All meetings of the HOA board, excluding executive sessions, are open meetings. A required part of every homeowners association Board meeting is the homeowners forum (also referred to as “open forum” or “open comments to the Board”). Homeowner forums are typically held at the beginning or end of meetings, and any owner attending a meeting has the opportunity to address the Board and may do so during the homeowner forum portion of the meeting.
The following tips are provided in an effort to help Boards understand and manage the open forum time of their meetings:
As an HOA board, you can help the open forum to be successful by communicating the purpose of the open forum time and explaining the parameters to your members. This will help you manage the expectations of your owners. The open forum is a time for owners to address the Board with any information, questions, concerns, or comments related to the association and perhaps specific agenda items during the meeting. Explain that each owner has the opportunity to address the Board during this time. If you have a time limit for comments, let the owners know what that time limit is so that they can plan their comments (i.e. 3, 4, or 5 minutes). Let them know that you may not be able to respond to their comments that day, but value their input.
As owners express their comments to the Board, listen to what they have to say, since they have taken the time to come to the meeting and speak to you. They may have valuable information or input that can help the Board.
Don’t react, get defensive, or argumentative
Owners may come to a meeting because something is upsetting to them. They may express their comments in a forceful or heated way. It is best for the Board to not react or get defensive or argumentative, but rather to listen, ask questions, and try to understand what is being communicated. Finally, thank them for their comments.
Don’t feel like you have to answer questions or concerns
You may receive questions or concerns from owners that you feel compelled to try to answer. Understand that you may not be in a position to give an answer to these owners on the spot at the meeting and that it is okay just to listen and not answer or respond at that moment. Their issue may have never been addressed by the Board and may need to be put on a future agenda for the Board to consider.
Assess the comments for possible HOA Board action
Sometimes comments are aimed at just giving a person’s point of view. Sometimes owners may be asking the Board to act in a certain way. Listening may be all that you as a Board may choose to do. However, the Board may decide to take future action based on the information communicated. If you have taken the time to listen and understand the concern, you will be in a better place to assess whether the Board should take any action and what type of action that might be.
Encourage owners to put concerns into writing for Board consideration
This may help clarify the concern and give more opportunity for the Board to consider and respond. HOA board meetings are a time where the Board makes decisions on behalf of the homeowners association in their effort to protect, enhance, and maintain the assets of the association. These meetings should not be a free-for-all where the Board and non-Board members participate throughout the whole meeting. The Board needs to have time to conduct the business of the association without interruption.
The homeowner forum time is a required part of the meeting set aside for non-Board members to have the opportunity to address the Board. This is an important time of the meeting to hear from other owners. By understanding the purpose and managing the homeowners forum time well, the HOA Board can assure that members will be allowed to express their comments to the Board and that the Board will be able to conduct the business of the homeowners association.
To learn more tips for an effective HOA board meeting, download the free e-book below.