What Should be on Your Agenda

Planning and conducting an effective board meeting starts with a good meeting agenda. The agenda is the “road map” of the meeting and is a useful and powerful tool to keep both board members and homeowners on topic and in control. In fact, the agenda must be part of the notice of a meeting which is provided to the members in advance of the meeting. A good agenda will facilitate a smooth, efficient and effective board meeting. The following are elements of a meeting agenda and descriptions of relevant items:

Planning and conducting an effective board meeting starts with a good meeting agenda. The agenda is the “road map” of the meeting and is a useful and powerful tool to keep both board members and homeowners on topic and in control. In fact, the agenda must be part of the notice of a meeting which is provided to the members in advance of the meeting. A good agenda will facilitate a smooth, efficient and effective board meeting. The following are elements of a meeting agenda and descriptions of relevant items:

1.  Executive Session

The executive session may be held before or after the open session board meeting, or at another time not related to the open session board meeting, depending on the business needed to be discussed or the respective availability of your directors, attorney and/or any participating members. Because the executive section portion of a meeting is confidential, a separate agenda for the executive session part of the meeting should be prepared to outline the topics the board will discuss in the closed session. The Davis-Stirling Act limits the types of items a board can address in executive session to the following:

  • Legal Issues. Discussing legal issues in executive session preserves the attorney-client privilege, and allows the board to discuss litigation strategy and settlement strategies for current and potential litigation matters with its legal counsel. The association’s attorney does not need to be present either in person or by phone for the board to meet in executive session to discuss legal issues.
  • Formation of Contracts. Boards may consider matters relating to the formation of contracts with third parties.
  • Disciplinary Hearings. Boards should meet in executive session for all disciplinary hearings. The accused member is entitled to attend the executive session for that portion of the meeting dealing with the individual member’s hearing.
  • Personnel Issues. Personnel matters which include, but are not limited to, hiring, firing, raises, disciplinary matters and performance reviews, if applicable to the association.
  • Payment of Assessments. Boards may meet with members in executive session to discuss requests by delinquent members for payment plans.
  • Foreclosure. Pursuant to California Civil Code section 1367.4(c)(2), the decision to foreclose must be made by a majority of the board in executive session.

Keep in mind that since January 1, 2012, members must be given notice of an executive session meeting. In order to comply with the new notice requirements, notice of an executive session meeting must be given as follows:

Continue reading “What Should be on Your Agenda”

Time to Update Your CC&R Cover Sheets

AB 887, which was signed by Governor Brown in October of 2011, provides civil rights protection on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression.” It also amended California Government Code section 12956.1 to require Community Associations to place the following, in at least 14 point boldface type, on a cover page or stamp on the first page of their CC&Rs:

I recently received a question regarding AB 887, and its impact on community associations. AB 887, which was signed by Governor Brown in October of 2011, provides civil rights protection on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression.” It also amended California Government Code section 12956.1 to require Community Associations to place the following, in at least 14 point boldface type, on a cover page or stamp on the first page of their CC&Rs:

While this requirement does not apply to anyone submitting a document to a county recorder’s office, it does apply to any association who “provides a copy of a declaration (CC&Rs) to any person.” “If this document contains any restriction based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, national origin, source of income as defined in subdivision (p) of Section 12955, or ancestry, that restriction violates state and federal fair housing laws and is void, and may be removed pursuant to Section 12956.2 of the Government Code. Lawful restrictions under state and federal law on the age of occupants in senior housing or housing for older persons shall not be construed as restrictions based on familial status.”

So, what this means for community associations is that it is time to update the coversheet or stamp on your CC&Rs to include the new language. In addition, while it is unlikely a set of CC&Rs contains any language which discriminates on the basis of “gender identity” or “gender expression,” if any such language exists in an association’s CC&RS or rules, that language should be removed. Pursuant to California Civil Code section 1352.5, boards are required to delete discriminatory restrictions, and can do so without obtaining the approval of homeowners.

Click Here to download a cover sheet which complies with the requirements of AB 887.

Department of Justice Stays Implementation of Pool Lift Requirment

While the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) generally doesn’t apply to Homeowners Associations, for those who need it, the Washington Times reported that on March 15, 2012 the DOJ issued 60 day stay on the requirement for public pools to have two “accessible means of entry.

While the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)  generally doesn’t apply to Homeowners Associations, for those who need it, the Washington Times  reported that on March 15, 2012, the DOJ issued a 60 day stay on the requirement for public pools to have two “accessible means of entry,” at least one of which must be a ramp or wheel chair lift. Public spas must also be accessible under the new rules. The DOJ may also consider a full six month extension to give pool owners additional time to address issues surrounding compliance with these requirements.

Some vendors are pressuring Associations to purchase these lifts, and some Boards are unclear as to whether they are actually required to install lifts at common area pools. Any association which has a question as to whether these rules apply to their pools should consult with counsel to determine if the ADA applies to the Association, and if compliance with these rules is required.

Dealing with Member Apathy

Member apathy can make it hard for an association to reach quorum for the annual meeting. A lack of candidates can make it difficult to fill the seats on the board. So, what can a board and management do to generate voter and candidate interest? While there is no quick fix or easy answer to the all too common problem, that does not mean there is nothing that can be done to improve member participation.

Member apathy can make it hard for an association to reach quorum for the annual meeting. A lack of candidates can make it difficult to fill the seats on the board. So, what can a board and management do to generate voter and candidate interest? While there is no quick fix or easy answer to the all too common problem, that does not mean there is nothing that can be done to improve member participation.

Apathy is defined as a lack of interest or concern. The fact is, unless there is an issue which directly impacts all the owners (new parking rules or an assessment increase anyone?), most owners are content knowing that someone else is handling all the work while they enjoy the benefits of living in a managed community. The problem is made worse in that apathetic owners don’t read their CC&Rs, Architectural Guidelines or the community’s rules and regulations. As a result, these owners are more likely to be in violation of the governing documents, and when they receive a violation notice they tend to get angry since they do not understand what they did wrong. In fact, it is not uncommon that when an owner does decide to run for the board it is because they disagree with something the current board is doing. However, I do not mean to suggest that a board seeking to create interest in an upcoming election “stir the pot” with some potentially unpopular issues just to get owners to generate member interest, the key lies in getting owners to care about what is going on in their community.

We often hear that a home is the single biggest investment most of us will ever make. That is true. So, the key lies in communicating with the members about what is happening in their community and how this impacts their “investment.” Let them know regularly what steps the board is taking to preserve the community value. Are there renovations or upgrades being planned, new landscaping being considered, pool repairs or street maintenance planned? Also, take the time in these communications to solicit owner feedback.

You may also want to consider social gatherings such as a barbecue or block party. The goal should be to create an event that will allow the owners to gather in a fun and friendly atmosphere. These types of events are excellent times to promote the benefits the association provides its members. They also give the board an opportunity to engage the members in an informal setting.

While there will be things that you should not place in a newsletter or discuss a gathering, such as violation notices or delinquency status, regular communications and events of this kind give the board an opportunity to explain what it is working on, and how important a role the board plays in managing the community. This helps build owner “buy-in” and interest in the community. Owners who are regularly informed of what decisions are being made are more likely to want a say in the board’s decisions. This will in turn increase interest and community involvement in voting, and in serving on the board.

Click Here to download a PDF version of this article.

Governor Signs Bill Putting End to Actions Without Meeting

As many directors and managers already know, the time it takes to successfully run an Association can be significant. One of the tools that Board’s have often used to efficiently handle issues that were not the subject of debate has been the Action Without Meeting, or “AWOM”. Well, no more.

As many directors and managers already know, the time it takes to successfully run an Association can be significant. One of the tools that Boards have often used to efficiently handle issues that were not the subject of debate has been the Action Without Meeting, or “AWOM”. Well, no more. California Governor Jerry Brown has now signed, bill SB 563 which becomes effective January 1, 2012, and amends the Open Meeting Act to eliminate a Board’s ability take action without a meeting.

In addition to eliminating the AWOM, SB 563 also requires that members of the association be given at least two days notice for a meeting that will be held solely in executive session, and changes the rules for holding a meeting via teleconference. Under the new law, if a Board meets via teleconference, the Association must specify a physical location where members can attend in person and listen to the meeting. In addition, at least one Board member must be physically present at the identified meeting location.

Lastly, Boards will be prohibited from acting via email with the very limited exception of emergency meetings. Emergency meetings may be called “if there are circumstances that could not have been reasonably foreseen which require immediate attention and possible action by the board, and which of necessity make it impracticable to provide notice” as would otherwise be required. However, before a Board can hold an emergency meeting via “electronic transmission” all members of the board, individually or collectively, must consent in writing to that action (the consent can be transmitted electronically, such as in an email), and the written consent or consents must be filed with the minutes of the meeting of the board.

Read the full text of the new law here.