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Subject: Participation of homeowners in board meetings
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JeffS31
(Virginia)

Posts:38


11/19/2020 8:37 AM  
Our board meetings are open to homeowner attendance, as I suppose they are in all HOAs. What obligation does the board have for active participation of those homeowners? Are they just observers? Can they participate freely in board discussion? Must they submit agenda items in advance if they want to discuss a particular topic?

We have a small HOA (56 homes) and it has been very rare for homeowners to attend board meetings. I have been on our board 10 years and we have only had two or three meetings where homeowners attended because of a topic of special interest to them. But I want to make sure we provide transparency, allow appropriate participation, but also keep the board in control of the meetings.
ChrisE8
(New York)

Posts:225


11/19/2020 8:46 AM  
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 8:37 AM
Our board meetings are open to homeowner attendance, as I suppose they are in all HOAs. What obligation does the board have for active participation of those homeowners? Are they just observers? Can they participate freely in board discussion? Must they submit agenda items in advance if they want to discuss a particular topic?

We have a small HOA (56 homes) and it has been very rare for homeowners to attend board meetings. I have been on our board 10 years and we have only had two or three meetings where homeowners attended because of a topic of special interest to them. But I want to make sure we provide transparency, allow appropriate participation, but also keep the board in control of the meetings.




I would like to live in your HOA, as I've found it rare for owners to be invited.

Typically they can just participate in a discussion before or after the official board meeting. They can't attend or participate in the actual board meeting.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3577


11/19/2020 9:01 AM  
That's simple enough - add a resident forum to the agenda. You can do this in the beginning of near the end of the meeting. My community had both when I moved here, but it was dropped because people usually left at the end of the first one.

This shouldn't exceed 15 minutes and depending on how many show up, you may need to limit speakers to two minutes and not return to them until after everyone has their chance to speak. The board doesn't have to make a decision on anything they hear at that time. Some things may be part of the agenda anyway, so you could note those comments at that time other issues might be referred to the property manager for follow up with the homeowner and others may wind up as agenda items for the next meeting of assigned to an advisory committee to reasarche.

As you've suspected, these can get rowdy, so the basic rules are: no interrupting while others are soeaking, be made neighbor your speaking time because you will be told to wrap it up if necessary, no name calling, threats, bad language, gunfire, punches to the head of other bad behavior. If you misbehave, you'll be asked to stop, and if you dont, you'll be asked to leave. If necessary, police will be called to escort you out.

After the forum, thank everyone for participating and encourage them to stay and listen to the proceedings. The business portion of the meeting begins now, so no so or comments from the floor are allowed so the board can address everything on the agenda, as this is a BUSINESS meeting.

Hope this helps!
AugustinD


Posts:4421


11/19/2020 9:02 AM  
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 8:37 AM
Our board meetings are open to homeowner attendance, as I suppose they are in all HOAs. What obligation does the board have for active participation of those homeowners? Are they just observers? Can they participate freely in board discussion? Must they submit agenda items in advance if they want to discuss a particular topic?
Are you aware that Virginia has statutes that cover what the obligations of the Board are with regard to transparency. For example, regarding meetings, from https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/property-owners-association-act/

===
§ 55.1-1816. Meetings of the board of directors.
A. All meetings of the board of directors, including any subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors, where the business of the association is discussed or transacted shall be open to all members of record. The board of directors shall not use work sessions or other informal gatherings of the board of directors to circumvent the open meeting requirements of this section. Minutes of the meetings of the board of directors shall be recorded and shall be available as provided in subsection B of § 55.1-1815.

B. Notice of the time, date, and place of each meeting of the board of directors or of any subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors shall be published where it is reasonably calculated to be available to a majority of the lot owners.

A lot owner may make a request to be notified on a continual basis of any such meetings. Such request shall be made at least once a year in writing and include the lot owner's name, address, zip code, and any email address as appropriate. Notice of the time, date, and place shall be sent to any lot owner requesting notice (i) by first-class mail or email in the case of meetings of the board of directors or (ii) by email in the case of meetings of any subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors.

Notice, reasonable under the circumstances, of special or emergency meetings shall be given contemporaneously with the notice provided to members of the association's board of directors or any subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors conducting the meeting.

Unless otherwise exempt as relating to an executive session pursuant to subsection C, at least one copy of all agenda packets and materials furnished to members of an association's board of directors or subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors for a meeting shall be made available for inspection by the membership of the association at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the board of directors or any subcommittee or committee of the board of directors.

Any member may record any portion of a meeting that is required to be open. The board of directors or subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors conducting the meeting may adopt rules (a) governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings and (b) requiring the member recording the meeting to provide notice that the meeting is being recorded.

If a meeting is conducted by telephone conference or video conference or similar electronic means, at least two members of the board of directors shall be physically present at the meeting place included in the notice. The audio equipment shall be sufficient for any member in attendance to hear what is said by any member of the board of directors participating in the meeting who is not physically present.

Except for the election of officers, voting by secret or written ballot in an open meeting shall be a violation of this chapter.

C. The board of directors or any subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors may (i) convene in executive session to consider personnel matters; (ii) consult with legal counsel; (iii) discuss and consider contracts, pending or probable litigation, and matters involving violations of the declaration or rules and regulations adopted pursuant to such declaration for which a member or his family members, tenants, guests, or other invitees are responsible; or (iv) discuss and consider the personal liability of members to the association, upon the affirmative vote in an open meeting to assemble in executive session. The motion shall state specifically the purpose for the executive session. Reference to the motion and the stated purpose for the executive session shall be included in the minutes. The board of directors shall restrict the consideration of matters during such portions of meetings to only those purposes specifically exempted and stated in the motion. No contract, motion, or other action adopted, passed, or agreed to in executive session shall become effective unless the board of directors or subcommittee or other committee of the board of directors, following the executive session, reconvenes in open meeting and takes a vote on such contract, motion, or other action, which shall have its substance reasonably identified in the open meeting. The requirements of this section shall not require the disclosure of information in violation of law.

D. Subject to reasonable rules adopted by the board of directors, the board of directors shall provide a designated period of time during a meeting to allow members an opportunity to comment on any matter relating to the association. During a meeting at which the agenda is limited to specific topics or at a special meeting, the board of directors may limit the comments of members to the topics listed on the meeting agenda.

1999, c. 1029, § 55-510.1; 2000, c. 905; 2001, c. 715; 2003, c. 404; 2004, c. 333; 2005, c. 353; 2019, c. 712.
===


As for Owner participation at board meetings, the consensus here seems to be to provide at least one "open forum" period either before or after meetings, and preferably both. The open forum period is not a part of the board meeting. But it is a chance for Owners to give input that the Board may want to consider at a future meeting. Or a competent property manager will take notes and address, where appropriate, concerns that may be raised.

A lot of new directors think they can just make up, off the top of their heads, what obligations they have. Not so. I think the best directors are grounded in what the governing documents and statutes say, and maybe a little bit in what case law says as described by the HOA attorney. To me, the best directors will always politely ask Owners and other directors to cite what part of the governing documents (or maybe state law) justifies their suggestion or complaint. This encourages people to get on the same page of the /contract/ (the covenants) to which all agreed when buying a property in the HOA.


Note: Prior posts of JeffS31 suggest this is a non-condo HOA.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10130


11/19/2020 9:04 AM  
Posted By SheliaH on 11/19/2020 9:01 AM
That's simple enough - add a resident forum to the agenda. You can do this in the beginning of near the end of the meeting. My community had both when I moved here, but it was dropped because people usually left at the end of the first one.

This shouldn't exceed 15 minutes and depending on how many show up, you may need to limit speakers to two minutes and not return to them until after everyone has their chance to speak. The board doesn't have to make a decision on anything they hear at that time. Some things may be part of the agenda anyway, so you could note those comments at that time other issues might be referred to the property manager for follow up with the homeowner and others may wind up as agenda items for the next meeting of assigned to an advisory committee to reasarche.

As you've suspected, these can get rowdy, so the basic rules are: no interrupting while others are soeaking, be made neighbor your speaking time because you will be told to wrap it up if necessary, no name calling, threats, bad language, gunfire, punches to the head of other bad behavior. If you misbehave, you'll be asked to stop, and if you dont, you'll be asked to leave. If necessary, police will be called to escort you out.

After the forum, thank everyone for participating and encourage them to stay and listen to the proceedings. The business portion of the meeting begins now, so no so or comments from the floor are allowed so the board can address everything on the agenda, as this is a BUSINESS meeting.

Hope this helps!



Well said. BOD meetings are not meant to be open discussion by all. They are meant for BOD Members to discuss business but it is wise to give owners a time to speak. Just control when and how much time.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9714


11/19/2020 9:09 AM  
Our meetings were open. Not all states require that. Basically it was a BOARD meeting the members could come in and attend. However, that meant they could listen in and observe our decision making process. It did not mean they had a vote. We just listened to their feedback. Which would/could happen at the end or if we had a question.

The board is to represent what the general membership wants/needs as a whole. So I believe having members in a meeting helps with making that happen. Many times I would have gone off the rails with an idea if I didn't hear back from others.

Mind your board is having a conversation amongst itself. It doesn't mean you can interrupt or are invisible. It means HOA business is being conducted and fellow members are allowed to be there.

Former HOA President
JeffS31
(Virginia)

Posts:38


11/19/2020 11:14 AM  
Posted By ChrisE8 on 11/19/2020 8:46 AM


I would like to live in your HOA, as I've found it rare for owners to be invited.

Typically they can just participate in a discussion before or after the official board meeting. They can't attend or participate in the actual board meeting.


State law requires that members be allowed to attend board meetings (Virginia)
JeffS31
(Virginia)

Posts:38


11/19/2020 11:18 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 11/19/2020 9:02 AM
Are you aware that Virginia has statutes that cover what the obligations of the Board are with regard to transparency.

I am very well aware of it and have read the entirety of Chapter 26 multiple times over the last several years. However, Virginia law does not answer my question.

Posted By AugustinD on 11/19/2020 9:02 AM
Note: Prior posts of JeffS31 suggest this is a non-condo HOA.



This is a single-family home HOA with 56 lots.
AugustinD


Posts:4421


11/19/2020 11:28 AM  
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 11:18 AM

I am very well aware of it and have read the entirety of Chapter 26 multiple times over the last several years. However, Virginia law does not answer my question.
Why is it that you think Virginia statutes do not answer these questions:
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 8:37 AM
What obligation does the board have for active participation of those homeowners? Are they just observers? Can they participate freely in board discussion? Must they submit agenda items in advance if they want to discuss a particular topic?
?

My point is that, if the statutes required the Board to allow participation of Owners at Board meetings, they would say so. If the statutes required the board to add items submitted by Owners to the Board Meeting's agenda, they would say so.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1575


11/19/2020 11:28 AM  
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 8:37 AM
Our board meetings are open to homeowner attendance, as I suppose they are in all HOAs. What obligation does the board have for active participation of those homeowners? Are they just observers? Can they participate freely in board discussion? Must they submit agenda items in advance if they want to discuss a particular topic?

We have a small HOA (56 homes) and it has been very rare for homeowners to attend board meetings. I have been on our board 10 years and we have only had two or three meetings where homeowners attended because of a topic of special interest to them. But I want to make sure we provide transparency, allow appropriate participation, but also keep the board in control of the meetings.




If you allow homeowner attendance, that's fair transparency.

Board meetings have form but I always act w/ flexibility in regard to seeking community input for items on the business agenda. If it's a tense meeting, I'll transparently notify the audience that they are passive observers. If it's a loose meeting and someone in the audience has expertise we didn't know, we'll hear it. It's a judgement call and an experienced president should be able to navigate.

However, only the board of directors can cast a vote.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10130


11/19/2020 11:38 AM  
No HOA that I know of prohibits Members from attending BOD Meetings. How they have/must be notified is a different subject. In SC we do not have to follow any guidelines on notifying Members when the BOD meets but we allow any Owner to attend. If anyone sent us an Email asking where and when the next BOD Meeting is, we would be happy to inform them but if they do not ask it is on them. FYI, even the BOD does not know when the next BOD Meeting is as, at this time, one is not scheduled.

Most problems I see addressed out here are:

1. Owners wanting to speak at any time, for any length of time, on any subject. Theses 3 things, especially when and how long, need to be controlled or it will be a cluster kiss. It will get out of hand. Prior to the end of the meeting, we have a Q&A session plus we set aside a time at the end of the meeting where an owner can speak for 2 minutes but typically the Q&A Session negates needing to do this.

2. No Agenda and/or not following the agenda. We will discuss things not on the agenda but we will never vote on anything not on the agenda.

3. Proper notification, when required, of a BOD Meeting.

4. No Minutes or Minutes that ramble on and on.

Having said all that, we have never had a BOD Meeting where more then 1 one owner attended. We typically cover everything at our Annual Meeting where we rarely have 15 or more owners attend. We use Proxies to establish a our Quorum of 20%.

JeffS31
(Virginia)

Posts:38


11/19/2020 12:22 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 11/19/2020 11:28 AM
Why is it that you think Virginia statutes do not answer these questions:

My point is that, if the statutes required the Board to allow participation of Owners at Board meetings, they would say so. If the statutes required the board to add items submitted by Owners to the Board Meeting's agenda, they would say so.




If we go by the letter of the law, then all we are required to do is let them in the room and make them sit quietly in the back without saying a word. My question is more about norms and standard practice than what is the bare minimum required by law. For example, I have seen various posts here about following Robert's Rules of Order but that is not mentioned in state law our by-laws. It just is a widely accepted standard way to manage meetings.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3411


11/19/2020 1:01 PM  
Doesn't VA statute say, this - as shown, above?

"D. Subject to reasonable rules adopted by the board of directors, the board of directors shall provide a designated period of time during a meeting to allow members an opportunity to comment on any matter relating to the association. During a meeting at which the agenda is limited to specific topics or at a special meeting, the board of directors may limit the comments of members to the topics listed on the meeting agenda."
AugustinD


Posts:4421


11/19/2020 1:35 PM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 11/19/2020 1:01 PM
Doesn't VA statute say, this - as shown, above?
"D. Subject to reasonable rules adopted by the board of directors, the board of directors shall provide a designated period of time during a meeting to allow members an opportunity to comment on any matter relating to the association. During a meeting at which the agenda is limited to specific topics or at a special meeting, the board of directors may limit the comments of members to the topics listed on the meeting agenda."
Thank you, GeorgeS21. So Virginia HOAs must indeed provide time for members to speak.
AugustinD


Posts:4421


11/19/2020 1:46 PM  
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 12:22 PM
If we go by the letter of the law, then all we are required to do is let them in the room and make them sit quietly in the back without saying a word.
See GeorgeS21's post where he kindly cited the "tree" in the "forest" I posted. Virginia HOAs are indeed required to set aside a time where Members may speak. Which I think is excellent. I think every state should require this.
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 12:22 PM
My question is more about norms and standard practice than what is the bare minimum required by law.
Excellent question. To keep the peace; promote Member participation; occasionally nip problems in the bud; and the like; I advise doing what veteran member KerryL1's California HOA does: Pre-Board Meeting comment period. Post-Board meeting comment period. I also suggest Time limits of two minutes per speaker, with the President or any director allowed to ask for a member to be given more time.
Posted By JeffS31 on 11/19/2020 12:22 PM
For example, I have seen various posts here about following Robert's Rules of Order but that is not mentioned in state law our by-laws. It just is a widely accepted standard way to manage meetings.
A couple of things, based on my experience:

-- In my opinion, your point that Robert's Rules not being mentioned in state law nor your Bylaws is important. Nationwide, many cities, state legislatures and even the U. S. Congress require that xyz edition of Robert's Rules be used for meetings. In fact, lawsuits are often filed when, say, a City Council does not adhere to Robert's Rules and the violation of Robert's Rules results in an outcome disadvantageous to some faction in the community.

-- But for your Virginia HOA, Robert's Rules have no legal force whatsoever. They can be used as a guide, but that's it.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3411


11/19/2020 2:04 PM  
I have always felt members should be allowed to point out things during Board meetings - however, depending on the size of the community, this can become distracting to the business of the Board.

So, playing this a bit by ear is probably reasonable - especially if you have a few folks who are aggressively outspoken and their outspokenness becomes distracting.

I've been in even small communities where a couple of folks attended Board meetings to be distracting and destructive - the Board needs to shut these down quickly.

A neighboring community to one of mine had such aggressive members the President called the sheriff's department and had them evicted.
SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:781


11/20/2020 4:05 AM  
This is where it’s important that the president knows parliamentary procedure and how to run a meeting.

Anyone can speak at a meeting IF and WHEN they are recognized by the chair person leading the meeting in order to speak.

If a non-board member is in the audience and has expertise on the subject being discussed, why wouldn’t he deserve to be heard?
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10130


11/20/2020 9:48 AM  
Posted By SueW6 on 11/20/2020 4:05 AM
This is where it’s important that the president knows parliamentary procedure and how to run a meeting.

Anyone can speak at a meeting IF and WHEN they are recognized by the chair person leading the meeting in order to speak.

If a non-board member is in the audience and has expertise on the subject being discussed, why wouldn’t he deserve to be heard?



I agree but they must be asked to speak by the BOD.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:4158


11/20/2020 6:09 PM  
Posted By SueW6 on 11/20/2020 4:05 AM
If a non-board member is in the audience and has expertise on the subject being discussed, why wouldn’t he deserve to be heard?

In my case, more often than not someone who THINKS they have expertise will pipe up and waste time because they actually don't know what they're talking about.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1047


11/20/2020 6:31 PM  
Our HOA has a homeowner forum where homeowners can come and make grievances etc about community conditions, interact with vendors like security and landscaping. The board even allows owners to ask questions if there is a vendor that will possibly provide a service to the community like payment resealing. One meeting we had a surveillance camera vendor come to pitch a bid to the board. the camera vendor was adamant that each bank of camera locations needed its own internet line at $75 per month for both gates. An owner asked if a network bridge could be installed and save the community $75 per month. The vendor was gruff and shot that idea down. It's participation like this that saved our community the grief of dealing with some shyster that was about to rip us off.

So yes, you should have homeowner input. perhaps have your vendors attend meetings and meet with owners.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7660


11/20/2020 6:44 PM  



NY, PA and some others are not "open meeting" states and, so far as I know don't have to invite Owners to attend any board meetings. Owners may attend the annual membership meeting & election. Some "open meeting states" like CA, AZ, IL, VA and moe are among the open meeting states. Some require an open forum. We hold two: At the beginning of the meeting and at the end. We have a two minutes limit per owners, one topic at a time. About once a year, the 2nd open forum owner contributions have resulted in the Board reconsidering a decision made that night and sometimes overturning it.

We have rules for behavior that goes on the back of the agenda that owners receive. I can past it on a reply if anyone wants to see it. Our HOA of 200+ condos has about 25-30 attendees on Zoom these days.

During the business portion of the Board meeting, only board members may participate UNLESS the Board agrees to include Owners re: particular topics and invites owner comment. We do this occasionally on specific agenda items, but not at every monthly meeting.

(Robert's Rules does not require the "assembly, in this case the Board, to invite any observes to speak.)

Boards decide if Owners may submit agenda items. Our board does permit such submissions with certain deadlines (10 days before board meeting) and info required on a simple form. We do not accept maintenance items, e.g. "Why is the elevator so slow?"

I think a reason that some owners and even directors think that owners CAN freely speak during board meetings is because of language confusion. Folks routinely call board meetings "HOA Meetings" so it sounds like it's meeting of Owners & the board. But board meetings are exactly that: a meeting of the board of directors. Owners are observers.

I do believe that in AZ, Owners may speak on each agenda item if they wish. Yikes!
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:403


11/21/2020 5:18 AM  
Kerryl1, I would love to see your rules of behavior. Thanks!
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7660


11/21/2020 10:45 AM  

Here ya' go, JohnT. It's your to tweak however you like.

Say, JohnC of SC has noted many times that the Board has no notice requirements for owners re: board meetings. So his board never posts one. Do you post one anyway so that owners can attend without contacting management or a director to find out when/where a board meeting is?


BOARD MEETING CONDUCT

We welcome homeowners as observers of the Board of Directors meetings. During the discussion and votes about agenda items, only those at the conference table may speak. Please remain silent so that we are able to hear one another and conduct our community’s business.

We invite your comments about the Board’s agenda items or other topics at the beginning of every board meeting during our Open Forum. We hold a second Open Forum at the end of board meetings for your additional input.

During Open Forum:

Raise your hand to be recognized.

State your name, unit # and tower.

Express your topic in concise, clear terms.

Convey only one topic each time you’re recognized to speak.

Limit your remarks to two minutes.

Never interrupt others while they speak.

As A Reminder:

Ideas for improving xxxxxx or concerns about Board policy are acceptable.

Berating any individual director, homeowner, or manager will not be tolerated.

We ask that maintenance items be reported to management outside of meetings.

Please realize that the Board or Management may not be able to respond to your Open Forum remarks without research. Board deliberation or votes on non-agenda items, per Calif. Civil Code 4920, cannot occur on the spot. The Board will consider these for a future agenda.

Thank you for your interest in our shared community!

JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:403


11/21/2020 12:14 PM  
KerryL1,

Although there is no requirement for open board meetings we do have them. There are only two entrances to our neighborhood and we post Board Meeting signs two days prior to the meeting in these locations. We have a total of 165 residents and our average attendance is somewhere around 15-20 people but its been as high as 35. (We are currently closed because of COVID.)

I realize this depends on the attitude of your owners, and the preparedness of the board members, but I personally like having open board meetings and believe that it has helped us greatly. We had some serious finance and maintenance issues and for the last 2 1/2 years we have been putting in an extraordinary effort to clean things up. Having these open meetings have helped with raising awareness of what is going on and over time it has increased the trust that our homeowners have for the board. I'm not saying we don't have some 'special' owners who come to the meetings looking for a fight but these are few and far between. I have found that if you know your governing documents and state statutes well it is often quite easy to make an idiot look like a fool and after you do it a couple of times he or she will stop coming or stay silent. I'm not suggesting that any other communities do what we are doing but for us it's working. I've also found that these meetings have reduced the amount of false information that circulates in the neighborhood and creates silent animosity that boils up later.

Thanks for your notice. I was thinking about hanging a poster on the clubhouse wall with something that states the rules of conduct. What you provided looks great!
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