Board members must often make the most difficult decisions for their community association including budgeting and addressing owner concerns. Differences of opinion regarding any of these and other issues can result in confrontation.
Below are seven ways to avoid a confrontational or unruly homeowner during an association meeting.
The Board should insure that proper notice of the board meeting is sent in advance so that unruly owners cannot raise that as an issue at the meeting. Additionally, owners should be encouraged to submit their questions or issues in writing in advance of the meeting so that the board can constructively address homeowner questions.
- Meeting Venue
When dealing with a difficult issue that involves potential confrontation, board members should use a respectable location for the meeting such as a library, fire department conference room, church meeting room, or governmental building. A respectable location often fosters respect amongst the homeowners.
- Provide an Agenda
A concise agenda informs people ahead of time what will be addressed and when. Additionally, it is important to explain the ground rules to the homeowners prior to beginning the meeting. Oftentimes, the board president will simply call the meeting to order and jump into the first action item. By taking a few minutes to explain the meeting’s purpose and procedure to the attending homeowners, this can decrease tension and focus expectations.
- Organization of the Room
Organization of the room is important because it sets the stage for a respectable meeting. For example, board members who sit with their backs to the homeowners does not foster respect or openness. Instead, board members should sit in front of the homeowners, facing the attendees as they discuss community concerns.
- Homeowner Forum
Before discussing their agenda, boards can designate some time to allow homeowners to discuss their issues. The homeowner forum should be done prior to the meeting, not at the end.
The board should explain the rules and regulations for a homeowner forum ahead of time. Strict time limitations should be placed. Homeowners should be instructed that questions and statements are allowed but personal attacks will not be permitted.
Additionally, board members are not obligated to answer questions or engage homeowners during the forum. This should be explained to homeowners ahead of time. Arguments start when board members attempt to answer and/or engage irate homeowners during the homeowner forum. The board should reserve the right to cut-off any questions or statements if the time limit has expired or if any homeowner forum rules are violated.
- Formally Convene the Board Meeting
After the homeowner forum, the board should explain that they will formally convene the open meeting. It should be explained to the homeowners that the board will begin to discuss association business. However, this does not allow homeowners to engage or participate in the debate or discussion. When discussing association issues, the board members should make eye contact and address each other and not make statements or address the homeowners unless it is appropriate.
- Legal Issues
Some owners attempt to delay or interrupt board meetings by raising what they believe are significant legal concerns within the community. Unit owner should be advised to submit legal issues in writing so the board can review and, if needed, submit to the association’s counsel. This prevents the meeting from being delayed or postponed.
While never easy, difficult board meetings can be better handled by following the steps above. Board members should also consider working with legal counsel to adopt clear cut meeting rules and behaviors proactively. Explaining and abiding by meeting procedures creates a respectful environment that avoids confrontation and inefficiency.
If your condominium, homeowner, or townhome association has legal concerns, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Since 1985, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome Associations throughout the Chicagoland area. We have multiple offices including downtown Chicago, Mundelein, and Naperville. Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
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