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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Ask the HOA Expert: Time Limits On Board Meetings

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 12 June 2018 20:23

Question: What do you think about placing a time limit on the board meetings? There are some members that believe that there should be no time limit and others that believe there should be.

Answer: Generally, board meetings should not go longer than two hours. This seems to be the average time limit for sustained human concentration. Board meetings should always have a set agenda together with proposals, information and recommendations circulated in advance to the directors for review. In other words, the directors should not arrive at the meeting cold and clueless. They should have a good idea about the topics of discussion and be prepared only to clarify the issues before an up or down vote. Board meetings should never involve rambling discussion. Board meetings are intended to transact business. Stick to the agenda, get business done and adjoin the meeting in two hours or less.

Having short board meetings is an effective recruiting tool for good board members. Successful business people value their own personal time and will be more inclined to volunteer if the meetings are run in a businesslike way.

Question: In our HOA, many of the original old wooden fences need to be replaced. The governing documents address fence design and material but do not mention height. The board has issued fence guidelines which state that the maximum height is five feet. Some of our members have challenged the board's policy since they want a six foot fence.

Answer: Architectural and design policies like fences are often enacted by the board. If the board has a reasonable basis for setting the five foot limit (like that has been the standard for years), it has every right to do so. The fact that some may not agree is no surprise. Welcome to America. But the board has the authority to set such policies and amend them later if there is a compelling reason to do so.

Question: Our HOA has a strict policy in order to preserve the streetscape and prevent clear-cutting. The board gets requests from time to time from members asking permission to cut trees. We will inspect and sometimes approve the cutting if there is disease or damage. If not, the requests are denied.

We now have a resident who is requesting to cut two tall pine trees that are close to his house due to the potential of the trees falling. He is stating that the HOA will be liable if the tree falls. Is the HOA exempt from such liability if the governing documents state that significant trees cannot be cut?

Answer: Besides the falling tree issue is the potential fire hazard. Trees should be located at least 30 feet from the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees. There is also the issue of tree limbs damaging the roof and the trees causing foundation damage when they sway in the wind.

But to address a specific request, it would be prudent to get a licensed arborist to review the trees in question. If the arborist believes they are a danger, they should be removed. Otherwise, they should not. The board is not responsible for acts of God, only for handling business in a prudent manner. Use experts to your advantage.

Question: Our condominium has a member that is eight months delinquent in HOA fees. He says he has declared bankruptcy, but he has renters in his unit and is collecting rent every month. The renters use the facilities and utilities (gas, electricity, water, trash). Is there anything the board can do when someone has declared bankruptcy yet is collecting rent every month?

Answer: Yes, there is a lot the board can do and the sooner the better. The board needs to enact a comprehensive Collection Policy which allows "assignment of rents" from delinquent landlord owners. The Collection Policy could also include interruption of HOA provided utilities in the event of delinquency. The HOA would have to have individual utility unit shut off capability but this is an extremely effective way to get the attention of the unit owner.

If the board is going to enact a new or amended Collection Policy, it should be circulated to all members in advance with a notice that it is going into effect on such and such date. This may encourage delinquent members to pay up before it does.

And the board should identify and work with an attorney that is knowledgeable in HOA collections to deal with delinquencies in the early stages. If this member has truly filed bankruptcy, the bill may be difficult or impossible to collect. A basic of all HOA collection policies is to act early and aggressively to secure the HOA's debt. For a sample Collection Policy, see www.Regenesis.net Policy section.

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.

www.regenesis.net

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