Homeowners attend HOA board meetings for one of two reasons: a.) they are unhappy and have an axe to grind, or b.) someone asked (possibly begged) them to be there. Regardless of why they are there… in some states, homeowners’ associations board meetings must be open to your members. Great, you say… “how do I maintain control of my board meeting?”
There are several suggestions on this front. First, asking, encouraging, and pleading with homeowners to attend the meetings is a good idea. Getting them to the meeting educates them on the issues in the neighborhood and builds interest in the needs of the community. Homeowners who become interested in the issues, are potential future board members. Creating an environment of transparency builds trust between the homeowners and the board.
If you do not roll out the red carpet to your meetings, very few homeowners will attend. Typically, if you do not promote active attendance by the owners, the only owners who will show up are those who are unhappy, angry and are there to voice concerns. Regardless of whether you encouraged them to attend or not, how should the board interact with the homeowner?
- Be a gracious host. Have coffee or water available for your attendees.
- Make extra copies of agendas for guests so they can follow along with board business
- Set aside the first 15-30 minutes of the meeting for an owner’s forum where they can speak to the issues that are on their mind. If you are considering an issue (like a parking rule or park curfew) that would benefit from homeowner input, you can use this time to ask for suggestions and ideas from the owners.
- At the forum’s conclusion, remind owners that they are welcomed and encouraged to stay for the entire board meeting which is about to commence. However, since they are not board members, they cannot actually participate in the board meeting or board discussion. During the board meeting, homeowner are observers.
- At the board meeting’s conclusion, thank the board for their work and thank the owners for their attendance. If you wish to make refreshments available after the meeting, this is a great time to spend a few minutes afterwards getting to know your neighbors and potentially recruiting new volunteers for your community.
Lastly, remember that when your board meetings are well attended, you will have to exercise caution when talking about confidential issues. For example, if the board is reviewing an aging receivables list, don’t talk about the “Jone’s family who is late again”. You will either need to refrain from using names, or if you must discuss issues that are confidential in nature, you may have to adjourn to an executive session.