How to Take Charge of Household-Related HOA Website Features

How to Take Charge of Household-Related HOA Website Features

As more and more homeowners associations set up websites for their communities, either to comply with state laws or simply because of the communication benefits of an online presence for neighborhood spirit and community marketing, HOA board members and administrators must decide which types of features are essential to the sites they set up. Among the modern, convenience-oriented attributes that top the must-have list for a typical HOA website, many of these features can or should rely on online member access and communication to make them work as fluently and successfully as possible.

For example, online billing and payments enable you to simplify collection of one-time and recurring dues and fees from community members. The alternatives—checks, money orders, and cash—come with a long list of disadvantages. Given that many homeowners association board members and administrators volunteer their time, the number of steps and the amount of effort required to collect, endorse, and deposit checks, and the potential risks of carrying around large amounts of cash, make all these old-fashioned alternatives less than desirable. Secure online payments offer the additional advantage of encouraging residents to remember their obligations and make routine periodic payments promptly.

Once a community’s HOA can accept online payments, the next and perhaps most obvious step is the ability to set up, take reservations and sell tickets for community events, including those that can be open to the public as well as others intended only for members. When residents can pay for tickets through the same website that gives them access to news and information about HOA business, a homeowners association can broaden the range of events it conducts and draw its neighborhoods together in ways that build community spirit. At the same time, if the community’s HOA website can designate some ticket sign-up pages for members only and make other online ticket-sales destinations publicly accessible, that flexibility opens up the options that make public events easy to plan.

Homeowners associations also need the ability to assess resident opinions on important issues that require community-wide voting. Manual methods make these types of polls difficult to conduct. Mail-in ballots can take a long time to collect, especially if residents ignore their mail or misplace it, and require extra expense for paper, envelopes, and stamps. E-mailed polls may wind up in many residents’ junk mailboxes, or require multiple reminders and encouragements. The more complex and time consuming the process, the less anyone wants to participate in it, let alone plan and execute it.

Of course, not all HOA website software providers design their site offerings to include these types of features. The complex process of researching, evaluating, and selecting a homeowners association website software provider can seem overwhelming, as board members and administrators collect and rate long lists of options. After a while, the feature sets can become difficult to compare and the entire process stressful to complete.

At HOAStart, we offer all these features so you can define how you want to manage community business and affairs, and take advantage of the flexibility of our software to do things your way. By default, your HOAStart website gives you multiple methods through which to sign up members for access to your site. At the least-restrictive end of the spectrum, you simply can allow anyone to sign up and immediately receive site access. Conversely, you also can accept membership only by invitation. Between these two opposites, you can open an application process to everyone but require that each applicant receive administrative review and approval before allowing anyone to gain site access.

For many communities, the catch in all these methods lies in differentiating among the responsibilities assigned to multiple members who share an address, especially where dues and fees are concerned. How do you determine which person in a household receives invoices for these payments? If you send every invoice to your entire membership, some families will receive more than one bill for the same charge, which at very least causes confusion, if not the potential for conflict.

At the same time that communities want to define and restrict the reach of their invoicing, they also must make decisions about voting and polls. If they want to allow every member who registers for access to their website to cast a vote, then they simply open their polls to everyone who logs in, regardless of how many votes they receive from any one address. If they want to limit voting to one ballot per household, that scenario requires a different approach.

Some communities may choose to use the HOAStart website tag functions to label all and only the people who receive billing, and limit the invoices their administrators send out so they bill only those residents with the “invoice recipient” tags in their web membership data. This same approach can narrow the polling process so only certain members can vote on specific issues, either through tags applied to boards and committees, or through tags created specifically for individual polls or the overall voting process.

Some communities need specialized implementations of these features through a solution that formalizes their approach to these issues in greater detail. For those communities, we’ve implemented Household features that enable them to take a more formal approach to invoicing and voting. In addition to online billing and dues payment, online voting and polls, we also enable you to make sitewide decisions about how many votes you award to each household and who receives the invoices for dues and fees. To use these capabilities, we’ve incorporated the HOAStart Households feature.

Within the Households feature, administrators can determine who votes, who receives invoices, and who does both or neither. This powerful option won’t be a necessity for every community, and some boards and administrators may prefer to take a different approach for unique reasons. But every community with an HOAStart website can activate the Households feature so they can use it to process invoices and define voting privileges.

Would your community benefit from activation of the HOAStart household feature? Only you can decide how to approach these matters, and which solution offers the best way for your homeowners association to proceed. To help you choose whether to activate the Households feature, or whether to adopt one of the other approaches that we build into every HOAStart homeowners association website, talk with one of our expert community support representatives about the unique needs of your HOA, its board, administration, and members.