakes the courtyard then cleared,
And I hoped that above still flew a sleigh and eight impatient reindeer.

No reindeer or jolly elf’s labors returned to the site,
But folks reached to their neighbors, and started treating them right.
A different air began to take hold in the complex
As the Golden Rule became our theme and our text.

Manager Nick surveyed the scene, pleased,
Knowing the group a happy future had it seized.
And laying his finger aside of his face,
He ran toward his car as if in a race;

He sprang to his auto, heading home in a dash,
And away he drove as quick as a flash.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

[Readers: May peace and neighborliness permeate your communities in the coming year!]

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Sea, Sand, and Sustainability

In the May/June issue of Common Ground, CAI profiled Seabrook Island, S.C., a 2,400-acre coastal barrier island tucked away 20 miles south of Charleston, S.C. A maritime forest, marshes, and miles of beach make Seabrook Island a wildlife haven. The community’s residents have acted to preserve the area’s delicate habitat and promote sustainability.

The 1,800 residents who occupy the 2,594 properties of Seabrook Island Property Owners Association don’t take for granted the miles of pristine beach on the Atlantic Ocean and North Edisto River. They delight in watching bottlenose dolphins from the shore and spotting bald eagles soaring overhead.

They take advantage of this wildlife haven by exploring the community’s 14-acre lake, miles of biking and hiking trails, and more than 500 acres of common property.

That’s why the association embarked on an effort to protect and preserve the area’s natural beauty and create a plan to prolong the island’s sustainability. That’s also how it recently became the first in the state to be designated a Certified Sustainable Community by environmental education nonprofit Audubon International.

Download a PDF of the entire article “Sea, Sand, and Sustainability” and—for a limited time only—access the entire May/June issue of Common Ground through the magazine’s digital edition.

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Survey Says: Residents Satisfied with Their Community


For the seventh time in 13 years, Americans living in homeowners associations and condominiums say they’re overwhelmingly satisfied in their communities, according to the 2018 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, conducted by Zogby Analytics for the Foundation for Community Association Research. Sixty-three percent of respondents say they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their community association living experience, while 22 percent report a neutral response.

More than 60 percent of survey respondents say their association’s rules protect and enhance their property values, while 28 percent say they have a neutral effect. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed expressed that neighbors elected to the governing board “absolutely” or “for the most part” serve the best interests of their communities.

Other highlights include:

  • 73 percent say their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations.
  • 81 percent say they are on friendly terms with their association board.
  • 80 percent say they prefer either no change or less government control within their association.
  • 60 percent say their association assessments are “just the right
    amount”—or “too little.

Read the complete report at

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A Good Board Member Make up

Board members who strive to serve the best interests of their resdients regardless of their personal interests are critical to leading a community.

These are a few of the must-have traits and skills that make board members successful:

Be respectful. Board members should lead by consensus, not by command. It’s their job to keep discussions civil, productive, and on point.

Be interested. Effective board members understand that everyone benefits by sharing and discussing.

Be empathetic. Sometimes, residents—even other board members—can be inconsiderate or insulting. A good board member will turn a negative conversation around and find out what’s really bothering residents.

Be selfless. Good board members put their egos aside and give others credit where credit is due.

Be a team player. Board members who volunteer to serve while only looking to help themselves are a problem. Effective board members do what’s in the best interests of the community and are more than willing to compromise.

Be business-oriented. An association is a business. Having board members with accounting, organizational, and team-building backgrounds can help. Someone with a financial background, for example, might make a good treasurer.

Read CAI’s Board Member Tool Kit for an overview of the information, tools and resources board members need to be successful. The Tool Kit is available as a free PDF download. A free printed copy is available to board members who join CAI (Call toll free 888-224-4321 to request it.). Copies also are available for purchase.

What other traits and skills make board members successful? Let us know in the comments below.

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