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Does your HOA encourage or discourage member participation?

By Deborah Goonan

Roberts Rules of Order

If you are in a HOA and you need to know more about Robert's Rules of Order, click here. There is a chapter in the book just for HOA's.

I follow several HOA discussion forums and online blogs. One hot topic is how the Board should handle disagreements, complaints, or controversial topics that are brought up at Board meetings.

 Now, let’s be realistic. None of us can expect everyone in the Association to agree 100% of the time, or to be so content and satisfied that they never, ever complain. Conflict is inevitable. Differences of opinion are to be expected.

 Yet I commonly read commentary from Board members and HOA Managers alike, referring to “naysayers,” disgruntled homeowners, or agitators that show up at every meeting.  The discussion often turns into a gripe session about the offensive homeowner(s), and how to shut them up or put them in their place. There is talk of getting the HOA Attorney involved, or having a security officer at every meeting.

 While it is true that every HOA seems to have a few difficult owners that can never be pleased, the overall attitude and behavior of the Board and Manager can either quell or exacerbate discord.

 One recurring theme I hear from a significant number of HOA Managers and Boards, is that, when owners show up at the meeting, there must be trouble brewing. If owners avoid the meeting, then they are apparently content with the Board’s decisions and fiscal management, and all is right with the world.

 The problem is, when reasonable owners show up at a meeting with valid concerns, wary Boards and Managers often treat them as an unwelcome nuisance or troublemakers. At the very least, these owners are bound to extend the meeting. The underlying assumption is that owner participation is something to be feared and avoided.

Yet these are often the same Board members and Managers who lament about rampant apathy in the HOA, and the fact that no one bothers to show up for the annual meeting, or that they cannot seem to attain quorum, even by proxy. They wonder why no one is willing to serve on the Board.

 Why, indeed?

 Finally, positive interaction at meetings starts with setting the right tone for the HOA. Be open and transparent with members. Communicate regularly. Be respectful. Encourage owners to attend meetings, rather than seeking to avoid them. If the Board and members come to understand that meetings are positive, or at least neutral experiences, there will be greater participation and far less discord.