HOAs are required under their bylaws or CC&Rs to hold an annual meeting of its members for the purpose of electing directors to the association’s board, addressing the budget, and presenting updates on projects and HOA business, amongst other things.
However, hosting annual meetings has proven to be more challenging than usual since the global pandemic forced community members to keep their distance. This article will highlight some fundamental information about annual meetings, and offer a practical solution to how your HOA can conduct your next meeting without requiring all members to be in the same room.
HOAs are required under their bylaws or CC&Rs to hold an annual meeting of its members for the purpose of electing directors to the association’s board, addressing the budget, and making amendments to the governing documents, amongst other things.
However, hosting annual meetings in 2020 has proven to be more challenging than usual. This article will highlight some fundamental information about annual meetings, and offer a practical solution to how your HOA can safely and successfully conduct your next meeting.
What is an annual meeting?
All HOAs are required to hold annual meetings (sometimes referred to as AGMs) that are open to association members. Annual meetings are the most important meetings of the year because it’s where homeowners get the opportunity to learn about important board business and key association issues, and participate in the community’s decision-making. Think of this as an annual event that addresses the “big-picture issues” of the HOA.
A notice of the annual meeting must be provided to all members, according to the governing documents. Often, the board must give members at least 30 days’ notice before the meeting, but some communities may require more time, and others require less.
Other types of meetings
Annual meetings are not the only meetings that boards must prepare for. There are four other common types of HOA meetings that are worth noting.
A board meeting is the most common type of HOA meeting. This is a meeting of the board of directors, and is open to all members. Board meetings are usually held quarterly or monthly, depending on the size of the organization. During these meetings, the board discusses the routine management of the community. The board may review the performance of the HOA’s property manager, tackle disputes between members, or share updates on the progress of maintenance projects.
Members must be notified of these meetings. Often, the association’s governing documents require that members receive 7 to 30 days’ notice prior to the meeting. The notice should include an agenda of topics that will be discussed. As a rule, no other business is discussed during these meetings unless the governing documents provide for an open forum. If that is the case, members may raise new business.
The HOA board will hold closed executive session meetings on occasion. Only the board of directors is permitted to attend these meetings. The board holds an executive session when it must discuss confidential, private, or privileged information. For example, a conversation with the HOA lawyer about ongoing litigation may be scheduled during an executive session. Other topics include personnel issues or delinquent assessments. The board can vote on matters during an executive meeting, and those votes are binding.
It’s not uncommon for executive sessions to be held after an open board meeting, however, depending on the governing documents, an executive session can be called whenever a meeting is required.
Some HOAs have committees to assist the board with particular tasks and help keep the HOA in good order. These committees will be made up of some subset of the board of directors, and may include one or more non-director members. Whether a board has committees, and who can serve on them will be controlled by the governing documents. If committees do exist, each one must hold periodic meetings and present its work to the board and membership at large during the annual meeting, and usually, at regular board meetings.
Emergency or special meeting
A board may hold an emergency or special meeting when an immediate action or decision is required. For example, the board might call an emergency meeting if a natural disaster is approaching, and the HOA needs to take immediate action to minimize risk and damage. An emergency meeting can only be called under the rules outlined in the governing documents.
Owners can request a special meeting as well, but they must petition for it. Often, there is a rule stating that special meetings of the membership can only be called if 5% or more of the members sign the petition. This requirement cannot be changed or eliminated by contrary provisions in the HOA bylaws.
What is the purpose of an annual meeting?
As mentioned earlier, annual HOA meetings usually cover the association’s budget, provide a platform for the election of directors, and address other items that need the entire membership’s attention.
Though members may not be incredibly enthusiastic about attending an annual meeting, it is important that they participate. The decisions being made during this meeting will directly impact them, their quality of life, and their property’s value. Greater member participation equates to a community that is more in sync.
Who attends the annual meeting?
Annual meetings are open, meaning all owners and shareholders can and should attend and vote. Homeowners’ legal guardians, trustees, personal representatives and those with power of attorney may attend and vote on the homeowner’s behalf. Attendance by non-owners, such as people who rent out a home in the development, potential homebuyers, and proxies, may vary depending on the association’s rules.
Associations must provide homeowners with advance notice of their annual meeting. The date, time and location of the meeting, as well as the agenda, must be included in the notice. The HOA’s bylaws likely spell out any notice requirements that the board or manager must comply with in advance of the annual meeting, but state law should fill the void if bylaws are silent on the issue.
Generally, associations are required to deliver notices by postal mail or personally, but more communities are switching over to electronic delivery. HOAs will also post notices in common areas to remind members of the upcoming meeting.
How can the board host an upcoming annual meeting if owners are still apprehensive about coming together?
COVID-19 cases are rising and falling. Guidelines and recommendations still change regularly, but there is reason for optimism. Nevertheless, things aren’t entirely back to normal, and we may never fully return to the way we did things pre-pandemic. As such, virtual meetings are probably here to stay.
If you’ve never hosted a virtual meeting before, check your provincial/state rules, as well as your governing documents, to ensure there are no rules that would prevent you from hosting a virtual meeting.
Once you’ve certified that your HOA can participate in a virtual meeting, your next step is to select a platform. Zoom and GoToMeeting are two very popular and reliable platforms. They are affordable, secure, and relatively easy to use. However, neither one allows you to distribute or collect votes.
Conversely, Condo Control’s Virtual Meeting feature allows boards to do just about everything online.
Boards can customize questions, share meeting instructions and schedule reminders well in advance of the date of the meeting. Meetings can be self-managed, or we can moderate the meeting for you. Either way, we help boards with the setup process to ensure their success.
Votes can be submitted ahead of the meeting, or live as it is happening, which means the association can reach quorum before the annual meeting begins.
There are more than a few condos and HOA who have tried this option, and are extremely pleased by how much simpler and smoother the process was.
Tips for a smooth virtual meeting
Your first virtual meeting won’t be perfect, but they will get better as you do more of them. And, there are some points to keep in mind to help you and your owners enjoy a less chaotic virtual meeting experience.
Send all meeting items beforehand. Remember, members won’t be able to attend in person, which means they won’t have the opportunity to pick up agendas or packets before the meeting begins.
Do a test run. Make sure the video and sound are working, share your screen, figure out who talks, and when, and have a backup plan in case something does go wrong.
Start the meeting early. We always recommend opening up the meeting to owners 20 – 30 minutes ahead of the start time. This way, members can have a bit of time to figure out how things work, say hello to fellow members, and the meeting can still start on time.
Share the agenda during the meeting. Even though you sent your members the meeting materials, it’s still smart to share your screen and show the materials you’ll be referencing during the meeting.
Put someone in charge of taking questions from the audience. Virtual meetings are advantageous in that members can be muted until it is appropriate for them to ask a question or make a comment. Dedicate a time for questions and comments from members, and designate a person to unmute participants and keep this part of the meeting organized.
Post the recording. Most video conferencing platforms give hosts the option to record the meeting. Someone still needs to take notes, but, depending on your HOA, you may be able to share the entire video with members. Check your governing documents to make sure this is okay.
It is very likely that virtual meetings are here to stay. They generally require less work to set up, cost less, and attract greater participation from members. Since people have the option to vote before the meeting, boards may even reach quorum before the meeting begins.
Hosting your first annual meeting online may seem a little overwhelming at first, but once the pieces are in place, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the switch sooner.
Download our free meeting notice template