6 best practices: Understanding HOA board meetings & HOA board meeting minutes
Homeowner association (HOA) board meetings are much more than a requirement of your community association-- they’re essential to fulfilling its duties. By coming together regularly, officers and shareholders can ensure that their collective interests in the organization remain protected and continue to grow over time.
Board meetings are also crucial to the governance of your community association. If they aren’t run effectively, your association won’t function well either. Poorly run board meetings can make it challenging to achieve your association’s goals and can thwart your efforts to recruit new members in the future. But how do you know if your meetings are effective?
Hold the appropriate number of board meetings
To ensure compliance with laws and regulations, it's best to consult your association’s bylaws or the local statutes for guidance on how often board meetings should be held. If no clear directive is present, "the frequency of these gatherings may vary," according to Richard Orduno from FirstService Residential. Generally speaking, small associations can aim for a quarterly meeting cadence, while larger ones make monthly meetups their goal. Though there are exceptions—unforeseen issues may require more infrequent yet urgent discussions among members, also known as emergency meetings.
Board meetings require a quorum – meaning that you can only conduct one if you have the required minimum number of board members in attendance. To maximize participation and ensure you’re providing ample notice (per your community’s governing documents and local statutes), it’s important to send meeting notices to homeowners a specific amount of time in advance, as per your association’s governing documents.
Homeowners are welcome to participate and provide valuable insights at board meetings, as governed by your community's statutes. However, it is essential that clear guidelines for homeowner participation be established to keep conversations on track; this will ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute meaningfully.
In some cases, non-owners – such as family members, vendors, potential homebuyers, and other interested parties – may also be allowed to attend meetings. Kristina Lebrevelec, regional director at FirstService Residential, believes allowing renters at board meetings is a good idea. “A renter could become an owner someday,” she points out. She also notes that non-owners can only speak at a meeting if they are there to represent the legal owner. “Otherwise, they are there to observe only.”
Closed meetings, or “executive” meetings, are for board members only. Sometimes a board will decide to close a portion of a board meeting to discuss a legal matter or a specific homeowner’s financial situation, for instance. However, any actions that board members need to take based on the discussion must occur in the open portion of the meeting.
Set the agenda
Crafting an agenda is vital to achieving a successful board meeting. Carefully constructed with a format in mind, your pre-publicized itinerary should include essentials such as opening remarks, roll call and HOA board meeting minutes review, voting/motion opportunities, and ample time for questions or discourse! Think of it like having the journey and destination already mapped out - you'll be able to stay on track while ensuring all participants reach their desired outcomes.
“Any decision the board plans to discuss and vote on needs to be on the agenda,” says Orduno. “If you don’t follow the agenda, you open yourself up to challenges from the homeowners.” In addition, sticking to an agenda helps keep discussions focused, according to Lebrevelec. “Going off your agenda can turn a 45-minute meeting into a 2 to 3-hour one.”
Take HOA board meeting minutes
Taking the minutes at each meeting and reading those from the previous session are essential aspects of board meeting proceedings. The HOA board meeting minutes provide an official record of your association’s meetings, and most bylaws and statutes give homeowners the right to see those records.
HOA board meeting minutes should not be a verbatim transcript of the meeting. Instead, they provide a summary of motions made and actions taken. Although the board secretary is generally responsible for managing the HOA board meeting minutes, Orduno and Lebrevelec recommend not giving the secretary or even your property manager responsibility for recording them. “Otherwise, they won’t fully engage in the meeting,” explains Orduno.
Follow parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure establishes rules and methods for running meetings. Although there are different types of parliamentary procedure, the most used one is “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a how-to guide for conducting business in democratically elected organizations. Its enduring popularity is based, in part, on how well it prescribes guidelines and formalizes meeting procedures and conduct. This helps ensure your meetings are fair, inclusive, and efficient.
Keep it formal
Aim to keep open meetings at most 90 minutes (30 minutes for an executive session) and leave any socializing until your meeting is over. “That requires staying to the agenda and being efficient,” says Orduno.
“Anything longer than that is too long,” says Lebrevelec. “It’s better to have more meetings if needed because you lose people’s attention. They then make decisions just to end the meeting, which means you don’t make good decisions.”
Even if you’re friendly with your fellow board members, remember that the purpose of a board meeting is to conduct business, not to socialize. Gossip, off-topic conversations, and other distractions that veer discussions away from association business will prevent you from accomplishing the tasks at hand and ultimately waste everyone’s time. In addition, an informal tone can make it challenging for the board to address serious issues. Choose a business-like venue, such as your community meeting room, to hold your meetings. If your community is professionally managed, you may be able to meet in one of the management company’s offices or conference rooms.
As a volunteer board member, you know how critical it is to address your community association’s needs, keep your operations running smoothly and preserve your property’s continued viability. Having effective board meetings is a crucial part of this.