Meetings are an essential part of association governance. There’s no two ways about it. But navigating the different types of meetings and their requirements can be confusing.
We’ve spoken before about “Board Meeting Basics,” but in this piece we’ll take a few of your most commonly asked questions about meeting up and getting things done – especially when it comes to annual meetings and special meetings. Remember, a good community management company is always your go-to source for answers, but this list should get you started. 

What is an annual meeting? 
Annual meetings are required by law. Their purpose is to update owners on the most essential board business and the major issues facing the association. These can include finances, projects, upcoming capital improvements and board elections.

What goes on? 
You can expect a variety of activities, such as reports and presentations by officers and committees, updates on staffing and management changes, voting on proposals (like special assessments and key amendments to governing documents), and more. This is also homeowners’ chance to speak up and participate in important discussions related to the highrise, masterplan or condominium community (this happens during the open forum portion).

Additionally, look for a robust discussion – followed by voting and approvals – regarding the annual budget. As an owner, this has a significant impact on you, from the fees you pay to the amenities you enjoy. If you feel passionate about the dues you’re paying or proposed amendments on the table, it’s important that you take part.
You might also find that the annual meeting coincides with the election of board members. These individuals are homeowner volunteers who protect and manage the community’s interests. As elected representatives, they require a majority of votes to assume their role. Only shareholders who vote in person, or by proxy, can cast a ballot.
In California, owners associations are required to hold annual meetings. If there’s a failure to meet within 60 days of the governing documents’ designated date or within 15 months of the previous meeting, any member can file a petition to have one ordered by the court.
Quorums and proxies.
To vote during an annual meeting or a special meeting, a quorum must be met – that is, a specified percentage of members (or their proxies) must be on-hand for a vote. Proxies are individuals assigned by a homeowner to cast their ballot should that homeowner not be available to attend.
If a quorum cannot be met, the election cannot be held. In that case, the meeting can be adjourned to a later date (as specified in the bylaws). Alternatively, the board or an association member can file a court petition to lower the quorum requirement to the number of ballots cast. Typically, associations forego this step, and opt for leaving the current board in place. In this instance, directors can resign so new board members can be appointed.
Who can attend? 
Your governing documents will stipulate who can attend an annual meeting. Beyond homeowners/shareholders, legal guardians, trustees, personal representatives and those with power of attorney also get to attend and vote. Tenants, family members and potential homeowners are only admitted if your documents permit them to. Also, remember that some homeowners may have had their rights to vote stripped, in which case these individuals are not allowed to cast a ballot.

You may be wondering about vendors and other professionals, like attorneys. These individuals may be invited to attend to give a presentation or provide important information, but their involvement and participation is normally highly restricted.

No matter what, it’s essential that you, as an owner, attend these meetings. And even if you don’t, you’re still responsible for following the rules and guidelines that may be adopted over the course of them, even if you were absent.
Advance notice. 
California civil codes require that notice of annual meetings be given to shareholders at least 30 days in advance (but no more than 90 days). This notice can be provided personally, electronically, or by mail (if sent to the address of the member as given for these purposes). This notice must include which matters are to be presented for action. Again, a professional property management company can be an important resource regarding the required notices and timing.
What is a special meeting? 
Special meetings are held to handle issues that may arise between annual meetings. They must be called for a specific purpose, and no other items are permitted for debate or discussion.
How can I request a special meeting? 
These meetings may be called by members of the board, a petition of membership (with at least 5% signing), or by other persons as dictated by your bylaws. If members call for the meeting, and membership action is required, civil code requires that notice shall be given no less than 30 days, and no more than 90 days, prior to the meeting date. Notices can be sent personally, electronically or by mail.
If a special meeting is called by the board, notice must be given as well, though the rules are different if it’s an executive or emergency meeting. Executive meetings usually deal with privileged or private issues and members don’t have the right to attend. Typically, these meetings inv0olve legal issues, formation of contracts, disciplinary hearings, personnel issues, payment plans for delinquent members and foreclosures. Emergency meetings do not require advance notice to homeowners because of the time-sensitive nature of the circumstance.  
There you have it – an overview of annual and special meetings, along with your basic rights when it comes to either situation. These meetings are essential to a healthy association, so make sure you do your part whenever you can. For more information on annual and special meetings and how to ensure yours are effective, contact FirstService Residential.
Wednesday May 18, 2016