Saturday, 21 July 2018
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Ask the HOA Expert: Special Assessments

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 19 June 2018 19:46

Question: Our pool and clubhouse are 15 years old. The board wants to build a larger pool and upgrade the clubhouse which would require a $200,000 special assessment and drain our reserves.

Answer: The board has no authority to expand the common area amenities. Its authority is to maintain existing amenities in good condition. However, if an appropriate majority of the members are in favor of raising and spending this money for this purpose, that is acceptable. However, the "appropriate" majority may be a super majority of two thirds or more depending on how your governing documents read. This requirement could effectively kill the proposal.

Question: We did not have a quorum at our last annual meeting. So, the manager passed out blank proxies for people to sign just in case they couldn't attend the rescheduled meeting. When I asked who would be the appointee for the proxies, I was told that they would be divided among the board members. Is this the way it is usually done?

Answer: Proxies should have been distributed and collected in advance of the original annual meeting to ensure there was a quorum. It's up to the board and manager to make sure those proxies are collected before the meeting to make sure a quorum is secured, not simply hope enough people show up. Getting members to return proxies in advance takes persistence but is extremely important.

As far as the proxy process itself is concerned, a member has the right to designate a representative to act on their behalf at an annual or special member meeting. If that member either does not select a representative or the chosen representative fails to attend the meeting, the proxy could include an alternative to allow "one of the directors of the board" to vote on their behalf. If a member isn't comfortable with a board member voting, the proxy should include another alternative which states "If my designated representative fails to attend the meeting, this proxy is to be used for quorum purposes only." This way, the show can still go on. For a sample proxy, see www.Regenesis.net Forms sections.

Question: Safety is a large concern in our HOA. One of our residents wanted to arrange for a Neighborhood Watch representative to speak at the annual meeting. The request went to the manager who said that the board had to approve a speaker. Weeks later, she claimed she could not get a response from the board. Does the board really need to approve a speaker?

Answer: Every meeting should have an agenda that is noticed in advance to all attendees. The typical annual meeting agenda template looks something like this:

I. Call to Order
II. Establish a quorum
III. Approve previous annual meeting minutes
IV. Officer and Committee Reports
V. Election of Directors to the Board
VI. Old Business
VII. New Business
VII. Adjourn Meeting

Since this is a business meeting, the typical agenda does not provide for speakers. However, if there is a proposal under New Business to, say, Improve Security Using Neighborhood Watch, it is entirely appropriate to include a short presentation to reinforce that proposal. In other words, if the speaker is relevant to the business meeting, it should be allowed.

That said, you do have the right to request time for a speaker. Your manager failed to address the request. "Not getting a response from the board" is a lame excuse. The board president is the one that approves the agenda. You could have called that person directly to discuss it and should do so in the future to avoid the bureaucratic bottleneck.

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Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson owns Regenesis, a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations. He is a nationally recognized expert on HOA management issues.

Regenesis publishes The Regenesis Report, a monthly newsletter for HOA boards, developers and managers. To subscribe, go to Regenesis.net. He can be contacted by email at rich@regenesis.net.

www.regenesis.net

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