Everyone knows the many ecological benefits of going paperless. But despite that, many homeowners’ associations still use paper for their documents and communication. While saving the environment is already a good enough reason, switching to a paperless association can also boost your productivity and efficiency. So if you’re ready to take the leap, here are 9 ways to go paperless in your HOA.
Is it Possible to Go Paperless in Your HOA?
Most people assume that going paperless is a huge undertaking that will cost a lot of money. While transitioning to a paperless association does take a lot of time and dedication, there are several ways to do it without having to spend a ton of money. Just remember that going paperless doesn’t happen overnight and all at once. It’s best to tackle it a little at a time so you can maximize the economic benefits of a paperless HOA.
9 Ways to Go Paperless in Your HOA
Here are 9 ways to start your journey to become a paperless association.
1. Switch to Email Correspondence
By setting up a mailing list, you can email community newsletters, announcements, directories, news, and updates to your entire community. The HOA can save a lot of money by switching to digital communication.
The board can also use email to send official notices for violations and overdue assessments. Just make sure to check with local laws as some documents are required to be hand-delivered.
HOA board members can also use email correspondence when discussing community matters. It’s recommended to set up private email accounts for each board member to ensure that all communications are secure and confidential. These dedicated accounts should not be used for personal use as emails are discoverable in case of a lawsuit.
2. Update Your Website
Your HOA website isn’t just for prospective homeowners to get to know your community. It can also be an online document hub for current homeowners. Update your website to include a section that contains all community documents.
Homeowners can view and/or download the community’s governing documents, financial reports, budget reports, meeting minutes, and the like. If some documents contain sensitive information, you can set passwords or limit access to only current homeowners.
If homeowners can access HOA documents online, they will no longer have to request physical copies of these documents from your office. And if there are still requests, you can simply direct the residents to your HOA website.
Just make sure that the files are always up-to-date as homeowners will refer to these documents to deal with community matters.
3. Request Paperless Billing Statements
If you really want to go paperless in your HOA, you should request electronic billing statements from vendors, contractors, and other service providers. Even if these third-party companies are not paperless, they are most likely able to accommodate your request.
There are many pros and cons of paperless billing. Apart from being able to cut back on paper, an advantage of paperless billing is that you can easily access and respond to these invoices.
On the other hand, one disadvantage is that you may be more likely to miss payments, especially if the billing statement gets lost in your inbox. Paperless billing statements might also get lost if one party suddenly decides to change their email address.
The HOA can also switch to paperless billing statements when collecting dues from homeowners. Just make sure to consider the cons of paperless billing and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that all payments will go through.
4. Have Access to a Scanner
As your association transitions to an electronic structure, it’s a good idea to have easy access to a scanner. The goal is to have digital copies of all the physical documents kept in your office. This is a labor-intensive task and your progress will depend on how many scanners you have. Once you’ve transitioned to a paperless association, board members or HOA managers can use the scanner to upload documents that have been received physically.
5. Utilize HOA Management Resources
A paperless association can be easier to achieve if you are able to utilize the resources of your HOA management company. Since they are heavily entrenched in this business, they will have access to invoicing systems, budgeting software, email management, network servers, and other programs needed to go paperless in your HOA. You can also enlist the services of your HOA manager for a smoother transition to a paperless association.
6. Back-Up Your Files
As most — if not all — of your community documents and communication will be digitally stored, it’s important to back up your files. It’s also recommended to have multiple backups of your files in case one drive becomes corrupted. Or, you can use cloud-based storage to avoid data corruption and loss. You’ll be able to access all your files as long as you have an internet connection.
7. Save Important Paperwork
Though this will be a hindrance to becoming truly paperless, there are some instances where the HOA will have to keep physical copies of documents. It might be because they contain sensitive information or are legally-binding. Whatever the case, you will have to save important paperwork.
8. Used Recycled Paper
There will also be times when you will have to create or use paper documents. Since one of the main reasons to go paperless in your HOA is to reduce the impact on the environment, you can avoid creating additional waste by using recycled paper. This way, you’re still able to stand by your community’s green initiatives.
9. Have a Plan
Don’t go paperless without a specific plan for where to store the digital documents. You’ll need a planned structure for the files. It should be easy to access so that everyone can find what they need. Also, make sure the software you are using to store files is designed for community associations.
Can You Truly Go Paperless in Your HOA?
As you can see, it’s possible to go paperless in your HOA — but it will require a lot of planning and preparation. If you value the environment as well as productivity in HOA, then this will be a worthwhile endeavor. Just keep in mind these nine ways to properly kickstart your journey to become a paperless association. Even if you can’t become truly paperless right away, don’t worry. Becoming a “paper-light” association is already an incredible feat in itself.
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