HOA meetings have several important objectives. And yet, the majority of owners feel apathetic (at best) about regularly scheduled meetings. While it’s hard to get your entire community excited about meetings, there are some steps you can take to boost owner turnout.
Do HOAs actually need to host meetings?
Yes, HOAs do indeed need to host meetings. First and foremost, the association’s governing documents probably require the Board to hold board meetings and annual meetings.
But, beyond those requirements, meetings are critical to associations as they provide every owner with an opportunity to learn about issues, projects and financial updates that directly impact them. Members can also voice their opinions and concerns, and vote for people or policies that they support. Finally, meetings are one of the few places where members can actually see and interact with the majority of their neighbors.
In short, meetings—when conducted well—help to foster a vibrant and engaged community.
Types of HOA meetings
There are five common HOA meeting types. Some, like the annual meeting, will occur on a predetermined date, while others—most notably a special meeting—may be scheduled unexpectedly.
State laws and governing documents will dictate if and when meetings must be held.
1. Board meetings
A board meeting is the most common type of HOA meeting. It is a meeting of the board of directors and is open to all owners who have a property in the development. Renters and other non-owners may be able to join, but most communities have strict rules about who can attend.
Board meetings are often held monthly or quarterly, depending on the size of the organization. Owners are required to receive notification of these meetings. The notice is sent anywhere between 7 and 30 days prior to the meeting, depending on state laws and HOA rules.
The notice should include an agenda of topics that will be discussed during the meeting. Most associations won’t allow business that was not listed on the agenda to be introduced, unless the governing documents provide for an open forum. That’s done to prevent meetings from exceeding the allotted time.
A member of the board or designated note-taker will keep minutes of these meetings, and those minutes are made available to HOA members.
2. Annual meetings
Annual meetings occur once a year and are very important, requiring lots of planning and preparation beforehand. Like board meetings, annual meetings are open to all members. Big items like the annual budget, board elections, and upcoming capital projects are covered during these meetings.
A notice about the meeting must be provided to all members. The association is usually required to notify owners at least 30 days before the meeting. Minutes are taken and made available to members afterward.
3. Executive sessions
Only board members participate in executive sessions. This type of meeting will occur when the board needs to discuss confidential, private, or privileged information. Personnel issues or delinquent assessments may also be addressed here. These sessions often occur before or after a board meeting.
The board has authority to vote on actions during an executive meeting, and the votes are binding. No detailed minutes of these sessions are made, but there will be a note included in the minutes of an open board meeting stating that the session occurred.
4. Special meetings
Special meetings are called when an immediate action or decision is required, and the HOA cannot wait for the next scheduled meeting to take care of the problem. For example, owners could call an emergency meeting to remove a board member, or a board could arrange one after learning that a hurricane is about to storm through the community.
Because they are never planned, special meetings can sometimes be held virtually if members agree to it. Minutes should be recorded and made available to members after the meeting has finished.
5. Committee meetings
Some HOAs have committees that are tasked with specific responsibilities. For instance, the board may benefit from having a dedicated social committee or architectural review committee.
If committees are active, then they will be expected to host their own meetings. Committees must also present their findings/work, which usually occurs at board meetings or annual meetings.
Committee meetings are often subjected to the same requirements as open board meetings, meaning someone must take notes and prepare them for other owners to review.
Quorum – a big reason why HOAs need members to attend meetings
All meetings require a certain number of members to attend. In some cases, the meetings may only require the majority of board members to attend. But for something like an annual meeting, there needs to be a certain number of owners in attendance before the meeting can move forward. This requirement is known as quorum.
Quorum is the minimum number of board members or owners who must be at a meeting before business can be completed. It would be illegal to pass a new budget or a special vote to modify bylaws without a quorum.
If quorum is not reached, then the meeting has to be adjourned and rescheduled for a later date. This not only frustrates the people who showed up, but it also costs the association money and creates more work for the board and management. This is another big reason why it’s important to encourage community members to attend meetings.
In Ontario, the standard quorum for an annual general meeting is when owners who own 25% of the units in the corporation are present. If the quorum is not reached on the first 2 attempts, the quorum for that AGM is reduced to 15% on all attempts going forward.
In other places such as California, if the governing documents require a quorum, but don’t state the quorum amount, 1/3 of the voting power of the association, represented in person or by proxy, constitutes a quorum.
Getting owners to show up
Talking about the importance of getting members to attend meetings is easy. Getting them to show up can be much more difficult.
No matter what strategies you use, keep in mind that strong communication is the most important thing. Be very clear about when, where and why meetings are taking place, and use a variety of platforms to share this information with owners.
The second thing to keep in mind is your audience. It’s no secret that most owners don’t get excited about HOA meetings. That’s okay, but the board and management should do their best to keep meetings as short and relevant as possible.
Similarly, make meetings convenient. Allow owners to attend virtually if your HOA permits virtual meetings, or host meetings in spaces that are close to the neighborhood.
Send a meeting agenda out
Think of an HOA meeting as an important event. Promote it, give attendees enough time to plan for it, and give them an idea of what they should expect. An agenda is a document that will clarify which topics the meeting will cover. Homeowners are more likely to attend meetings if they see that there are relevant topics on the agenda.
Give owners the option to attend virtually
Virtual meetings became a necessity during the 2020 pandemic. Many associations that may have been apprehensive about hosting meetings online were pleasantly surprised by how efficient and effective they were. Virtual meetings are usually easier to organize and execute, and owners are more likely to attend because they can do so from the convenience of their homes.
Not all HOAs allow for meetings to be held virtually, but it is possible to pass a bylaw to change that rule. If you are hoping to introduce (or continue with) virtual meetings, check your governing documents first.
Promote the meeting like any other community event
In addition to sending out a formal notice, the board or manager can promote the meeting using flyers or posters. Share the physical copies of the flyer by posting them in communal spaces and use social media or email to attach digital copies.
If there is a member who is comfortable using graphic design software such as Photoshop, the Board can create their own flyers from scratch. However, there are great programs like postermywall or Canva that are user-friendly and free.
Don’t go heavy on the copy, and make sure to include a start and end time.
Give owners an opportunity to talk
Slot out time to allow members to speak. This doesn’t have to be an open forum, but people should be allowed to ask questions or contribute to relevant conversations. If homeowners see that their input matters, they will be more inclined to show up and participate.
Combine the meeting with a social event
While not possible for every meeting, the association could try hosting a fun social event (pool party, harvest festival, food fair) after an annual meeting. Board members could even hand out raffle tickets or extra game tickets to the first 50 attendees.