Unless it is a closed meeting or executive session, homeowners are invited – and encouraged – to attend HOA meetings. This allows members to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the association and better understand how and why certain decisions were made. Many HOAs also have a designated time for open comments from members. While it may not be required by the governing documents, HOA boards often use it as another way to connect with members and hear their thoughts and concerns.
If the HOA does have an open forum, it is essential to have clear rules in place to keep things from getting out of hand. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Establish proper expectations. Members should understand that anything not on the meeting agenda cannot be discussed or acted upon. If they want a specific topic on the agenda, they must submit it to the board ahead of time. The board may keep a list of items brought up during the open forum in order to add them to a future meeting’s agenda. Ensure that members understand they likely will not receive an answer right away, but their concern has not gone unheard.
Create a structured process. Will member comments be heard at the beginning or end of meetings? Many HOAs opt to start off meetings with an open forum because it gives homeowners the opportunity to share their thoughts before board business is taken care of. If they need to leave early, they can. When comments are left until the end, members may become more worked up or agitated waiting, especially if the meeting runs late. Plus, it can make an already long meeting even longer.
Acknowledge issues. The only response the board may be able to give at the time is, “thank you for your input,” but they can let members know that they will take the issue into consideration and discuss it at the next (or a later) meeting. If It is a concern specific to an individual rather than the association as a whole, they can follow up with the person after the meeting.
Enforce time limits. Each member should be given a designated amount of time to speak. Typically 3-5 minutes will suffice. Once their time is up, it’s the next person’s turn. The board should consistently enforce these rules so everyone is held to the same standards.
Board meetings are an important part of running an HOA, so keeping them as efficient and productive as possible is key. Hearing input from members is valuable, but it should be done in a constructive and respectful manner. Kuester supports HOAs in planning and communicating meetings as well as expectations. Contact us today to find out how we can help.