Michael Hunter

Keeping HOA open meetings productive and on track

I am a big proponent of homeowners’ association (HOA) boards keeping their meetings open to members when possible. This promotes an atmosphere of transparency and gives homeowners an opportunity to see and understand how the HOA functions. It also helps homeowners better appreciate the often difficult situations board members grapple with on a routine basis.

North Carolina law requires HOA boards to open meetings to owners’ questions and concerns “at regular intervals,” although the law does not specify how frequently these open meetings should occur. I recommend that HOA boards have open meetings at least four times a year.

HOA boards should continue to utilize closed meetings (also known as “executive session”) to discuss matters of a sensitive or private nature, such as homeowner delinquencies and violations, employment issues, and vendor contract negotiations. However, boards that keep all meetings closed to members only breed suspicion and contempt in owners.

6 tips for good HOA board meetings

The column below was written by my colleague Bryan Kuester, president of Kuester Management Group, which manages homeowners’ associations in North Carolina and South Carolina. His company’s website is http://kuester.com/hoa-management-services/.

Open meetings are essential for HOA communities because they give all association members the opportunity to get involved. This lets homeowners know that their voice is being heard, and also gives them a way to stay aware of topics regarding the management of the community.

For open meetings to be productive, certain rules and expectations should be set:

1. Present concerns or topics for discussion in writing ahead of time so they can be included on the agenda for the next meeting. Open forums are a great way for members to express their views, but nothing can be voted on until it is on the agenda so that it can be deliberated by the board.

2. Maintain a consistent routine. Make each meeting follow the same general format so that members know what to expect. Conduct official business first before opening the floor for comments from homeowners so they are able to hear debate on issues before sharing their opinions. Enforce a time limit so that each person is given equal time to speak and no one dominates the meeting.

3. Post notification about upcoming meetings at least 48 hours in advance so that members have time to make arrangements to attend. Notices should be placed in visible locations and include the time, date, and location of the meeting. Encourage HOA management, board members, and homeowners to attend.

4. Keep a professional environment and demeanor throughout the meeting. Everyone should be treated respectfully and this precedent should be set from the start. Emotions can run high on certain topics, so try to stay focused and on point. Thank members for sharing their concerns or opinions and let them know that their input will be taken into consideration. The board cannot vote on matters brought up in the open forum.

5. Remain transparent and open when discussing budgets, repairs, projects, rules and regulations, and other factors that affect the community and its members.

6. Homeowners should have access to data as outlined by HOA regulations. Letting them know exactly how funds are being spent can ease pushback.

Running an organized and structured meeting can enhance productivity and drive results. The more that homeowners, boards, and management work together, the more peaceable living they can achieve. Before conducting meetings, ensure you have reviewed the regulations set forth by your state or HOA.

Charlotte attorney Michael Hunter represents community and condominium associations for the firm of Horack Talley. Email questions to home@charlotteobserver.com. Not every question receives a reply. Find his blog at www.CarolinaCommonElements.com.