Tips Regarding HOA Committees

Tips Regarding HOA Committees

Most associations find committees helpful. Here are some tips to maximize their value to the HOA: 1. Committees can be “ad hoc,” i.e., temporary, or ongoing Committees typically address a major ongoing area of concern or take on the study of larger or complicated issues. 2. A committee is a group A committee should have at least 3 or 4 members. When a committee dwindles down to one or two persons, it is no longer a committee and should be restocked with volunteers or disbanded. 3. Appointments in the open Committee appointments (or removal) should occur in open meetings. Committee members are not “personnel” and so discussions about committee rosters are not eligible for closed session. 4. Committee service not perpetual Committees normally serve at the pleasure of the board. If a committee is not performing well, committee members can be replaced, and if the committee is not required by the governing documents, it can be disbanded by board vote. 5. Have committee charters Each committee should have a clear written charter adopted by the board. A clear charter informs the committee (and potential volunteers) what is the committee’s role, helping keep the committee on target. A charter also can indicate the minimum and maximum number of members. 6. No interference with vendors or management Committees and their chairs often need to be reminded that decisions are made by the board, that committees make recommendations, and that the committees and their chairs are not authorized to instruct management, association vendors, or other residents. 7. Have directors on committees if possible, but not too many One director on committees helps...
Open Forum: Drudge or Jewel?

Open Forum: Drudge or Jewel?

The “Open Meeting Act” (Civil Code Sections 4900-4955), requires at Section 4925(b) that all membership meetings and board meetings have a time set aside for members to speak. This time is often called “open forum.” In open forum, a member can speak on topics on or off the agenda. Some associations avoid open forum and others have unrestricted open forum, but both extremes are unhealthy. The time for homeowners to contribute to the meeting is not during deliberations – that is the board’s role – but during open forum. Open forum is an important element of a healthy association. If members have a fair opportunity to address an attentive board, they will have a more positive view of their association, and directors will be better connected with the community they serve. Consider these guidelines: Directors: Establish reasonable time limits to protect participation by all. Most associations allow 2 or 3 minutes per speaker. Have a timekeeper and consider giving members a “30 second warning” to help them. Do not interrupt, argue with, or respond to the speakers during their time. Listen to the speakers and take notes. Show attentiveness to their concerns – you just might learn something new. Do not record open forum comments in the meeting minutes – comments are not actions. Some speakers may disagree with the board or criticize. Deal with it — you are in a position of service, and they might sometimes be right! After open forum concludes, the chair should inquire if any item from open forum should be referred to a committee or management. If an answer to a question is...
Recording Meetings, Secret Budget Talks, and a Dictator President

Recording Meetings, Secret Budget Talks, and a Dictator President

Hello Mr. Richardson, Our board announced that audio recordings of meetings would no longer be allowed. What are your thoughts on this? Does this action by the board violate the Brown Act, the Davis-Stirling or some other statute? Thank you, N.D., Rancho Santa Fe Dear N.D., As private organizations, common interest development associations (aka “HOAs”) are not controlled by the Brown Act (which applies to public bodies). The Davis-Stirling Act contains the “Open Meeting Act,” found at Civil Code 4900-4955. The Open Meeting Act does not require that HOA meetings be recorded electronically, but only that draft minutes of meetings be available no later than 30 days after the meeting. I generally recommend against audio or video recording of board proceedings, except in the rare occasion the association has the proper facilities to record and broadcast meetings (typically only in very large HOAs). Recording meetings often creates two negative problems – it intimidates some, and invites others to grandstand. So long as the policy is clearly stated, association boards can take either policy direction. Best, Kelly To Kelly G. Richardson, We have a question concerning our HOA president. The president is running a construction company that controls all maintenance and repairs throughout the community. She runs the community as a dictatorship and no one on the board is allowed to even speak. We have requested financial records – it won’t work. She told us this could no longer be discussed. M.L., Lake Forest Dear M.L., Some HOA presidents simply let the position get to their head. HOA presidents have very little power in most HOAs, aside from calling and chairing meetings. They have...
We Have Unwritten Rules

We Have Unwritten Rules

Dear Mr. Richardson, Our board frequently adopts new rules, generally following the required process of providing 30-day notice to homeowners prior to voting at an open board meeting. The new rules are documented only in the board meeting minutes. Consequently, many of these rules have been “lost” throughout the years as homeowners come and go and memories fade. New homeowners moving in have no knowledge of these undocumented rules and naturally they are upset when the board enforces them. So, where should new and/or modified rules be documented? D.W., Cerritos Dear D.W., If the rule change is not published in writing, it is not a rule, per Civil Code 4350(a). Once the board has completed the rule-making process, the final steps are sending notice of adoption of the change and amending the rules document to include the change. If a new owner is not provided a copy of the rule, it might not be enforceable against that owner. Also, per Civil Code 4525(a)(1), all governing documents are to be provided to a member upon request so that they can be given to a prospective buyer. Rules are part of the association governing documents, per Civil Code 4150. Hoping this is helpful, Kelly Dear Kelly, I showed our president your article which said Civil 5850 requires associations to have a list of fines and that the list is part of the Annual Policy Statement packet. He said that there is no annual list of fines as we have an Assessment and Collection policy in place, and that the board is not empowered to change it. Our C.C.& R’s on two pages...
HOA Annual Checkup – How Does Your HOA Score?

HOA Annual Checkup – How Does Your HOA Score?

Common interest developments, or homeowner associations (aka “HOAs”) house about one third of Californians, and most new housing stock is established in HOAs. Can buyers determine whether an association residence is a good investment, or if the HOA is healthy? Is it simply price and “location, location, location”? Well-run associations in poor locations might be more desirable than poorly run associations in great locations. Consider these factors: Maintenance Is the property well-maintained? Peeling paint, cracked stucco, dead landscaping, and worn hallway carpets are not good signs. Some associations pinch pennies, avoiding normal maintenance expenses in order to avoid increasing assessments – never a good idea. Board Meetings HOA boards must by law meet at least quarterly, and most boards in all but the smallest associations meet at least monthly. Boards that meet little or not at all may be conducting business informally or even in secret. Boards meeting too often may be disorganized. Ask for a few months’ minutes – See what you can learn about the board’s operation. Board minutes must by law be made available to members, and can be very informative. Look for minutes reflecting businesslike meetings and an association making progress. Association Financial Stability – Reserves HOAs are required to provide detailed reserve funding disclosures, so read them! Normal residential appraisals do not address capital reserve funding (or the lack thereof). Short-sighted HOAs avoid accumulating reserve fund savings (in order to avoid assessment increases), but that is actually a form of growing indebtedness. Some day that association will need to take out a loan or impose a special assessment because it is not ready for...