We hold meetings because we must. They are essential to decision making, and parliamentary procedure helps us meet effectively. “Parliamentary procedure” is an umbrella term, referring to the many rules that provide structure to a meeting where business is transacted. Most meeting gurus swear by Robert’s Rules of Order, and while there are other rulebooks, condominium, townhome and homeowner associations are well-served by Robert’s Rules. To that end, the Association declaration might expressly provide that its meetings are governed by Robert’s Rules as the specific parliamentary authority; for addressing situations where the Association by-laws, rules & regulations, and/or local, state, or federal law do not specify. Alternatively, the Board can adopt a resolution providing for its meetings to be governed by Robert’s Rules.

In this article, we will dive in to why parliamentary procedure is crucial to an effective meeting and how it works for those leading the meeting, as well as those attending it.

Why Follow Parliamentary Procedure:

  • Meetings are about making decisions. Parliamentary procedure drives efficient decision making.
  • Parliamentary procedure prevents meeting chaos. These rules are ultimately about ensuring that meeting attendees can speak on a topic and raise concerns in a structured manner.
  • Meeting size matters – strict parliamentary procedure is essential in running larger meetings, such as annual meetings of the association, but makes little sense for smaller groups, such as board meetings. For smaller meetings, the fundamental rules are still helpful, but

How Does Parliamentary Procedure Drive an Effective Meeting:

  • If you are the meeting Chair (President)… your role is to direct the meeting according to the agenda and established regulations.
    • Set an agenda and stick to it.
    • Establish that you have quorum, or minimum number of members present to validate the proceedings of that meeting.
    • Understand parliamentary procedure and be prepared to guide meeting attendees toward proper conduct. If you need support, appoint a parliamentarian.
  • If you are the meeting Secretary… your role is to document the business of the meeting. Meeting minutes should record what was done in the meeting, and not specifically what was said in discussion. These minutes are the official record of the meeting
  • If you are a meeting attendee… your role is to participate in the meeting by making motions, speaking in debate, and voting.
    • When you wish to speak, you must first be recognized by the chair. You should never seek recognition while someone else is speaking – with few exceptions. Attendees who have not yet spoken have priority of those who already have. Always address your motion or comments to the chair, even if they involve another member.
    • Meetings are driven by a series of motions. The meeting agenda should list “new business” where motions can be made specifically to conduct business of the association. For example, “I move that the association adopt a smoke-free housing policy” or “I move to terminate the contract of XYZ pest control”. Formally speaking, motions require a “second” to move in to discussion.
    • During discussion, the maker of the motion has the first right to speak. Parliamentary procedure traditionally places a two (2) minute limit on all speaking, unless otherwise specified. Discussion is to remain germane to the motion at hand – speaking on other topics is out of order.
    • The few exceptions to speaking out of order are categorized as “privileged motions” and are typically more procedural. Calling for a recess; calling for a point of order (appealing the Chair’s decision); or calling for a point of information (a question) are among the most commonly used.
    • At the end of discussion, a vote must be taken to adopt or reject the motion. Most motions pass with a simple majority (50% +) vote, however motions on more important matters may require a higher threshold.

Knowing the fundamentals of parliamentary procedure and applying them properly is crucial in running a well-managed meeting. There are many situations that may arise that were not addressed in this article, such as elections or forming committees, but these basic principles serve well in most situations. Ultimately, the success of the association as well as the longevity of the board members can be attributed to the efficiency and effective nature of the association’s meetings.

For those interested in further reading on parliamentary procedure, a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, In Brief is available at most libraries and booksellers. While a 700-page full edition exists, the “in brief” copy is more accessible reading and a better quick reference guide.

KSN attorneys are also fully versed in parliamentary procedure and can assist your association in proper application of these rules. Contact us today to discuss your association’s needs: Call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.

This article is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this article you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the article author. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. © 2019 Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, A Professional Corporation.