Corona real estate, HOA, and estate planning attorney Joseph Hudack knows that no one ever told a neighbor “I’m so excited about the HOA annual meeting!”.
Having a complete agreement on any topic is difficult, however, if we took a poll, we would get close on whether anyone thinks an HOA’s annual meeting is a pleasant experience. Here is an idea, add a member’s forum.
A member’s forum is a spot on the agenda where property owners can talk about their concerns. However, this creates two potential problems. One, meetings that go on forever. Two it requires all in attendance to listen to countless disgruntled property owners that can’t or maybe better said, won’t stop talking.
Here is a potential cure, make the very last item on the agenda for the Annual Meeting a “Members Forum.” This line item comes after everything else and when all the other items of business are completed. It comes after the announcement of the election results, and after all other official business is complete.
With the “Members Forum” line item as the last item on the agenda the business is done, no quorum is needed, and no one needs to stay and listen unless they want to. To facilitate this, you can adjourn the meeting before the Members Forum begins. This gives owners a chance to leave whenever they want. It also prevents the meeting from unraveling if someone uses the forum to propose a good idea or wants to gripe about the results of the election.
To accomplish this, create a speaker log as a sign-up list. Ask those that sign-up to speak for their name, address, and topic. As property owners check-in for the meeting, they can add their name to the list if they have something they want to say to the board, staff, property management company, or anyone else. This gets you a nice, tidy list of those who want to voice something.
At the top of the sign-up list are the basic rules for the Member’s Forum. You want to be specific so that the rules are not ambiguous and can be easily applied to all Members. Rules like waiting your turn, staying on topic, being polite and respectful, not using vulgarity or curse words, refrain from yelling and calling people names, and stop when your time is up. Specify a time limit such as two minutes or three minutes. Inform members that this Members Forum is a one-way speech and that they should not expect a response from the Board, staff or manager. It is not a type of question and answers session.
To implement this, try to find a forum that works best when a microphone is placed at the front of the room, facing the platform, not the members. This requires an owner to feel strongly enough about their comments before standing and can dissuade the person who just wants to complain. By facing the microphone towards the platform, you are leading the speakers to think someone with power is taking note. This tends to be much more productive than allowing owners to rally the troops.
Something else that can help is to find a neutral facilitator to stand at the front. Go for someone authoritative, but impartial on this one. Consider a professional parliamentarian, not a staff member or board member. The parliamentarian can provide leadership services for your group. Whoever you choose to use, their job should be simply to recognize members in the order listed on the speaker’s log, keep track of the time each person speaks, and enforce the rules consistently. Give them the power to end the meeting if members refuse to follow the guidelines.
If you need help or have questions about your HOA, please call us. We love to help make the relationship for the Board and Owners one that is productive for all and provides a great environment to live in.