Although homeowners associations have varying rules and traditions, one thing that many have in common is the HOA annual meeting. But, what exactly happens in the annual meeting? And how can you improve yours?
WHAT IS AN HOA ANNUAL MEETING?
The HOA annual meeting is a general meeting of sorts for the entire HOA membership. During this meeting, the HOA board addresses various issues, presents the annual budget, and discusses upcoming major projects. If your association has committees, the annual meeting is also when they would present their reports. Most associations also hold their board elections during the annual meeting.
ANNUAL HOA MEETING REQUIREMENTS TO FOLLOW
As with most things, homeowners associations usually have certain requirements to adhere to when it comes to annual meetings. These requirements can vary, though, depending on your state laws and governing documents.
DATE OF THE MEETING
You can typically find annual meeting date requirements within your bylaws or CC&Rs. Some HOAs have more general requirements such as holding the meeting within the first two weeks of the new fiscal year. Meanwhile, other HOAs have more specific requirements such as holding the meeting on the first Saturday of the new fiscal year.
State laws may also have a say as to when you should hold your annual meeting. In California, if you fail to hold an annual meeting within 60 days of the date required, members can petition the court for an order to set up a meeting date and time.
How often should HOA meetings be held? Based on the name itself, HOA annual meetings take place once every year. But, it’s important to note that there are other association meetings apart from the annual one, such as board meetings and special meetings.
HOA ANNUAL MEETING NOTICE
Every meeting, including the annual meeting, requires notice. The board must send an HOA annual meetings notice prior to the date of the meeting. Not every association will have the same notice requirements, though. Once again, you must look at state laws and your governing documents to see how early you must send the notice. Most associations, though, send them 30 days’ in advance.
The method by which you send the notice will also depend on state laws and your governing documents. Most associations deliver their notices personally or by postal mail. Some associations have permission to deliver them electronically, too. It’s also a good idea to post the notice of the meeting on community boards, common areas, your HOA website, and your HOA social media page to ensure everyone sees it.
Generally, the notice of the annual meeting should include the time and date of the meeting as well as the place. You must also include a copy of the meeting agenda so that homeowners know what to expect.
HOA ANNUAL MEETING AGENDA
Associations must provide members with the annual meeting agenda in addition to the notice of the meeting. The agenda should include all topics of discussion and association business to be conducted. It’s wise to create your agenda ahead of time and make sure you don’t fail to include anything important. Remember that you can’t tackle anything outside of what’s included in your agenda.
Typical items you may find in an annual meeting agenda include but are not limited to the following:
- Annual budget presentation and approval
- Committee presentations
- Proposals that need approval from the members
- Discussion of major projects
A quorum is simply the minimum number of members required to be present so that the association can conduct business. You can typically find quorum requirements within your governing documents. Many associations need at least 10 percent of members to attend the annual meeting to proceed with budget presentations and the elections. Some HOAs allow homeowners to send proxies, which can be counted towards the quorum as well.
Can a meeting be held without a quorum? When an HOA fails to meet its quorum requirement, the meeting can’t proceed. The board can’t conduct association business, and any business it does conduct is considered null and void. In some cases, board members may even find themselves in legal trouble if they choose to continue with the meeting without a quorum.
If you fail to establish a quorum, you can set a new meeting date according to the requirements set forth by state laws and your governing documents. If you consistently fail to establish a quorum, though, you may want to consider petitioning the court to lower the quorum requirement.
DURATION OF THE MEETING
How long do HOA meetings last? There is no set requirement concerning the duration of the annual meeting. Its duration will depend entirely on how many items are on the agenda. Usually, annual meetings take longer than board meetings since there are more topics to discuss and actions to take. You can shorten the length of your annual meeting, though, by strictly sticking to the agenda.
ANNUAL MEETING ATTENDEES
Annual meetings are open to all members of the association. Whether or not that means all residents of the community or just members whose names appear on property titles depends on your governing documents. If an election is taking place, proxies may be allowed.
Can renters attend HOA meetings? Again, it depends on what your governing documents say. Some associations don’t allow tenants to attend meetings, while others permit it provided the tenant doesn’t misbehave.
HOW TO CONDUCT AN HOA ANNUAL MEETING SUCCESSFULLY
Board members like you should know how to properly manage and direct annual meetings. Without careful planning and control, meetings can quickly go off the rails. Here are some tips to improve HOA annual meetings and ensure success:
1. ESTABLISH A TIMELINE
How do you conduct an annual HOA meeting? The first thing you should do is establish a timeline. Preparation is key to the success of your annual meeting, and a timeline will help you stay on top of the things you need to accomplish.
Plot out the date of the meeting and work your way backward. If the meeting will take place in 60 days’ time, you must mark your calendar down with critical dates and deadlines. This includes when you should send the notice of the meeting, when to set up a nominations committee for the elections, when to send out ballots, etc. An HOA annual meeting checklist will also help you stay on track.
Careful planning ensures you don’t miss any critical tasks so that, by the time the meeting comes around, you’re well-prepared and confident that the meeting will go without a hitch.
2. ENCOURAGE AND TRACK ATTENDANCE
Attendance tracking is not only essential to establish a quorum, but it also prevents redundancies when it comes to voting. If you allow both mail-in ballots and on-site voting, you might mistakenly hand an election ballot to an owner who has already mailed in their vote. Checking for attendance also ensures you don’t let in anyone who has no right to be there like, say, a non-owner.
Again, this is where proper planning can help you. Make sure to prepare a list of members who can attend the annual meeting. Then, indicate which of these members are still eligible to vote on-site. It’s also a good idea to have members sign in when they enter the meeting area so you can easily check for and document a quorum at the same time.
Speaking of which, many associations encounter difficulties with getting homeowners to attend the annual meeting. One of the ways you can use to improve HOA annual meeting attendance is to make these meetings less boring. Nobody wants to sit through a two-hour meeting that’s all business and no fun. Including raffle opportunities and games as well as offering free food and drinks can make a significant difference.
3. DISCUSS ISSUES AND FOLLOW THE AGENDA
It’s imperative to follow your agenda for many reasons. First of all, homeowners have already come to expect what topics are up for discussion because you distributed the agenda ahead of time. If you suddenly introduce new topics, homeowners will become upset at the lack of notice.
Secondly, sticking to the agenda helps you keep the meeting short. Annual meetings are already long enough, and straying from the agenda will only make them longer.
Finally, you should be careful about including and discussing confidential items such as legal issues and delinquent homeowners. These items are usually reserved for board-only executive sessions.
Remember that board members should discuss the agenda and vote on issues during the annual meeting itself. They must not hold separate meetings without notice prior to the annual meeting to discuss the topics beforehand. Even discussing items via email and then reserving the annual meeting purely for voting is a big no-no.
4. HOLD ELECTIONS SMOOTHLY
Since the HOA annual meeting is typically when elections take place, you must allocate ample time to prepare for them. Everything from the nomination process, to sending out ballots, to managing proxies must be handled correctly. One of the best ways to ensure your elections run smoothly is to have your HOA attorney oversee everything. If you have an HOA manager, you can also ask them for help.
5. INSTALL A SUGGESTION BOX
Associations must designate a time for an open forum when homeowners can express their concerns and opinions. For most HOAs, an open forum is a requirement imposed either by state law or their governing documents. But, time limitations can cause some homeowners to be left unheard or some issues to be voiced incompletely. There are also times when homeowners can’t think of an issue on the spot or simply don’t want to speak in front of everyone else.
A good way to address all of these problems at once is to install a suggestion box. If time is running low or if homeowners bring up issues that aren’t on the agenda, you can simply ask them to put it in writing and drop it in the suggestion box. Of course, make sure to go through each submission and do your best to address each concern. Don’t just let the box fill up.
YOU DON’T NEED TO DO IT ALONE
The HOA annual meeting is an undoubtedly integral event that most homeowners associations must hold. But, there’s a lot of preparation that must go into these meetings to ensure they run smoothly. You must also uphold certain requirements, as written in your governing documents or mandated by state laws, to avoid liability. For many boards, the annual meeting is just too big a burden to handle alone.