Monday, 22 April 2019
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Ask the HOA Expert: Board Meetings and Members

Written by Posted On Monday, 21 January 2019 05:30

Question: We have one unit owner who is requesting copies of the most recent year’s financial records and meeting minutes. He seems to be irate because none of the board meetings were open to the members. We don't feel that it is appropriate to give him copies of this information although he is welcome to go through the records in the office during normal business hours.

Answer: To address the complaints of this member, the board president should discuss the concerns in person with him. If he refuses to discuss specifics and continues to deliver unreasonable demands, a written response should state that his demands are not reasonable and the board will not respond to unreasonable demands. If he doesn’t like the decisions the board makes, he is free to run for election and get elected if he can drum up the support.

However, members are entitled to view HOA records that do not violate other members’ privacy or compromise ongoing litigation, attorney-client privilege or contract negotiations. Arranging a reasonable time to review other records in the office along with charging him for someone’s time to facilitate it and costs of copies is appropriate.

And if your board has been holding closed meetings, that should change. The board should perform HOA business transparently. While there may be an occasional need for executive session (behind closed door meeting) to discuss topics like litigation, collections or contract negotiations, board meetings should otherwise be open to the members and held in venues that permit such. Those meetings should be noticed to all members well in advance along with the proposed agenda which allows members to request being part of the agenda. Draft minutes to the meetings should be distributed to the members within two weeks of the meeting.

Question: Our board recently approved a plan to remove hundreds of mature and healthy trees with no input from the residents. No clear explanation has been provided about the need to do this. Many members are up in arms.

Answer: There are good reasons to remove trees but before doing so, the board should be sensitive to the feelings of the members and provide clear and compelling evidence from experts that such is necessary. It is highly advisable to hire a licensed arborist who can provide credibility to a removal plan. If removal is being done for view purposes, it may be possible to achieve satisfactory results with “view”pruning without having to remove the trees.

Question: Our homeowner association failed to hold an annual meeting or elections for several years. This wasn’t done intentionally. The HOA was involved in a complex and time consuming renovation project and simply couldn’t arrange the meeting schedule Because of this, some directors are currently serving passed their terms. A couple of members have started to complain. What should we do?

Answer: Not holding the annual meeting is a serious breach of the board’s fiduciary duty and directors whose terms have expired are acting without the legal authority to do so. The board should schedule a annual meeting at the earliest possible date to hold elections which will either re-elect current directors or elect others to replace them. Tarry no longer!

Question: If a proposal for enclosing unit decks into sunrooms is voted down by the board, can the proposal be brought up again and again at the future board meetings? It seems like this is simply a strategy to wear the board down until it caves in.

Answer: It depends what the repeated proposals entail. If the board initially voted down the sunroom concept in its entirety, it need not entertain the same concept again. If the board voted down the design and material details and not the concept, it is reasonable to revisit the issue although the board should not keep the applicants guessing what might be acceptable.

In a case like this, it is reasonable to hire an architect to provide a standardized design and materials for the board’s approval which can be replicated by other unit owners that have the same desire.

The board controls the meeting agenda and is not obligated to discuss anything that a member has a mind to discuss. If a member persists in beating a dead horse, the board is not obligated to participate.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net

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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.

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