Here in northwest Montana, many HOAs hold their annual member meetings and elect new board members in the summer. With these meetings coming up soon, we at Montana Community Management think it’s a good time to talk about how and why every member should participate.

Your county gave the developer of your HOA the right to build roads, develop lots / homes, install water and sewer systems, etc., for one reason: the county doesn’t want the additional financial or management burden of providing and caring for infrastructure in your community. The county passed some or all of that responsibility – and the related control — on to the developer, who in turn has passed (or will pass) it on to the homeowners. For better or worse, your community is a mini-municipality, and if the residents don’t look out for it, it’s very unlikely the city or county will step in. (Flathead County told us that it’s been more than two decades since the county agreed to take over road maintenance of a subdivision!)

On the flip side of this responsibility is a valuable benefit. As homeowners, you ultimately have the right and privilege to control what happens to the community. Unlike people who live on streets and roads controlled by the city or county, a member-controlled community has much more say in how the community looks and functions, whether it’s financially solvent and the day-to-day rules that residents follow.

How does this happen? Mainly through the annual meeting, the election of a board of directors and, in some cases, community surveys. In thriving communities, the annual meeting is well attended and serves as a meaningful forum for discussion. Members participate and make their voices heard on issues important to having a safe and enjoyable environment. They elect directors who will steer the community for one or more years. They raise new topics that can be voted on at the meeting, or presented later in community surveys. Studies show that in HOAs with active membership, property values tend to rise as or more quickly than home prices in the region generally.

So join your neighbors at the annual meeting. Be a part of the discussion and decision-making. Join the board or a committee if you feel you have skills and time to offer. Two hours of your time, once a year, is the easiest and most effective way to keep your HOA a wonderful place to live.