When it comes to the decision-making process, Board members should check the three P’s. Policy. Practice. Precedence. No matter how large the decision or how small the conversation, Board members should be methodical and intentional throughout their discourse.
Policy – this is the easy one. When making decisions, responding to homeowner requests and issues, applying, and enforcing rules, or creating new policies, the Board should check the governing documents to see what policies, ordinances, laws, etc. that may apply. The governing documents are the playbook to how the association is governed and managed.
Practice – where policy may not exist, the Board should be aware of past practices. A good example of this would be how Limited Common Elements are handled. Does the association take on the expense of replacing the patio slab and then bill it back to that benefiting homeowner? Does the association treat it as a common expense and absorb it? Does the association make a list each spring of the patio slabs to be replaced and then replace them at the same time? Limited Common Elements and how they are handled can be a good example of something that the association may not have a written policy for (the governing documents typically give the association options), which makes it all the more important that the Board’s past practice is consistently followed.
Another example might be how homeowners are incorporated into a Board meeting. Does the association have an “open forum” part of the meeting? Do homeowners need to email the Board or Management prior to the meeting to be put on the agenda? It is also wise for a Board to review their common practices and consider incorporating it into policy for continuity sake. Adding Board meeting conduct and procedures to the Rules & Regulations being an example. Past practice is what can get Boards into trouble. Often times it is wise to make practice in to policy.
Precedent – at the end of the day, policy, and practice all goes to set what the Board should keep in the back of their mind. Whatever you do or decide today will set an all-important precedent. The best litmus test a Board can do for themselves is to ask – if we allow this homeowner request, change this service, engage this contract, etc. – will we and all Boards to follow do it every time?
The three P’s all come full circle. Policy leads to Practice. Practice is your Precedence. Or…. Practice should lead to Policy, which sets Precedence. Whatever order it might take, when going through the decision-making process, check the three P’s.