Successful communities, governed by successful homeowners associations, typically have a strong, effective HOA board of directors that conducts their HOA’s business in a professional manner, including having regularly scheduled meetings. Problems can arise, however, when one or more directors fail to attend those meetings consistently.
Sometimes, a director is absent frequently because of medical or family emergency issues. In the short term, these can be tolerated or special arrangements (like attending by speaker phone) can be made. In the longer term, when the director’s absence impacts major decisions such as budget-setting or major projects or legal matters, it may be necessary to ask the director to step down.
When one or more directors are absent with no extenuating circumstances, you should investigate to determine why and take corrective action before the HOA’s business grinds to a halt. Too many absent board members may result in lack of a quorum, preventing the board from taking any action.
Board Members are Volunteers
People who volunteer their time and energy to serve on an HOA board usually are dedicated to improving their communities. They care enough to sacrifice other priorities to attend meetings, read agendas, meeting minutes, budgets, etc. They WANT to do a good job. Understandably, they expect their time to be used well.
Factors to Consider
Fixing an attendance problem may be as simple as changing the frequency, day and/or time of the board meetings. If attendance is becoming a problem, consider:
- Is your HOA small and your board meeting monthly when quarterly would do?
- Is it large and meeting only quarterly in marathon sessions that go well into the night? Would meeting monthly allow shorter sessions?
- What are the demographics of the board members? Are they young/middle age, with growing families, or retired/semi-retired?
- Which is a better meeting day for them - weekday evenings or Saturday mornings?
- Is your HOA community a residential development in the suburbs (members commuting home) or condominiums in an urban setting or a resort community (perhaps with non-resident members)?
- Have you asked your board members what day and time would work best for them?
What are your HOA board meetings like? Do they flow smoothly? Or, do they lose focus and become aimless conversations? The former is good; the latter can be fixed by following some straightforward guidelines for conducting meetings:
Guidelines for HOA Board Meetings
Prepare a written agenda that includes the time and place of the board meeting, and is published in advance. California law addresses this specifically in the Davis-Stirling Act.
Prior to the meeting, provide every board member with a packet of material to review:
- The meeting agenda
- Minutes from the last meeting
- Pertinent financial reports
- Any committee reports
- Other documents to support agenda items
Conduct the meeting in a formal and “neutral” setting like a community center. The location must have a table, chairs, proper lighting, any needed technology, and enough space for all to attend, including HOA members.
Boards have effective meetings by staying on topic and following the agenda, discussing each item in order. Each board member should have an opportunity to speak. Then members decide the outcome via motions, seconds, and votes. Even if not required by law, HOA boards should conduct meetings using a parliamentary procedure such as Robert’s Rules of Order.
HOA boards should make decisions as a board. This means the majority determines the decision. For the integrity of the board, the minority should still respectfully support the decision, especially in public.
Finally, if a board member isn’t attending meetings, chat with them. Do they believe the board’s work isn’t important? Do they perceive their ideas unwelcome by other board members? Do they not understand they have fiduciary responsibility to act in good faith on behalf of the community and that they can be held responsible for the general direction of the HOA even though they haven’t participated?
Sometimes, just starting the conversation is the step needed to inform, engage and encourage both new and seasoned board members to help them understand the importance of their role in the association.