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BOARD MEETING RULES
Q: If the board is meeting and agrees to an action, but does not follow Roberts Rules of Order (motion, second and vote) but instead all simply agree, is that action legal?
A: If state statute or your governing documents require use of Robert’s Rules, the board needs to use them in the board and member meetings. Otherwise, agreeing to something as you describe is okay so long as the minutes clearly describe what the board agreed to. However, a simplified version of Robert’s Rules is highly recommended to keep the meeting organized and to ensure a balanced and meaningful discussion with a purposeful outcome. Without it, meetings can easily become bull sessions with little accomplished.
Q: Our governing documents describe allowable signs as either for sale or for rent. Since no other types of signs are described, some interpret to mean no others are allowed. This seems overly restrictive. What about open house, garage sale and political signs? How about holiday decorations and flags?
A: The main purpose of sign restrictions is to limit their number, size, theme, and longevity. There should be provision for the other types of signs you mention since they are common activities. Holiday decorations and political signs should also be allowed as time honored traditions. Simply control the number, size, location, and time limit. Flags can come in many forms, but the US flag has federal protections. Its best to have a sign, flag, and decoration philosophy rather than an extensive list of acceptable or unacceptable items. The philosophy should stress curb appeal and good taste. Since we all know that some lack taste, the board may need to intercede on a case by case basis. The board may need to compromise when confronted by an intractable resident rather than squander precious emotional and financial resources trying to enforce the rules.
LIABILITY FOR OWNER INSTALLATION
Q: The board is authorizing one of our condo unit owners to install a sprinkler system at his own expense. Is there any special paperwork which needs to be made up for him to be liable for it?
A: Anytime the board authorizes an owner installation, a legal document should be written that describes what is being done and that the owner is responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of that installation. That document should be recorded against the owner’s title so that the obligation transfers to subsequent owners of the property. But in the case that you describe, the board would be allowing a unit owner to irrigate common real estate. In a condominium, all unit owners own all real estate in an undivided interest. The board has no authority to grant any unit owner exclusive use to any of the real estate.
ANNUAL MEETING ELECTION
Q: We are holding our annual meeting soon and will be electing two directors. The board decided several years ago that nominees must submit a “Request for Nomination” two weeks in advance of the Annual Meeting endorsed by two other unit owners. We don’t accept nominations from the floor of the meeting. This has eliminated single issue candidates and grandstanders. But what if only two nominations are submitted? Does the president declare their election by default, or does someone need to make a motion to elect the two by acclamation?
A: Your nomination procedure is illegal unless it is described in your governing documents (doubtful). Even single issue, self-serving members have a right to run for the board. The nomination procedure could easily be interpreted as an attempt to suppress dissent. (You pretty much admit that already.) The election process should follow normal procedures which includes being nominated at the meeting and no requirement to be endorsed by others. If there are two positions and only two candidates, the president may ask for a motion to elect the candidates by acclamation. If he receives the motion, a second and a unanimous vote, there is no need to distribute ballots. However, if there is dissent, ballots should be distributed and counted.
USE OF CLUBHOUSE
Q: Our governing documents prohibit the use of clubhouse for any for-profit event. Many of our residents would like to have classes such as aerobics, art etc. However, the instructors would charge, and the board says that these types of functions are not allowed. Are there any guidelines to permit this type of use but still prohibit use for events where the primary intention is to sell something or other commercial uses?
A: If many owners support classes in the clubhouse and are willing to pay the cost, the board should establish criteria which allows such events. The events should not monopolize the clubhouse in a way where nonparticipating owners are overly restricted from using the facilities.
Richard L. Thompson
The HOA Expert™