Procedures used during HOA meetings should be made to fit the particular organization. Robert's Rules of Order suggests that the formal procedure used by larger groups like the United States Congress could actually hinder business in a homeowner association board meeting.
So, more informal procedures are encouraged. If a particular matter is important or controversial, the board can always follow more formal procedures.
Procedures in the annual meeting, however, should be more formal due to the number of members present. Unless formal rules are followed, members may believe the President is showing favoritism. Limits on debate must be observed to keep the meeting on time. Formal votes help avoid legal challenges to actions taken.
Part of any annual meeting should be a blueprint known as the "Agenda" or "Order of Business" which has the following components:
- Establish a Quorum: An annual meeting should not be called to order until a quorum is present. A "quorum" is the number of members entitled to vote represented in person or by proxy for business to be legally transacted. The actual quorum is usually defined in the governing documents and can vary from a small percentage to a majority of the members or even voting weight in the case where expenses are allocated according to percentages or some other formula besides equally. Once a quorum has been verified, the presiding officer announces the results and states, "The meeting will now come to order."
- Review of Minutes: Organizations that only meet once a year typically do not approve minutes since few members are likely to remember what occurred at a meeting held a year ago. Minutes are typically distributed to attendees and the presiding officer states, "If there is no objection, the minutes are approved."
- Reports of Officers & Standing Committees: Reports usually are given first by the President, followed by the Treasurer followed by standing committee chairs. Reports are usually information only and no motion to approve is necessary unless there are recommendations to be implemented. For example, the Budget Committee Chair may conclude by saying, "I move that homeowner fees be increased to $25." If such is the case, the motion should be acted upon.
- Reports of Special Committees: Unlike standing committees, special committees do not have continual existence. They exist for the purpose of a specific project. For example, the Bylaw Review Committee might be created to revamp the CC&Rs (Codes, Covenants and Restrictions). The implications of Special Committee recommendations can be enormous and often require a vote of the membership.
- Unfinished Business: This refers to matters carried over from a previous meeting such as:
- Any matter that was pending when the previous meeting adjourned;
- Any matters on the previous meeting's agenda that were not reached; or
- Matters that were postponed to the present meeting.
The presiding officer should know if there are any items to be considered under unfinished business so they should be listed in the Agenda. If there isn't any, the Agenda can state "None."
- New Business: In this category, members can introduce any new item for consideration. The presiding officer introduces the category by asking, "Is there any new business?" Any member can then introduce new items of business by making a motion and obtaining a second. Following the consideration of each item, the chair repeatedly asks, "Is there any further new business?"
This process continues until there are no additional business items to come before the assembly. This category is used for discussion purposes only. If the introduced topic requires a vote of the membership to approve, like an amendment to the governing documents, all members must be advised of it in the Notice of Meeting.
- Adjourn the Meeting The presiding officer can adjourn the meeting without waiting for a motion to adjourn. He simply asks, "Is there any further business?" If there is no response, he states, "Since there is no further business, the meeting is adjourned."
If custom requires that a motion to adjourn be made, the presiding officer can ask, "Is there a motion to adjourn?" Once the motion is made and seconded, the presiding officer can ask, "Is there any objection to adjourning the meeting? Hearing no objection, the meeting is adjourned."
Good organization cannot by itself guarantee a successful meeting. However, a lack of structure is almost certain to cause confusion and dissatisfaction among members. As a result, efforts spent in planning the process of a meeting are well worth the effort. The best meetings use procedures and an order of business that are perfectly tailored to fit the occasion.