Ten Tips For Shorter Meetings

Board meetings require balance. While nobody appreciates a meeting in which brevity is the only value, unduly lengthy meetings discourage and exhaust everybody – directors, audience and manager. After about 3 hours, good concentration and judgment is hard to come by. A length of 60-90 minutes is a very reasonable and achievable goal for most board meetings. Try these tips to get there. 1. Come prepared Good managers provide boards with “board packets” in advance, helping directors come to the meeting prepared, avoiding time wasted as directors “get up to speed” about items set forth in the packet. Prepared directors are more efficient – read your packet. 2. Avoid overly ambitious agendas Watch out for the overly loaded agenda. Some issues can dominate a meeting, requiring thirty minutes or more. Try to handle only one such issue per meeting, if you can. Sometimes a board needs to meet more frequently, as there is too much to be done in one meeting. 3. Set the room up for a board meeting (not a town hall meeting) A board which sits facing the audience (and not each other) invites audience participation, but the audience was not elected to serve. The semicircle is the best shape, so the audience can hear as the directors talk – to the other directors. 4. Use open forum properly Many meetings are too long because both board and audience fail to respect open forum. During open forum the board should not interrupt, and during the rest of the meeting the audience should not interrupt. 5. Use consent calendars Most routine decisions should be handled via consent...

Nobody Will Serve

Dear Kelly, My husband is president of an HOA with less than 20 townhome units. Although the bylaws prohibit any president serving over 4 years, my husband has served 8 years as no one is willing take over the job. Further, there are no other board members, despite my husband’s pleadings for assistance from residents, there is complete apathy; no one has come forward to help on the board so he has to do everything (we have a management company that collects dues but nothing else) including repairs as there is little money to spare. We understand that if there is no board, the state will take over. What is the procedure to contact the state if my husband decides to quit? Frustrated, L.E., Lawndale Dear L.E., No wonder you are frustrated. Your husband is working for free, as the unpaid manager. That is unfair, and unwise. The Corporations Code allows him as a sole director to do one thing – appoint enough directors to get to a quorum. Your small HOA only should have 3 directors. If you have more, amend your bylaws. He should not be making decisions on his own, as without a board there is no corporate decision.. only him. The state will not take over your HOA if nobody will serve – but the bills won’t be paid, and the property will deteriorate until a lawsuit wakes everybody up. Soon as you have at least enough directors for a quorum, hire a full service property management firm, and stop your husband from working for free. Some people may not wish to volunteer because they...

Multiple Ownership, Unilateral Actions

Hi, I am professional and own multiple rental properties in a condo complex. I happen to be a board member of HOA. Can I be sued personally. Thanks, B.S, Anaheim Hills Dear B.S., Civil Code 1365.7 provides that volunteer directors are not personally liable so long as the association holds directors and officers liability insurance. That insurance minimum is $500,000 for an association of 100 or less residences, or $1,000,000 if there are more than 100 residences. There are other limitations, such as the actions must be within the director’s role, and in good faith. A director acting outside of the corporate process, or a director who receives compensation of any kind) other than reimbursement of out of pocket expenses) could be outside the very important protection of this statute. Another limitation is found at subpart (e) of the statute, which limits the immunity to owners of no more than two memberships in the association. I assume the thinking behind this law was that someone who owns more than two memberships in an association is not really a volunteer but has primarily a business involvement. So, if you have more than two memberships in one association you may want to consider having personal umbrella insurance coverage. There is still another source of protection, the all-important “business judgment rule” (see earlier HOA Homefront columns for that discussion.). Best regards,Kelly Dear Kelly, Is it permissible for a President of a HOA and manager to meet with a homeowner and sign an agreement without letting the Board of Directors know about the discussion and agreement? Thanking you in advance, E.H., Cherry Valley...

Vague Agendas

Good Morning Mr. Richardson, We purchased a condo in Laguna Niguel. We noticed that many condos have privacy fences. All of these fences are constructed using the same white fencing material and look very uniform. During escrow, we were given the Association’s Rules and Regulations, including the Architectural Guidelines. We filed the correct application to the Board for a privacy fence, using the approved fencing material. We had our neighbors sign the form stating they approve the fence. The Board denied approval, stating the Davis-Stirling Act (1985). To say the least, we were very disappointed in their decision. My question to you is, can an Association Board deny approval using the Davis-Stirling Act without changing the Association Rules and Regulations that are given to you in escrow? Nowhere in any documents do they state the Davis-Stirling Act. S.C., Laguna Niguel Dear S.C., The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act does not contain architectural standards (although some parts limit HOA power to prohibit certain items). However, at Civil Code 1378, it contains requirements upon the submittal process. Subpart 4 of that section states: “A decision on a proposed change shall be in writing. If a proposed change is disapproved, the written decision shall include both an explanation of why the proposed change is disapproved and a description of the procedure for reconsideration of the decision by the board of directors.” So, simply citing the Act is not enough. You should have been provided an explanation of how you fell short of the HOA’s standards, so you could resubmit a compliant application. Good luck on your re-application, Kelly   Kelly G. Richardson...

Board Size, Architectural Application

This is an active time in Sacramento, as literally thousands of bills (over 2,300 at last count) have been proposed this year for possible new or changed laws in California. Many of them will, if passed, affect common interest developments (the legal term for “homeowner association”). Here are four that might be worth following: AB 746 Assembly Member Levine, from San Rafael, introduced Assembly Bill (“AB”) 746. This bill would outlaw smoking in multi-family buildings, except in designated smoking areas. Violators would first be warned, and fined for second and subsequent offenses. The ban would not commence until 2015, allowing landlords and HOAs to prepare. A growing number of cities have adopted bans on smoking in multi-family buildings. This bill, if it became law, would take that ban statewide. In its present form, it would not put any responsibility on HOA boards. SB 752 Senate Bill (“SB”) 752 is a major bill, creating a separate Common Interest Development Act for non-residential associations. Drafted by the California Law Revision Commission, it will likely become law, and then non-residential associations will have a separate body of law applying to them. Mixed use projects, in which some units are residential while others are commercial, would still look to the Davis-Stirling Act. AB 968 Associations currently are required to follow very specific election procedures, not matter how large or small. Those procedures are often ignored or unknown by smaller associations. AB 968 proposes to simplify election procedures for associations of 15 members or less. This would allow the very small association to dispense with Inspectors of Election and ballots sealed in two different...