The Annual Meeting of Nottacare Condominium convenes. The Agenda shows the standard items including Review Minutes, Financial Report, President’s Report and Election of Directors. As usual, only 20% of the 95 members show up. But the board has been proactive in getting proxies from the rest so having a quorum is not a problem. The president proceeds systematically down the distributed Agenda. After approving last year’s minutes and a year to date financial overview, she moves towards elections in hopes of wrapping up business early so the wine tasting and potluck can begin. But wait! Millie, a longtime resident, rises to her feet and says "Madam President, I’d like to propose a motion to amend the governing documents to eliminate renters. I’m sick and tired of all the coming and going and lack of regard for us owners."
The President responds, "Millie, I’ve had the same concerns. Do I hear a second?" A second comes from the back of the room and soon a lively discussion ensues about the pros and cons of renters. Bill comments "This all seems a bit hasty and aren’t there federal Fair Housing regulations to consider?" Mary, who rents her unit out, says "I just signed a one year lease with my tenant. What do you expect me do now? Besides, I bought the unit so I could rent it out. There were no restrictions against it." Joe jumps to his feet, "Who cares? We need to get rid of those people. Let’s change the rules and move’em out!" After much haranguing and gnashing of teeth, a vote is called for and a majority of 10 of the 19 present plus another 40 proxies held by the Board President vote to eliminate rentals.
Many believe that the Annual Meeting is a place that the members can be heard and the system changed. While that’s true to an extent, certain aspects of it must be handled to protect the rights of all members, particularly the ones that aren’t present. For that reason, no motions can be entertained that are not on the Agenda which has been distributed with the Annual Meeting Notice to all members. If HOA amendments or policy is to be voted on, all members must be informed ahead of time so they can participate in the discussion. Allowing someone to make spontaneous motions disenfranchises members that aren't at the meeting. It's up to the Board President to call such motions "out of order".
The easiest way to head off such spontaneity is to advise all members prior to the meeting when the Annual Meeting Agenda is being compiled and ask for any proposed amendments or policy changes by such and such a deadline. Add further that no motions can be entertained at the meeting itself unless they are on the Agenda and explained in enough detail so that all members understand what they are and the implications. Proposed amendments should always be reviewed by the attorney prior to enactment.
Restricting motions does not mean that members are not allowed to speak their mind. That is one of the purposes of the Annual Meeting. Free speech helps the members to winnow through issues and come to either an agreement or an agreement to disagree. Encouraging this kind of discussion is good.
But in the case of Millie’s Motion, the proper response from the Chair should have been "Thank you for your suggestion Millie. Why don’t you circulate a petition to all the members to see if there is strong support for restricting rentals? Have the supporters sign your petition and if there are enough, we can either hold a special meeting or vote on it at the next Annual Meeting. Does anyone else have anything they want to discuss before we move on to elections?"
Amending the governing documents or policy should never be done on the spur of the moment. There are few issues that are so urgent that can’t wait for proper review and feedback by all members. If confronted by a Millie’s Motion situation, help guide the process to a thoughtful conclusion.
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