New Year’s Resolutions [Part 1] – The Director

As an HOA director, I resolve to: Always: Follow the Golden Rule. Reboot my attitude: I don’t control my neighbors, I serve them. An attitude of service will help me to be less defensive and stressed when neighbors challenge or criticize board decisions. Advocate our board follows the law and governing documents, spends money wisely and properly preserves and maintains community assets, while also being mindful of the board’s relationship with our HOA community. We will balance the legal, financial, property and community considerations in our decisions. Remember that my position as a volunteer is different than my work. Unlike at work, we cannot fire our HOA neighbors. Be aware that not all neighbors know their rights and responsibilities under the law and governing documents, and I will be patient and willing to explain the rules and decisions. Be knowledgeable: Review our governing documents (CC&R’s, bylaws, and rules). Review financial reports on budget, reserves, expenditures and delinquencies. Understand the Business Judgment Rule, and always make sure the board has sufficient basis for each decision. Encourage my board colleagues to join a Community Associations Institute Chapter, and take advantage of the written materials, seminars and classes CAI offers to volunteers. Improve board meetings: Help to limit our open board meetings to at most 2 hours, with a goal of an average meeting length of 90 minutes. Arrive at meetings prepared, having reviewed the agenda and board packet. Listen attentively during Open Forum without interrupting, and give my neighbors the same level of courtesy and attentiveness which I expect from them during the board deliberations. Stay on topic during discussions. Meet...
Unruly Meetings or Meeting Rules

Unruly Meetings or Meeting Rules

Other than the overall condition of the common areas, one of the first opportunities for associations to make a positive impression upon new members is at meetings of the board of directors. Where does a new owner learn how board meetings are conducted? No law requires associations to have meeting rules, but such rules can be extremely helpful to attendees and the board. Much of the rules may be derived from statutes (Civil Code 4900-4955, aka Open Meeting Act) but the statutes do not answer all questions. Topics which could be covered in meeting conduct rules could include: Who can attend board meetings? This is not an academic question. Under the Open Meeting Act, only members have the right to attend open meeting sessions, but what about tenants, non-owner spouses, attorneys, children of owners, and service providers? The rules can confirm if anyone else can attend. What is the order of business the HOA board usually follows? A model agenda can be included in the rules, to inform HOA members about the order in which things happen in board meetings. How is open forum handled? Is it at the beginning or the end of meetings? Can the board vote to have a special open forum on a limited issue during the meeting? What is the time limit on owner remarks? Reasonable guidelines on open forum will be helpful. What behavior is not permitted in board meetings? Meeting rules should contain clear boundaries of behavior, boundaries which no reasonable person would defend. Rules should spell out what is not allowed, and help keep order during board meetings. If someone disrupts...

The Open Meeting Act: A Checklist

The Open Meeting Act is a law within a law, found within the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act at Civil Code Sections 4900-4955. A common misconception is that common interest developments are subject to the “Brown Act” (located at Government Code Sections 54950-54963), but it only applies to the “legislative body,” meaning public or publicly controlled entities. The HOA “Brown Act” is the Open Meeting Act, which now is extensively detailed regarding association meetings. The apparent aim of the Act is valuable – to make the governance of associations more open and accessible to members. Here are a few of the more common violations of the Open Meeting Act. Discussing items not on agenda Civil 4930 bars boards from discussing non-emergency subjects unless announced on a posted/published agenda at least four days prior to the meeting. There are some narrow exceptions to this rule, but a frequent problem the reluctance of a board to wait until the next meeting to handle a new issue. If it truly cannot wait four days, it may be an emergency. Otherwise, hold off. Your agenda is probably already full for the meeting, and some delay gives management time to gather information and advise the board. Unknowing board meetings Per Civil 4090, any time a quorum of the board is at the same time discussing any association topic, that is a “board meeting”, triggering the Open Meeting Act. When three of five directors happen to be at the pool, or attending a committee meeting, and any of the directors speaks, it then becomes a “board meeting” under this statute. Email deliberation Email is so...

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...

Attending and Speaking at Board Meetings

Hi Kelly, We continue to enjoy your column and value your responses. You are providing a valuable service in educating those of us who live in homeowner associations (CIDs). Is it usual or expected that individual board members take a turn during the Open Forum? Thank you for considering this question for your column, P.K., Alhambra Dear P.K., The Open Meeting Act’s “open forum” requirement is designed for members to speak to the directors. It is NOT a time for directors to speak. Directors should be listening to the comments of the members. Following the completion of open forum, Civil Code 1363.05(i)(2) [which starting January 2014 will be found at 4930(b)] allows a director to briefly respond to questions or statements made in open forum, or may ask a question, make a brief announcement, or make a brief report on the director’s activities. A board which abuses its right to respond to open forum questions may be showing a lack of respect for the open forum participants. It is also tempting for a board to start discussing a topic raised in open forum, but unless the matter is a bona fide emergency, discussion of an open forum topic must occur at a later meeting. Open forum is a great time for both directors and homeowners to show respect to their neighbors. Thanks for your question and kind words, Kelly Dear Kelly, Can the press attend homeowners association board meetings? C.C., Riverside Dear C.C., Unless your association allows the general public to attend your association meetings, then no, the press does not have the right to attend. Normally nothing newsworthy...