7 Steps to a Successful HOA Annual Meeting
Annual meetings are vital to the successful governance of any homeowners association (HOA), whether you sit on the board of a condominium or community association. They provide you with an opportunity to share information about the budget, the state of the community and planned projects for the upcoming year. The annual meeting also gives the association an opportunity to elect new board members.
As a board member, you want what will likely be your most important meeting of the year to run smoothly and be effective and productive. A well-run meeting will make it easier for you to achieve your association’s goals. Follow the 7 steps below to help you stay on track to having a successful meeting.
1. Follow Your Advance Notification Requirements
Board members must follow their community's annual meeting notification requirements, and provide these to homeowners in advance of the meeting. Typical annual homeowners association meeting notices include the meeting date, time, location and agenda, though specific notification requirements can vary by state. In Florida, for example, the first annual meeting notice must be posted at least 14 continuous days before the annual meeting. Check your association's governing documents for requirements specific to your community or consult with your professional property management company as well as your association’s attorney.
2. Know Your Governing Documents
A board member's primary responsibility is to understand the needs of their community, and there is no better way to do that than by understanding your association’s governing documents. Your governing documents serve as a guideline for your community and provide insight into the rights and responsibilities of its members, providing a framework for how the association should operate.
"The governing documents of your homeowner association are in place to protect the interests of all residents within the community,” said Anh Nguyen, vice president at FirstService Residential. “Board members should always be aware of what's included in them and act accordingly to maintain and protect their community’s integrity and property value.”
A solid understanding of the governing documents will make it easier for you to address homeowners' questions that may arise during the meeting. If you need help understanding them, your professional property management company and association counsel can help.
3. Compile Your List of Attendees
Who should you invite to the HOA annual meeting? All community members should be invited, whether your association is a single-family or townhome community or a condo or high-rise. In Florida, association meetings are open to owners or their authorized representatives. Your governing documents will outline whom you should invite and who is allowed to attend.
4. Decide Where to Host the Meeting
A convenient location – and day/time – increases the likelihood that homeowners will attend your meeting, so you’ll want to choose a suitable location. The community’s clubhouse, social and meeting rooms are all appropriate places to host your annual meeting. Location guidelines will be outlined in your association's governing documents.
5. Develop Your Agenda
A well-prepared agenda is essential to keeping your annual meeting on track. Your agenda should include all topics that need to be discussed. To get started, outline key topics such as your annual budget, major projects, and any business that requires a vote. If you need guidance on developing your agenda, talk to your property management company.
“We provide the board with all the necessary resources they need to make informed decisions and conduct their Association meetings effectively,” said Katharine Effron, vice president at FirstService Residential. “For example, if we’re discussing changing community landscaping services moving forward, we’ll prepare a board information packet containing the community’s most recent contract, a bid analysis and bids from three vendors. This will help board members make informed decisions and easily present to their association members.”
A typical annual meeting agenda might include the following:
• A review and approval of the past year's financials
• A discussion of any major repairs or upgrades that need to be made to the community
• Board member elections
• A vote on any proposed changes to the community's bylaws
• An address of homeowners concerns
Make sure to leave plenty of time for questions and comments on every agenda item – which you can accomplish by building extra time into your overall meeting schedule. Your agenda should be sent out well in advance to give members the chance to review it and think about any questions they may have before the meeting.
6. Understand the Process for Nominating and Voting for Board Members
Elections are a major part of annual meetings, and you want to ensure the process is smooth and successful. Are you familiar with how the election process works? Your governing documents will stipulate your election requirements, the criteria to call for candidates, and the timeframe for the process. Below are some general guidelines for participation – note these may vary by state.
Guidelines for Participation
Annual meetings require a quorum – the minimum number of homeowners who must be present, either in person or by proxy – for a binding election. If a quorum is not met, the board cannot take any official action of electing officers or adopting new policies. To maximize participation and ensure you can obtain a quorum, you should provide ample meeting notice (per your community’s governing documents and local statutes). If your community faces challenges reaching a quorum each year, consider forming a committee to focus on boosting participation.
Most associations allow for proxy submissions. With a proxy, homeowners don't need to be present to vote. Homeowners can use proxies in two ways: authorizing another homeowner to vote in their place or submitting their votes before the meeting. Note: In some states such as Florida, the law does not permit condominium owners to vote by proxy to elect board members.
The use of electronic voting has increased over the years and is a convenient way to cast your vote. Voting is done from your phone or your home computer, making it easy for homeowners to participate in the election process. Work with your professional management company to select a voting system that fits your association’s needs.
7. Take Proper Minutes
Effective minutes play a vital role in your annual meeting. Minutes provide a written record of the meeting and are helpful for reference if questions or issues arise down the road. Minutes can also help to hold board members accountable for their actions, ensuring that meetings are conducted fairly and transparently. For these reasons, taking effective meeting minutes is essential. As with all board meeting minutes, they should note what was discussed, the decisions made, and who implements policies. They should explain the recommendations and actions taken by the leadership team and how they benefit the community.
Newly elected boards should use past meeting minutes as a source of information. “The most successful board members engage the community – they ask for feedback from time to time, either in person or through a survey – about ways to improve the community. The meeting minutes are a great resource to help them understand the history of association matters,” said Effron.
As a board member, you know the importance of planning in advance to ensure your operation runs smoothly. Properly preparing for your annual meeting ahead of time will give you peace of mind that you are on track to running a productive and successful meeting.
If you need help planning your annual meeting, contact FirstService Residential.