If I had a dollar for every HOA secretary that procrastinated on producing the minutes of their association’s meetings, I’d be on the beach sipping margaritas instead of writing this blog. If you are the lucky individual selected to serve as the secretary for your homeowners association, I have good news! The job may not be as onerous as you believe it to be.
Most HOA board members labor under the misconception that minutes must recount everything that happened at a meeting including all the discussion that led to board decisions. Frankly, I have reviewed minutes that include the Architectural Control Commitee report details right down to the color and the price of the roofing materials being proposed by an owner (including one board member’s comments about their personal dislike of the materials selected).
Treasurer’s Report with too much detail:
Jason Strideright gave the treasurers report. He indicated that since the board meets the first week of every month, it does not provide the accountant with enough time to prepare monthly reports and get them to the board with time left to review the reports. Jason suggested that the board consider closing the books on the 20th of each month to allow the needed time for board review. Bill Smith responded that it might just be easier to change the date of the meeting. Bill made a motion to move the date of the meeting, Jason seconded the motion, motion carried.
Given the need for more time between the end of month transaction reports and the board meetings to review them, a motion was made (Bill Smith) to change the date of the monthly board meeting from the first week of the month to the third week of each month. Motion carried.
- Name of the Association, date, time and location of meeting
- Attendance at the meeting and if a quorum was achieved
- Approval of the minutes of the last meeting
- Approval of the treasurers report
- Old business (a recounting of decisions made)
- New business (again a recounting of decisions made)
- Issues to be carried forward to the next meeting and the date of that meeting
- Time of adjournment
Homeowners attend HOA board meetings for one of two reasons: a.) they are unhappy and have an axe to grind, or b.) someone asked (possibly begged) them to be there. Regardless of why they are there… in Washington state, homeowners’ associations board meetings must be open to your members. Great, you say… “how do I maintain control of my board meeting?”
I have several suggestions on this front. First, I am a huge fan of asking, encouraging, and pleading with homeowners to attend the meetings. Getting them to the meeting educates them on the issues in the neighborhood and builds interest in the needs of the community. Homeowners who become interested in the issues, are potential future board members. Creating an environment of transparency builds trust between the homeowners and the board.
If you do not roll out the red carpet to your meetings, very few homeowners will attend. Typically, if you do not promote active attendance by the owners, the only owners who will show up are those who are unhappy, angry and are there to voice concerns. Regardless of whether you encouraged them to attend or not, how should the board interact with the homeowner?
- Be a gracious host. Have coffee or water available for your attendees.
- Make extra copies of agendas for guests so they can follow along with board business
- Set aside the first 15-30 minutes of the meeting for an owner’s forum where they can speak to the issues that are on their mind. If you are considering an issue (like a parking rule or park curfew) that would benefit from homeowner input, you can use this time to ask for suggestions and ideas from the owners.
- At the forum’s conclusion, remind owners that they are welcomed and encouraged to stay for the entire board meeting which is about to commence. However, since they are not board members, they cannot actually participate in the board meeting or board discussion. During the board meeting, homeowner are observers.
- At the board meeting’s conclusion, thank the board for their work and thank the owners for their attendance. If you wish to make refreshments available after the meeting, this is a great time to spend a few minutes afterwards getting to know your neighbors and potentially recruiting new volunteers for your community.
Lastly, remember that when your board meetings are well attended, you will have to exercise caution when talking about confidential issues. For example, if the board is reviewing an aging receivables list, don’t talk about the “Jone’s family who is late again”. You will either need to refrain from using names, or if you must discuss issues that are confidential in nature, you may have to adjourn to an executive session.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Homeowners’ association board meetings are required to be open to all homeowners for observation. There is one exception to this and it is referred to as a closed or “executive” session. This exception applies when the board must meet behind closed doors, to discuss topics that must be kept private and confidential. Homeowners’ association boards should use closed sessions prudently; not simply as an excuse to meet in private without the presence of homeowners.
In the state of Washington, HOA laws specifically state what circumstances justify the use of executive sessions. Specifically, you may only enter into executive session when you need to discuss one of the following:
- Personnel matters
- Consult with legal counsel or consider communications with legal counsel
- Discuss likely or pending litigation
- Matters involving possible violations of the governing documents of the association
- Matters involving the possible liability of an owner to the association
Before entering into a closed session, a motion stating the specific purpose for the executive session must be made. Reference to the motion and the stated purpose for the closed session must also be clearly stated in the board meeting minutes.
Behind the closed doors of exective session, the board should not discuss any topics other than those clearly outlined in the purpose of the motion. Further, it is very important that board members understand that none of the decisions they agreed to in closed session will be effective until the board reconvenes the open board meeting and votes publicly in the open meeting on the decisions made while in closed session.
Notes from the executive session should be kept separately from the open meeting minutes. Typically all records of the association are open to inspection by the members; however, the notes from a closed session are not subject to disclosure.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Should HOA board meetings be open to members of the community? Yes. In Washington state, homeowners’ association board meetings must be open to the general membership of the association. The HOA laws that deal specifically with homeowners’ associations in our state, state that meetings must be open to the membership as well as all records (minutes, etc.) from the board meetings. However, it does not say how the board is required to give notice to the homeowners of the board meetings.
You can notify homeowners in several ways, through a calendar posted at a general bulletin board area, through signs posted in the neighborhood and by including a statement in newsletters or other mailings, such as “the board meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the public library.” The best way to give notice is to mail out the board meeting calendar with the annual meeting agenda and hand the calendar out again at the annual meeting. This gives you the opportunity to personally invite homeowners to attend the board meetings. Encouraging owner attendance at the meetings helps generate a feeling of openness and assures the community there is no “secret” agenda that the board keeps from the homeowners.
Board meetings should be held in a public place, where you can set up a head table for the board and a gallery of chairs for the homeowners who will be observing the meeting. Observing is the key word. Homeowners do not have the right to participate in or interrupt the board meeting. Regardless of how valuable the homeowners comments might be, there is an appropriate time when the President of the HOA board can solicit feedback from the members present. However, it is critical to establish a policy that homeowners cannot interrupt with comments anytime they wish. If you allow homeowners to interject with comments and participate in discussion randomly, parliamentary procedures go out the window and are difficult to restore at a later date.
The best way to give homeowners a voice is to offer up time at the beginning of the board meeting for an owners’ forum. Provide thirty minutes prior to the formal start of the meeting to give homeowners five minutes each to speak on whatever subject they feel is of importance to the community. You will find that many topics raised in the forum will become fodder for future board meeting agendas. Unless the owner raises an issue that is truly an emergency, all topics from the forum should be recommended as possible agenda items for future board meetings.
Board meeting discussion can at times be awkward with an “audience”. There is often discussion regarding which homeowners are late with their assessments or other sensitive topics that should remain private. You might wonder, how the board should handle private information in front of a gallery of homeowners? The answer is through executive session… which will be the topic of the next blog.
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It seems as though most small, self-managed HOA’s hold their meetings in their homes. It is convenient and comfortable, but is it a good idea? Professionals say “no”. Holding a meeting in your home probably is not the wisest idea for many reasons:
1) First and foremost, your HOA board meetings must be open and and accessible to all the the members of the homeowners’ association. While it is unlikely that many homeowners will regularly attend board meetings, you must be prepared to accommodate them. Unless you live at the Taj Mahal, you probably could not comfortably seat the majority of your homeowners.
2) Board meetings can be challenging and at times contentious. Unfortunately, when homeowners do take the initiative to attend a board meeting, it is often to voice a negative comment or concern. When tempers flair, issues can seem much more personal and hurtful when you are in a home setting. Your home is your personal space. While the board is meeting around the kitchen table, the rest of the family is watching TV in the living room. It is simply not a good idea to mix the two. Meeting in a public meeting room is much more professional environment.
3) Lastly, when meetings are held in a home, they typically run far too long. People can make themselves a little too comfortable and the meeting may never end. When you provide coffee and snacks at your home, chit chat seems to go on forever and it may be difficult to wrap up the meeting. Clearly serving wine or alcohol is also a bad idea.
Despite the many comforts of home, do find a public meeting room at a library , church, school, or even fire department. Typically these meeting rooms are free to the public and they provide access to tables and chairs for your use. When setting up your meeting room, clearly establish a head table at which the board can be seated. Set out an addition number of chairs as a “gallery” for the homeowners who attend to observe the meeting.
Holding your homeowners’ association meeting in a public location and setting up the room formally with a head table, lends credibility. It sets the tone for those in attendance that you run a professional, business-like HOA. In turn, everyone should expect to express themselves in the same manner.
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