Board to Run: Expert Counsel to Conquer Common Pitfalls in Homeowner Association Meetings

Article excerpt

Board meetings that last for hours without accomplishing anything, are disrupted by disgruntled owners, digress from the agenda and lack clear direction and purpose can become the bane of a property manager's schedule. Homeowner association meetings take less time, are more productive and operate as a forum to facilitate communication between board members and owners when a businesslike approach is applied.

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WHAT'S ON THE AGENDA?

Notice requirements are set by state statute and must generally be posted prior to meetings. The notice of a board meeting should adequately list the business items on the agenda. An item that is not noticed may only be addressed on an emergency basis, such as situations involving major damage to the building, natural disasters and similar events. Failure to include an item on a posted agenda does not constitute an emergency. Some boards may list only "new business" and "old business" as agenda items without any further description. Action taken on items discussed under such an agenda is subject to attack by owners who may disagree with the board's actions. When contemplating taking action on an item, it is incumbent upon the board to ensure that such item(s) are listed on the agenda in a manner so that all members may have sufficient notice of the item to be discussed.

The agenda should comprise open items from the previous meeting requiring action, if any; owner items that may require board action; building maintenance items, as required; project information, updates, requests, actions, etc.; seasonal information, such as annual meeting, budget meeting, disaster preparation for the community and owners and other similar information. Once an agenda has been prepared, it should be approved by the board president and/or secretary before posting.

BRIEF AND TO THE POINT

If regular board meetings are unreasonably long, the board needs to determine how to address the problem. A successful meeting requires planning and execution by the manager and the chairperson, usually the president. Information should be distributed to the board members far enough in advance to allow them to review the material before coming to the meeting. This advance information should include an agenda, minutes of the most previous meeting, financial information, any committee reports, a management report and any other information that will assist the board in preparing for the meeting.

It is the responsibility of the chairperson to make sure the meeting progresses in an orderly manner and in accordance with the posted agenda. The president should begin the meeting on time. If a quorum is not present at the appointed starting time, a general discussion can occur while waiting for the other board members to arrive. Beginning the meeting with these general discussions while waiting for a quorum to be established will reduce the overall length of the meeting. In addition, by consistently starting the meeting on time, board members will be conditioned to arrive on time.

Board meetings should not be viewed as social gatherings. The purpose is for the board of directors to conduct the business of the association in an orderly manner. Board members and owners can socialize before or after the meeting.

All actions taken at a board meeting should be by formal resolution. Each resolution should state the board's source of authority to act on the matter, the provision of the governing documents granting that authority, the purpose of the resolution and the specific details of the action to be taken. It is a good idea to keep all resolutions in a separate binder in addition to filing a copy with the meeting minutes. The book of resolutions makes it much easier to review the past decisions of the board and can be used as a quick-reference tool.

Even the most well-intentioned boards will veer off course from time to time and begin to discuss tangential items not specifically on the agenda. …