- Category: Meetings
It is not unusual for owners at an annual homeowners meeting to make motions about issues that aren’t listed on the agenda. For example, a motion to amend the bylaws. Or, at a special meeting called to amend the bylaws, an owner might make a motion to recall the board.
Let’s assume in both scenarios the meeting notice was properly and timely mailed to all owners, posted as required by state law, and there’s a quorum. We’ll assume the issue is something the owners have the right to decide under their association’s declaration.
You’re chairing the meeting. Should you restate the motion and allow the owners to vote?
A key tenant of parliamentary procedure is notice. It’s related to due process, that is, the right of a person or members to notice that an action may be taken and the right to be heard before that action occurs. Many important actions that owners have the right to vote on require specific notice before that vote may be taken.
Specific notice means the agenda and meeting notice must specifically list the issues that may be voted on at the upcoming meeting. Specific notice also means that, at a special meeting -- as contrasted with a regular annual meeting -- ONLY the issues listed on the meeting notice may be voted on.
Therefore, the first question the meeting chair must answer when any motion is made at an owners meeting is whether the issue is within the scope of the meeting notice. That is, was the issue listed on the agenda? If not, the second question is whether the issue requires specific notice.
Many states have laws governing HOA's and Condominiums that require specific notice for many actions. The Association’s Bylaws and Declaration may require specific notice for other actions in addition to those listed in state law. If you as meeting chair are unsure whether a vote on a motion requires specific notice, you should postpone a vote on that motion until you are sure notice was proper. That’s because a vote taken without legally required notice is invalid. “Straw polls” are not a good alternative, 1) because they have no validity, and 2) they usually confuse members. If you have enough time on the agenda, you can call for a recess to consult the declaration or the association’s attorney (if present), then make a decision on whether to allow the motion to go forward. Otherwise the item should be voted on at the next homeowner meeting.
Best practice is to specifically list on the agenda all major issues to be voted on, so owners have notice of what may happen at meetings, even if specific notice is not required for an action. This habit of using specific notice on your meeting agendas helps give owners confidence that the Association is acting transparently and giving everyone the opportunity to vote who wants to.
That’s the same explanation you should give the owner who made the motion without specific notice: “Thank you very much. We will put that item on the next owners meeting agenda, so everyone with an interest in that issue has an opportunity to come discuss and vote on it.”
By: Amelia J. Adair