If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association (HOA), you no doubt have seen signs, received emails, or even had people knocking on your door to alert you about HOA meetings. There are many of different types of meetings — annual membership meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, executive sessions and special meetings — and not all of them require member notification. Still, many HOA boards try their best to invite homeowners, because in most all cases the meetings, or a portion of them, are open to members so they can feel connected to their HOA and see that business at hand is being conducted efficiently and professionally.
Some of these meetings are held more frequently than others. Special meetings, for example, usually are called if something comes up during the year like a hurricane, amendment to the governing documents, or to vote on a special assessment. Annual membership meetings are one-time sessions generally held in the last quarter of the year, as HOAs are reporting on prior year financials, holding elections, and getting budgets approved and ratified in order to get billing out on time before the holiday season starts rolling.
Board meetings vary in regularity, some meeting monthly, bi-monthly and most meet quarterly. In the case of board meetings, these are ones that HOA boards are not required to give notice about. However, what they are required to do in regular intervals, according to state statute, is to have a portion of the board meeting open to the members.
What we generally recommend to our boards is to have a good policy on public comment sections of HOA board meetings. We recommend they have the open portion prior to the start of the actual board meeting; if a resident has an issue to speak on, they have an allotted amount of time to bring up issues of concern (the time limit helps keep owners from stealing the stage and unnecessarily extending the meeting).
Ideally, the HOA board will not make any decisions on the issue right then and there, but instead listen to the owner, take notes, and thank them for sharing their thoughts. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to make decisions on the fly; rather, let the owner be heard and then the board can carefully consider the issue at a later date. Once the public comment period is closed, the board can then open the meeting and still allow the owners to be present, just without any interaction with the board once the official meeting starts so the board can conduct the business at hand in a transparent fashion.
From the board’s standpoint, properly running meetings with owners in attendance allows the HOA membership to know that board members are listening to their concerns and ideas; that the board is making decisions as a whole; and that sometimes unpopular decisions must be made. It’s important to remember that the duty of an HOA board is to do what’s best for the homeowner’s association, not the board or individual members.
For example, let’s say a community needs to resurface its pool. The HOA board deliberates, brings in engineers, reviews proposals, checks references, and then has a public vote before implementing a $500/unit special assessment to fund the project. The people attending the meetings can see the mechanics of such decisions, understanding that board members aren’t just sitting around making knee-jerk decisions without considering all angles over a series of two, three or even four meetings.
Properly conducted, HOA board meetings allow members in attendance to stay in the know of what’s going on in their community. They can hear the issues, and if they have a concern, they can voice it and perhaps even help fix it. For example, if there’s an issue with landscaping, maybe they can volunteer to join the landscaping committee or join another committee. Such participation could be the tip of the iceberg for getting involved in the community, serving in an official capacity or volunteering to help organize social activities.