Real Estate

HOA Meetings: What They Cover, and Why Homeowners Should Participate

By Will Van Vactor, J.D.
Can't think of any good reason to attend your HOA meeting? Think again.

Homeowners’ associations (HOA) are legal entities, often nonprofit corporations, that rely largely on volunteer help from the homeowners within the community they oversee. To keep things running smoothly, HOAs usually hold regular board meetings, as well as annual member meetings.

Important decisions, including about the maintenance of the development, hiring and retaining HOA managers, and allowable development, are all made at these meetings. Because these decisions impact members’ property values, these meetings are necessary and important.

Different Types of HOA Meetings

Most HOAs have an annual meeting for all members. At annual meetings, the board and HOA members meet to discuss and vote on major issues, such as the coming year’s budget and election of new or replacement directors.

Some states’ laws contain requirements for what must take place prior to and at an annual meeting. For example, in California, if an HOA’s bylaws are silent on the issue, the HOA must hold an annual meeting at the HOA’s principal office in order to elect directors to the HOA board.

The typical HOA will have a board of directors that meets regularly. Directors are ordinarily other homeowners who were elected by the majority of community members. They might also be individuals appointed by the developer of the property, as is especially common in newer developments.

The bylaws of most HOAs require that directors must gather for periodic meetings. The regularity of these meetings varies by HOA. Larger HOAs with many members and many issues to deal with might meet frequently. Smaller HOAs, with few issues to address, will likely meet much less frequently.

A third, less common type of meeting also exists. In some cases, the board of an HOA, or even a just a group of homeowners, may decide it is necessary to call a “special meeting.” Such meetings might address emergency matters that require participation of the entire membership, such as recalling a board member. Typically, either state law or the HOA bylaws will provide the manner in which notice of a special meeting must be provided. (Secret meetings are frowned upon!)

Why It's in Homeowners' Interest to Attend HOA Meetings

Annual HOA meetings usually address topics that may sound dry as dust to you, as a homeowner. These might include the association's budget, election of directors, and voting on amendments to the HOAs governing documents. The meetings can also address other issues the board believes need the attention of the entire membership.

Attending the annual meeting is nevertheless important (and may be more interesting than you expect.) The decisions being made may, after all, directly impact your quality of life and the value of your property.

For instance, the new budget may require higher assessments in order to make a major repair or upgrade. Homeowners who don't want their dues to go up or don’t believe the changes are necessary will want to attend the annual meeting and make their voices heard before a decision is made. (Or if you’re in favor of the special assessment and its use, you’ll want to make sure the homeowners in opposition don’t drown out your position.)

Likewise, a homeowner may want to make sure directors are elected to the board who will make good decisions for the community as a whole, as opposed to decisions that benefit his or her friends.

Although major issues are often reserved for the annual meeting, important topics and issues may still be discussed at regular board meetings. These topics and issues often include reports from the HOA treasurer and property manager, and discussion of any remodel or new construction proposed by other community members. The board may also discuss homeowner complaints and suggestions that lead to rule amendments related to what you can and can’t do with your home.

Board meetings are typically open to all members of the HOA. They’re often concluded, though, with the board going into an “executive session,” which is closed to the general membership. Topics discussed in executive sessions may include legal matters, employment issues, and contract negotiations. Some states, such as Oregon, limit the topics that can be discussed in executive sessions.

Remember, whether a decision is made at a board meeting or annual meeting, these rules must be followed, even if you weren’t present. When a community is heavily involved in meetings and the decisions that are made, those decisions tend to better reflect what the community as a whole desires, not what a few board members want.

Dates of HOA Meetings and Required Notice to Homeowners

The date of the annual meeting may change year to year, but you might be able to find it stated in your HOA’s governing documents. For instance, the bylaws might state something like, “The annual meeting is to take place on the third Saturday of every August.”

The board should provide an agenda to the members in advance of the annual meeting. The bylaws likely describe any notice requirements the board or manager must comply with in advance of the annual meeting, but state law often fills the void if bylaws are silent on the issue.

Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must provide advance notice before holding a board meeting. For example, state law may require that notice of the meeting and agenda be posted in a common area, such as an entry hallway or community or mail room, three days before the meeting. The notice should be reasonably calculated to provide members an opportunity to determine what issues will be discussed and how important it really is for them to attend the meeting.

Quorums Are Usually Required for HOA Votes

The bylaws of HOAs usually require that votes at both regular board meetings and annual meetings be passed by a quorum of directors or members, respectively. A quorum is a certain percentage or number of total directors or homeowners who must be present at the meeting. The “quorum” will be defined in your HOA’s governing documents or by state law. Without a quorum, two unhappy members could potentially get together and make decisions that would affect the entire community.

Most associations allow members to vote by proxy. In other words, a member can tell another member how he or she wants to vote. That member will attend the meeting and vote the proxy in addition to the member's own vote. Proxy votes normally count toward quorums.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Our HOA board regularly meets at an undisclosed time and place, and without providing notice to community members. Can the board do that?
  • At its last meeting, our HOA board voted on and approved a new rule that prohibits all homeowners (including me) from using my home for a rental or home business. When I bought my home, these uses were allowed. Can they make such a big change without putting the issue to a vote by the community members?
  • I wasn’t aware of the annual meeting and a budget was approved that I don’t agree with. What can I do?
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